Recommend
5 
 Thumb up
 Hide
52 Posts
1 , 2 , 3  Next »   | 

HeroQuest 25th Anniversary Edition» Forums » General

Subject: Is it legal to copy game mechanics if instructions are written differently? rss

Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: [View All]
Andrea Angiolino
Italy
Rome
European Union
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I often read that it would be legal to copy game mechanics if rules are written differently. One post for example, from the "Lánzanos is going to sue gamezone for non-compliance (or not!)" thread:

Omega2064 wrote:
Until the rules come out about all they have stolen is the layout of the board so far. The rules are the crux here and that is why they are keeping them hidden. As said before. If it is changed too much some will feel ripped off, and if they change too little some will feel they stole it or they risk being taken to court.


The judge taking care of the Bang! vs. San Guo Sha case in USA seems to think differently, and this could interest some of you that are passionately following HQ2X's birth.

Short summary, jump it if you already know: San Guo Sha, aka Legends of the Three Kingdoms, is a Chinese copy of the Italian Bang! card game published by dV Giochi. It works in the same way but the setting is a Chinese ancient poem instead than Wild West. On request by Dv Giochi, judges stopped the game in Singapore and Hong Kong.

When Ziko Games started importing the game to USA, Dv Giochi made a civil action to stop them because of copyright infringement and unfair competition. The judge decided that unfair competition is out of question but copyright infringement is a valid claim to be further discussed even if "the setting, artwork, and written instructions are substantially different" by mutual agreement of the parts.

Here the memorandum by the judge:

https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/USCOURTS-txsd-4_13-cv-03415/pd...

For people following the HeroQuest 2Xth Anniversary Edition developements, this is a very interesting case IMHO.

Some quotes.

Quote:
“[A] side-by-side comparison must be made between the original and the copy to determine whether a layman would view the two works as ‘substantially similar.’” Gen. Universal Sys., Inc. v. Lee, 379 F.3d 131, 142 (5th Cir. 2004) (citation omitted).


Quote:
This involves a determination of whether there are articulable similarities between plot, themes, dialogue, mood, setting, pace, characters, and sequence of events in the two works.


About the Tetris vs. Mino case:

Quote:
The court found “the dimensions of the playing field, the display of ‘garbage’ lines, the appearance of ‘ghost’ or shadow pieces, the display of the next piece to fall, the change in color of the pieces when they lock with the accumulated pieces, and the appearance of squares automatically filling in the game board when the game is over” to be protectable


Mino was a Tetris clone. The publishers asked Atari for a license, but it was denied. So they carefully studied the copyright law and introduced in their game only elements from Tetris that were not protected. And so they told the jury. But their game was ruled substantially similar anyway and they have been found guilty. No instructions written in the same form were involved, so rules are not necessarly "the crux" in such cases. As an example, according to the judge Dv Giochi can claim a copyright infringement by San Guo Sha/LOTK thanks to the fact that "the characters of the two games are substantially similar despite the transposition and translation from the Wild-West theme of Bang! to the ancient China theme of LOTK." Again, no rules form but substance.

I stop here and invite you to read the document at the link if you want to know more - and first hand. In any case, I'd advise you not to consider the similarity of the instructions form between HQ and HQ2X the only vital point to make a copyright infringement cause possible. General similarities due to game mechanics, characters' roles or other elements among "plot, themes, dialogue, mood, setting, pace, characters, and sequence of events" could be enough, according to US judges.
9 
 Thumb up
1.00
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Moray Johnson
Austria
Wien
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Nice writeup, but I'm sure the defenders will find some other straws to grasp at.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Andrea Angiolino
Italy
Rome
European Union
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Well, I'm sure you are right. But in the end, judges might be more decisive than defenders.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
that Matt
United States
Ann Arbor
Michigan
flag msg tools
I'm a quitter. I come from a long line of quitters. It's amazing I'm here at all.
badge
I can feel bits of my brain falling away like wet cake.
Avatar
mbmbmbmb
angiolillo wrote:
General similarities due to game mechanics, characters' roles or other elements among "plot, themes, dialogue, mood, setting, pace, characters, and sequence of events" could be enough, according to US judges.

I don't see game mechanics addressed in your quotes. Visual and literary elements are definitely subject to copyright, of course, and that's what relates to:

Quote:
This involves a determination of whether there are articulable similarities between plot, themes, dialogue, mood, setting, pace, characters, and sequence of events in the two works.

