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Subject: Contacted by an individual saying he's designing a similar game to my own. rss

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John Anderson
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Hi everyone,

I posted a 3D model of a game that I've been working on for a while now. The game is called Labrys. I received a response from someone who has been designing a game of their own with a similar name... "Ex Labrys." Both are tile based mechanics and both are Greek themed. This is really where the similarity ends. He posted a link to his site where he has his rules document so I reviewed it to see if the games were similar.

It looks like the individual, Jeff Smith, ran an unsuccessful Kickstarter several years ago, receiving $336.

http://archive.is/JkTZj

Now, about my own game. The name is not a big deal. I can change that if need be, although I did submit the form to register a trademark and it's pending approval by a reviewing attorney. I submitted this form about a month ago.

The game is a tile based game where each tile has a varying number of symbols on them. When played, these symbols affect the player they're facing. The only game I've actually found with this mechanic is Lanterns but that's an altogether different game.

Tiles also double for health. Players have racks of seven tiles and can never have more than seven, but they may have less. They do not draw up at the beginning or end of their turn. Instead, they must play tiles that have the "draw" effect in order to restore tiles/health to their rack. If they lose all of their tiles, they are "knocked" out and must place a "death" tile in their rack which now limits their max health by one tile. On their next turn, players who are knocked out will draw back up to max health (minus any death tiles) and play continues.

So the game is essentially a balance between building a path to the center, playing tiles with effects that aid your progress and trying to ensure your "health" never drops too low.

Tile effects consist of things like tile rotation, replacing tile, drawing tile, discarding tiles, etc. We also have effects that force players to draw from the reserve (a bag of tiles) and immediately place the drawn tile, regardless of effect. Sometimes this can cause a chain reaction where tiles are being placed one after the other... to a cap of eight.

We also have a Minotaur boss in our game. The Minotaur always resides at the center of the maze and there is little direct interaction with him. Instead, whenever a tile is played bearing the Minotaur symbol, the players must draw an Event card and do as the card indicates. If the players draw cards above an established threshold, then the Minotaur wins.

Players win if they reach the center and complete a specific challenge.

That's essentially the game.

My concern is this... I've never heard of Jeff Smith's game "Ex Labrys" until today. The Greek theme is a very common theme. Tile laying is also a very common mechanic. The similar name is disconcerting but not set in stone. While I certainly don't want to bash his game, Ex Labrys is very underdeveloped from my perspective.

Should I worry? Should I discuss with Jeff? What are people's thoughts on the subject?

Here's a link to the board I'm designing and Jeff's comment.

https://sketchfab.com/models/a71228af45ad4c33915b42b00d614a0...

 
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Jeremy Lennert
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What exactly are you asking if you need to worry about?
 
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JPotter
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Politely wish him the best of luck and carry on.

Very similar games happen all the time.

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John Anderson
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I guess it just took my off guard is all. This it the first game I've designed and I wasn't prepared for the message. I wanted to see what people's thoughts were. I think the games are similar on their face, but very different in mechanics and gameplay. I also wanted to see how other developers would handle it. Would you just keep marching forward?
 
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Jeremy Mease
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Wow, I would probably buy yours!! Looks great!
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John Anderson
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Thank you JPotter. I appreciate the response.
 
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B C Z
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The referenced Kickstarter looks like the Harry Potter LEGO game.
Tiles are community property and look like they all start out in the field.
Actions affect tiles, allowing on-board swaps, rotates, etc.
There is a Minotaur.


As described, your game seems to share more with Lanterns (as you note).
Tiles are personal property until played, at which point they become community property.
Actions affect tiles, allowing on-board swaps, rotates, discards, replacing (hand-to-board swaps).
There is a Minotaur.


Both games have expected thematic overlap, unfortunate naming similarity but mechanically seem distinct.
He's attempted to crowd-publish. You are probably heading that way.


The name closeness, especially since he has an LLC with that name, is probably the only point I'd concede, though if he didn't trademark it and you did, that's not on you.

I am not a Lawyer, I am definitely not YOUR Lawyer.
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John Anderson
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Thank you Jeremey. I really appreciate the kind words. It's been a great experience so far designing this.
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Koen Hendrix
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You both made a tile-laying labyrinth game. So what? I'm sure at least a dozen other people have tried to create a Greek tile-laying labyrinth game. The near-identical name is remarkable, but otherwise, this happens quite often.

