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ClaudioA

Legal Is it possible to sell a serious game to a brand but retain full IP ownership rights?

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Hello, I am developing my first game which is a serious game about renewable energies. Basically, my idea is to sell the game usage rights(of a branded version) to a National Electricity Company (in a small European country aka Portugal). Then use the core mechanic to produce a paid (PC) version to sell worldwide. This version will have different graphics, different in-game goals, more depth but the same core mechanic.

What do you think about this? Does this route make sense to you?

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It's certainly theoretically possible; as the owner of the intellectual property you can more or less craft whatever license terms you want to licensees. 

Whether it's practically viable is hard to say, as it seems predicated heavily on the NEC actually wanting this, which they might not, in which case it doesn't matter.

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Yes, you can simply offer a license without giving up IP ownership. But as already noted, that reduces the value (to the licensee) and thus the likely amount- and the likelihood of making a deal.

And you are always free to reuse your serious game's play mechanic in other games.

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Thanks for your input. 

Regarding the value, the company would create social value (big companies benefit from this) by distributing the game online for free for everyone (it can be used in schools). I guess they lose nothing if a similar version is released (paid) internationally later down on the road. Also, the version they buy is supported by a masters degree investigation that models the national grid, this value is only for them as this investigation will not be present in the paid version. So it is an additional value they receive.

I think companies want to do this, I can name a handful of energy games distributed for free and backed by electric companies.

For example, Duke Energy in the United States did this, and Genesis Energy in New Zealand too.

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I just received some input that might make things easier, it will be two different games (the national and international one) so I can give IP ownership of the first and then produce the second that is different but uses the same core mechanic.

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4 hours ago, Tom Sloper said:

Yes, you can simply offer a license without giving up IP ownership. But as already noted, that reduces the value (to the licensee) and thus the likely amount- and the likelihood of making a deal.

And you are always free to reuse your serious game's play mechanic in other games.

The thing I said about ip ownership and value? Disregard. For your serious game, the licensees surely don't need to own the ip. The game is a marketing tool for them, not a product.

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If I were in that position, I would simply ask them to pay me a lump sum for permission to distribute the game under the terms of the GNU GPL. That way, they can change the game however they want to suit their interests, but you can take any of the improvements they make into your version just by also distributing your version under the GNU GPL; or if you'd rather keep your version proprietary, you can do that and ignore their changes (and in turn they won't be able to use your changes either). Either way, it prevents them from competing unfairly with you.

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I'd be careful about using a GPL licence to try to sell to an energy company. Having any changes they make submitted back to your own version may sound attractive, but in practice there's a reasonable chance they'll just reject the proposal entirely in case they make changes they don't want to share.

GPL is great when it works well, but it's often avoided (or very carefully separated from everything else) in the commercial world.

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Thanks for your input, it is very valuable for me to hear from more experienced developers.

I think you are missing one point, the game will be sold to an Electric Company, they don't produce the game and they don't make changes.

They will tell what they desire in terms of design/brand and scope of the game and we (me and my team) deliver. I am not concerned about them competing with me. I think they have no problem with me using the core mechanic to produce an international paid version,  I am looking for a way to craft a deal that allows me to do that.

Thanks again!

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Game mechanics aren't subject to copyright,so there's no issue using the same ideas in other projects. Individual assets (art files, source code files, compiled binaries) are. You don't have to sell (reassign ownership) to make a product for a client -- you usually just "licence" your IP instead of selling it outright. 

You can accept money from someone in exchange for granting them the right to distribute your assets, while maintaining ownership of them yourself.

We develop a "serious games" product, which we "sell" to a client (give them exclusive rights to distribute the program), while we retain ownership of the assets/code and are able to reuse them in our other products. The client doesn't even have source code access!

Just get your own IP lawyer to write your contracts, or if your client is writing them, don't be afraid to negotiate on the terms that you want.

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