But copyright is sort of beside the point for a game that already blatantly violates other U.S. intellectual property.
6 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Freelance Police
United States
Palo Alto
California
flag msg tools
designer
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
angiolillo wrote:
Well, I'm sure you are right. But in the end, judges might be more decisive than defenders.


That's pretty much it. I've read enough IP case articles to conclude that, imo, there's little ability to predict what will actually happen if an IP case goes to court. (Most parties, including WotC with Cryptozoic's Hex game, settle.) Seems like the articles written by IP lawyers are the most informative about IP issues, and *least* confident about the resolution of a potential IP issue!

And it's not like crowdfunding projects with IP issues are the only ones out there! I already spend hundreds of dollars on KS projects for games I'll never play. Why spend more?
7 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
John "Omega" Williams
United States
Kentwood
Michigan
flag msg tools
designer
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
This is why I keep saying it is better to make your own game. Rather than copy someone elses and expect to get away with it.

You NEVER EVER know when someone will come after you. And if they do. You may lose.
5 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Andrea Angiolino
Italy
Rome
European Union
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Link corrected, it was broken:

https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/USCOURTS-txsd-4_13-cv-03415/pd...

tumorous wrote:
I don't see game mechanics addressed in your quotes. Visual and literary elements are definitely subject to copyright, of course, and that's what relates to:

Quote:
This involves a determination of whether there are articulable similarities between plot, themes, dialogue, mood, setting, pace, characters, and sequence of events in the two works.


Thanks for your comment, it's a confrontation that's very useful to me to understand what's going on. And probably I am not good at choosing the best quotes at all within the judge's pronunciation.

But when I read that Mino has been found guilty for copying elements such as "the display of the next piece to fall", I see the copying of a mechanic persecuted. For its expression, not as a game rule per se. But in any case, Mino could not show the next piece coming.

All the same, I found interesting that characters in Bang! and LOTK have different names, different images, different settings, but they are considered similar enough for a copyright infringement to be possible.

Quote:
It is undisputed that the corresponding characters in the two games have substantially similar capabilities. Each character card in both games has a name, picture, and a description of the character’s capabilities and life points. The defendants allegedly copied these capabilities and life points, simply changing the names and artwork. The questions are whether these character elements are protected and whether translating the Bang! characters from a Wild West to an ancient China theme infringes that protection...
...Given the similarities between the attributes of the characters in Bang! and in LOTK, a reasonable factfinder could conclude that the characters of the two games are substantially similar despite the transposition and translation from the Wild-West theme of Bang! to the ancient China theme of LOTK.


Another very interesting point is about the roles of players in the game.

Quote:
the interplay between the Sheriff, Deputies, Outlaws, and Renegades is protectable expression here...
...There are nearly infinite ways of expressing the concepts of player elimination or a contest between authorities and their opponents. Instead of choosing a different manner of expressing these concepts, the defendants copied into LOTK protectable elements of DaVinci’s original and creative expression in Bang!.
The artistic depictions of the Monarch, Minister, Rebel, and Turncoat roles in LOTK clearly differ visually from the depictions of the corresponding roles in Bang!. But the characteristics and manner in which the characters interact, not merely the names and pictures used to depict them, are creative and expressive elements in a role-playing game and are protectable. The roles and interplay among the characters in LOTK resemble those in Bang! closely enough to give rise to a plausible infringement claim and defeat the motion to dismiss.


Well, the judges think that the copyright can be infringed just because characters' life points and capabilities are the same. Or because players have to interact exactly in the same way to win. Maybe I am wrong in calling them "game mechanics" instead of "creative expressions" of Emiliano Sciarra, Bang!'s game designer, but I find it interesting if compared to the "write the same rules with other words and you are fine" current opinion that I often read among HQ2X's supporters.
Think about the protection of characters as wizard, elf, dwarf, barbarian. With their capabilities, as the wizard's spells. And the players' roles, Morcar/Gamemaster included.

tumorous wrote:
But copyright is sort of beside the point for a game that already blatantly violates other U.S. intellectual property.


I am totally with you about the fact that the game is a violation of IP anyway. I must first of all say that I am interested in this subject per se, not necessairly in relations with HQ.
In any case, I read several supporters of this project claiming that if the name is owned by Gamezone in Spain and if artwork is remade from scratch, this new edition is legal and their support to it in good faith. And they claim that a HQ2X will also be legal if the game will work in the same way as HQ, as long as the rules will be written in a different form. I think that any and each evidence that this is not true can help to clear the matter, even if you think that there were more than enough IP violations without the need of adding copyright infringement to the list.
5 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Michelle
United States
Portland
Oregon
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Thanks for the link from the other HQ thread. This is a cool memorandum! A lot of great info here. I LOL'ed at the judge calling "Bang!" a role-playing game though.

