Brian Minor
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Wisconsin
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Dear Friends in Gaming,
I have been developing several ideas for games over the past few years.
I would like to either trademark or copyright the ideas before going to far. Any recommendations on particular intellectual property lawyers to see/talk to/correspond with that you my fellow gamers would recommend.
In short, are there any IP lawyers out there that you would recommend?
Yours,
MinorG
 
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Brad Miller
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You cannot trademark, nor copyright your ideas. You can copyright your rules, and trademark your art and names.

As long as you aren't dealing with FRED, Winsome games, Martin Wallace, or Mayfair, you probably don't need an IP attorney.
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Pelle Nilsson
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Actually you copyright your art, and your rules text, but the actual meaning of the rules can't be protected (except possibly in some cases by patents). You can't protect ideas really (luckily).
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Jim O'Neill (Established 1949)
Scotland
Motherwell
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You will find this very difficult as most of the Property Lawyers I've come across are definitely not intellectuals.

Jim
Est. 1949

Edit: Sorry - couldn't resist that.

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Brian Minor
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Let me revise what it is that I am trying to do.

I have a game I am looking to protect.
I want to protect the:

1. Name (especially this!)
2. Rules
3. Board game art and layout
4. Cards

What is the easiest way to Trademark your name? Any help would be GREATLY appreciated.

P.S. What is the problems with
A. FRED, (who is FRED?)
B. Winsome games
C. Martin Wallace
D. Mayfair
 
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Pelle Nilsson
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minorg wrote:
Let me revise what it is that I am trying to do.

I have a game I am looking to protect.
I want to protect the:

1. Name (especially this!)


Just trademark it. I'm not a lawyer, but I think you can somehow register the trademark to make it easier to protect.

Quote:
2. Rules


The text and all illustrations are protected. The rules themselves, ie "how to play the game" can not be protected. Someone else can make the same game but just express them in their own words and be perfectly safe. The only way to protect the meaning of the rules would be to get a patent of some kind, but the only well known case of that happening lately was Magic.

Quote:
3. Board game art and layout


The artwork is automatically copyrighted the moment it is created. As for the layout of the board that has been discussed a number of times, but I really don't know. Maybe it is one of those things that will depend on which guy can afford the best lawyer.

Quote:
4. Cards


Again, the artwork and the text on each card is automatically copyrighted.

In some countries you can register copyrighted materials, to make it easier to protect them later (ie sue someone). I have no idea if you can ever make enough money as a newbie boardgame designer for that to be worth the fee.

If you live in the US you might want to read this:
http://www.copyright.gov/fls/fl108.html
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Matthew Kloth
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Most people don't know much about intellectual property rights. Your best bet is to get your info straight from the government site.

I'll answer your question, but you should go look up the answers anyway.

First the differences between rights:

Copyright - The right to copy the work (exact text and images, and derivatives). You automatically have copyright over anything you write or draw. You can stick the © with your name so people know who made it (but it's still protected even without the symbol). You can register a copyright by sending it to the library of congress and paying a small fee. It's not required, but makes dealing with lawsuits easier.

Trademark - A mark of trade. A symbol or name you use. All kinds of things are trademarked. "Space Marine" is trademarked by "Games Workshop" (which is also trademarked along with their symbols). You don't have to register a trademark, but again it makes lawsuits easier. You do have to put TM next to the name or symbol in order to inform people you are claiming a trademark on it. Trademarks only apply in narrow areas (for example: "Bullfrog" is trademarked as a videogame company and a candle company; which is fine since that shouldn't confuse customers).

Patent - A short term monopoly on an invention. Costs a lot to get one, and game mechanics supposedly aren't covered (but it doesn't stop people from trying).


1. The name of your game can be trademarked as long as nobody got to it first. You can search the US registered trademark system. That doesn't have unregistered trademarks so you should also search the web to make sure somebody isn't already using it. For a game BGG is a great place to check if the name is taken.

2. The specific text of the rules is automatically copyrighten. That can't stop somebody from rewriting them in their own words though.

3. The board are is automatically copyrighten. You can sue anyone who copies or makes a derivative. If somebody makes a completely different board that happens to work you're probably out of luck. The monopoly board layout has a history in the courts that is confusing and probably not important since you don't have that kind of money.

4. Card are and text is copyrighten also.



If I bought your game I could pay an artist to make brand new art and a writer to rewrite all the rules. Then I could sell the game under a new name. There isn't anything you could do to stop me.

If I copied or modified any of your text or art or tried associating my game with yours you could probably sue me.
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