With 1000s of games coming out every year, there must be 10000s of prototypes being created every year. Accidental similarities are unavoidable.
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John Anderson
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Thank you. This mirrors my own thoughts.
 
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John Anderson
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Thank you. The word Labrys is the root for labyrinth but also means "double-bladed axe." We felt the risk vs reward of our game felt like a double-edged sword so the name made sense to us. I was surprised though. I had never heard Labrys until I was researching names for the game.
 
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Robin Banks
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I'm (not) the designer of Ex Libris and I'm curios as to why his games name is so similar to (not) mine?
 
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JPotter
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Ronib wrote:
I'm (not) the designer of Ex Libris and I'm curios as to why his games name is so similar to (not) mine?


Because the other guy aspires to petty trademark infringemnt?

I wonder what his message to the OP said, other than "Gosh what a coincidence"? Anything further than that could have great entertainment value. Especially if it was threat-y.
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roger miller
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Change your games name just to avoid trouble. Even if he has no case you do not want to be in court defending it.
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B C Z
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aesthetocyst wrote:
Ronib wrote:
I'm (not) the designer of Ex Libris and I'm curios as to why his games name is so similar to (not) mine?


Because the other guy aspires to petty trademark infringemnt?

I wonder what his message to the OP said, other than "Gosh what a coincidence"? Anything further than that could have great entertainment value. Especially if it was threat-y.


The link to the comment is in the OP.
 
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JPotter
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byronczimmer wrote:
aesthetocyst wrote:
Ronib wrote:
I'm (not) the designer of Ex Libris and I'm curios as to why his games name is so similar to (not) mine?


Because the other guy aspires to petty trademark infringemnt?

I wonder what his message to the OP said, other than "Gosh what a coincidence"? Anything further than that could have great entertainment value. Especially if it was threat-y.


The link to the comment is in the OP.


I see. Disappointingly mundane. Was hoping for nuttery.

Labrys is a pretty common name. Someone is fooling themselves.
 
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Andrew Rowse
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I encountered something similar when I was designing Dexikon, and then Paperback was launched on Kickstarter. In that instance, the sensible thing to do was to ease off development and wait to see whether the games wound up sufficiently different to be worth continuing.

In your case, you have a common theme and some common mechanics, but Jeff's core USP of an ever-changing maze doesn't seem to be something that your game does. In my opinion, the gentlemanly thing to do would be to continue development while taking an interest in Jeff's game. Publicly give props where warranted, and be generous with your commentary on the different selling points.
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Christopher Chung
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Designer of Lanterns here. We should chat.

*snirk* I'm kidding. Hope this situation gets resolved, and good luck with the game.
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Daniel Donche
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If your trademark goes through there's nothing he can do. The name will be your IP. You can't copyright mechanics, so that leaves only the IP.
 
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Krzysztof Sieja
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I don't know the specific USA law, but generally only the artwork, ruleset and (probably) title might be a subject of copyright. I believe you are perfectly fine in this particular situation.

https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/493249/mythbusting-game-des... This thread may help you, as it directly refers to USA law.
 
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wayne mathias
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Is he trying to claim ownership of the term labrys ??

see https://www.amazon.com/Labrys-Bantam-J2617-Margaret-Clair/dp...

 
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Bojan Prakljacic
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Just in case you would have to change the game's name: DOMINOTAUR.
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Brendan Riley
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Ronib wrote:
I'm (not) the designer of Ex Libris and I'm curios as to why his games name is so similar to (not) mine?


Libris and Labrys are different words.

Regarding the trademark -- it sounds like he pretty firmly has grounds for "prior art" argument, if he ran a public Kickstarter with that name.

That said, Labrys and Ex Labrys are not the same name either. You're both drawing from public-domain theme and resources too.

It's unclear from your initial post what your concern is -- did the other designer try to wave you off the name?
 
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Ian Williams
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Discuss it with him. Find where your games differ. Put some focus into that. The only thing it sounds like you need to worry about is potential customers getting the games mixed up and/or comparisons that hurt sales.

Names are just names.
 
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David Janik-Jones
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Combat Commander, Up Front, Fields of Fire, Cats were once worshipped as gods and they haven't forgotten this, The Raven King (game publisher) ... that's me!
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celdom wrote:
Names are just names.

Unless your name is Jones and you're Welsh ... Llanfair­pwllgwyngyll­gogery­chwyrn­drobwll­llan­tysilio­gogo­goch.

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