It definitely does seem like, depending on how closely they clone heroquest, GZ could be in violation of some of the expression mentioned by the judge. (i.e., as you mentioned, the totality of the characters' design, spells and attacks).

Either way, yeah, knocking off a game is always a bad idea. Regardless of what the judge/jury decide (if it even makes it to court), that lawsuit is going to cost an arm and a leg.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
CRL CRL
Spain
Unspecified
Unspecified
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
Hello. I am a backer of the HQ25 and I don't really know what will happen of course. I think that if you repeat exactly the same game mechanics just writing them differently, probably a court could do something as you mention in the examples.

But I think that this scenario is a little bit different. For me the biggest problem is related to the name and its use. What they said is that they can do a Dungeoncrawler that is a tribute or their interpretation of the old HQ and they can use the same name at least in Spain (and now again they are trying to use it in the US indeed). I have no idea if that is true or not, but that is what they say.

About the rules I think that they are as close and as far as many other dungeon crawlers, they changed the dices, they added more characters, they have changed the character sheets, they (seems) that change many rules. So I think that they will continue dodging the legal problems. But who knows?
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
John "Omega" Williams
United States
Kentwood
Michigan
flag msg tools
designer
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
genmaes wrote:
So I think that they will continue dodging the legal problems. But who knows?


At this point there is little legal problem to dodge. Its going to be HeroQuest in about name only. Which is perfectly legal, if annoyingly misleading. Like the new Space Crusade. Has nothing to do with the original.

Backer problems they still have though as people are getting more and more antsy with the delays and behavior.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Duncan Idaho
United States
River Vale
New Jersey
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Omega2064 wrote:
Its going to be HeroQuest in about name only. Which is perfectly legal, if annoyingly misleading.


Not true.
5 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
John "Omega" Williams
United States
Kentwood
Michigan
flag msg tools
designer
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Idaho11 wrote:
Omega2064 wrote:
Its going to be HeroQuest in about name only. Which is perfectly legal, if annoyingly misleading.


Not true.


Yes true.

They were able to register the title. As did the original owners of the title that MB swiped way back. Just like Space Crusade has been registered now. Or Supremacy. Probably others.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Duncan Idaho
United States
River Vale
New Jersey
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Omega2064 wrote:
Idaho11 wrote:
Omega2064 wrote:
Its going to be HeroQuest in about name only. Which is perfectly legal, if annoyingly misleading.


Not true.


Yes true.

They were able to register the title. As did the original owners of the title that MB swiped way back. Just like Space Crusade has been registered now. Or Supremacy. Probably others.


Not in the US. And there are other issues than just Trademark to consider.
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
CRL CRL
Spain
Unspecified
Unspecified
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
We talked about this a lot in the past. All that I can say is what Gamezone said to us and what happend till now. I don't know the law in your country, they tried to do the crowdfunding in your country and Moon Design asked kickstarter to Stop the action.

After that they fulfilled it in Europe.

Now we know that they are trying to obtain the name in the US, (I can't find now the page where you can see that they are trying to do that but if I find it I will place it here).

Supposedly they wanted to be able to sell the game in US shore, but even if they can't obtain the name, they say that they can send the game to anyplace in the world, some people here say that doing that is imposible (or illegal). They have some US backers so I assume that their lawyers told them about international laws. We will see what will happen.

For me the first and biggest problem now is if they will be able to complete the game, after that I will take care about other issues.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Mike Miller

Columbus
Ohio
msg tools
Columbus, OH's best all '90s rock cover act: facebook.com/oddjobpolicy
badge
I can't believe your head exploded. If your head explodes, you'll never make it on BGG.
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
genmaes wrote:
Now we know that they are trying to obtain the name in the US, (I can't find now the page where you can see that they are trying to do that but if I find it I will place it here).


It's failed several times, IIRC.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Read the rulebook, plan for all contingencies, and…read the rulebook again.
United States
Austin
Texas
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
To the OP:

If you've ever played Diplomacy and Machiavelli, you can see how one game drew inspiration for a mechanic from another game and applied it in a way that made the two different.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
CRL CRL
Spain
Unspecified
Unspecified
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
pinkymadigan wrote:
genmaes wrote:
Now we know that they are trying to obtain the name in the US, (I can't find now the page where you can see that they are trying to do that but if I find it I will place it here).


It's failed several times, IIRC.


So they are pushing their luck

I am asking in the spanish forums about the last try to obtain the name in the US. But probably it will happen as the other times I suppose.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Andrea Angiolino
Italy
Rome
European Union
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
BradyLS wrote:
To the OP:
If you've ever played Diplomacy and Machiavelli, you can see how one game drew inspiration for a mechanic from another game and applied it in a way that made the two different.


Yes, I played them both. Curiously, in editions by the same publisher Avalon Hill (even if I also own Diplomacy copies by other publishers).
It would be interesting to see the judge's opinion on that. At the time, I found Machiavelli pretty derivative from Diplomacy. It added stuff, it did not change the system.

In the case of HQ, anyway, I see quite several similarities with the Bang! case. The question of characters roles, relations and specific abilities in the game (as an example, the wizard's spells) seems to be a vital one for example.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
CRL CRL
Spain
Unspecified
Unspecified
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
I don't know, I think that other dungeon crawlers could use a Barbarian, a dwarf, an elf and a wizard. The same that you can see a Warrior, elf, wizard and thief in many other games without problems. Taking into consideration that we have more characters to choose thing that didn't happen in the old one.

About wizard spells.

Here you can see the video that explain some of them.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=daWKkS9kbM4

and here the art



As you can see there is not real coincidences in the art, nor in the explanation of the cards or the names, just some are similar but as many other in dungeon crawlers. They have more spells and different ones.

About the Character sheet.



You can see that is quite different and they don't even mention body point and mental points, that could be perfectly just life and mental energy or whatever.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Jim
United Kingdom
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
genmaes wrote:
I don't know, I think that other dungeon crawlers could use a Barbarian, a dwarf, an elf and a wizard. The same that you can see a Warrior, elf, wizard and thief in many other games without problems. Taking into consideration that we have more characters to choose thing that didn't happen in the old one.

About wizard spells.

Here you can see the video that explain some of them.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=daWKkS9kbM4

and here the art



As you can see there is not real coincidences in the art, nor in the explanation of the cards or the names, just some are similar but as many other in dungeon crawlers. They have more spells and different ones.

About the Character sheet.



You can see that is quite different and they don't even mention body point and mental points, that could be perfectly just life and mental energy or whatever.


How many of those other dungeon crawlers claim to be an anniversary edition of Heroquest, and share the name, and release videos comparing their parts to the original games parts?
6 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
CRL CRL
Spain
Unspecified
Unspecified
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
Yep, totally true but then is again about using the name, trademarks, etc. And that is what they say that they can use the name because they bought it. They don't cover it. We will see what will happen.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Mike Miller

Columbus
Ohio
msg tools
Columbus, OH's best all '90s rock cover act: facebook.com/oddjobpolicy
badge
I can't believe your head exploded. If your head explodes, you'll never make it on BGG.
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
genmaes wrote:
Yep, totally true but then is again about using the name, trademarks, etc. And that is what they say that they can use the name because they bought it. They don't cover it. We will see what will happen.

Incorrect. They did not buy the name. People keep getting this incorrect. Registering a trademark isn't the same thing as buying a license to use a name/IP from the original owner. It's just telling your government that you will be using that name for a product. It still must be a distinctly different product if you don't have the license to the original IP.
6 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
CRL CRL
Spain
Unspecified
Unspecified
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
I have no idea about it I believe you. I just tell you what they say and what they are doing. We will see if that is legal or not. Till now they keep on it.

PS. These are the last 2 tries to register Heroquest classic and 25th in the US.

http://tsdr.uspto.gov/#caseNumber=86834462&caseType=SERIAL_N...

http://tsdr.uspto.gov/#caseNumber=86834134&caseType=SERIAL_N...

If they pass this, a partner tell me that there are 3 months that any company can claim that they got it or other problems that could involve.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Mike Miller

Columbus
Ohio
msg tools
Columbus, OH's best all '90s rock cover act: facebook.com/oddjobpolicy
badge
I can't believe your head exploded. If your head explodes, you'll never make it on BGG.
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Sure, but it will have a difficult time getting approved, since it's already failed several times, and this one is still current:
http://www.trademarkia.com/heroquest-85183543.html
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
CRL CRL
Spain
Unspecified
Unspecified
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
I think they try to avoid it because the one from Stafford is for "Role playing game equipment in the nature of game book manuals" and the one that wanted GZ is for "Board games; Equipment sold as a unit for playing board games"

But I heard that Stafford asked for that too I don't know, this is quite messy as all that involved GZ I just look to see what will be next.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
1 , 2 , 3  Next »   |