David Cole
United Kingdom
flag msg tools
I've heard various different takes on the copyright / trademark status of the Carcassonne meeple shape and wonder if anyone here can shed some light on this.

Rumours I've come across include:

– The meeple design / shape is effectively in the public domain due to the number of instances of unauthorised and unchallenged uses by numerous different organisations over the years

– The meeple shape was originally commissioned for an earlier board game by Hans Im Gluck and was subsequently reused for Carcassonne.

– The meeple shape was selected from the standard range of a component manufacturer



Does anyone know if there is any substance to any of the above?

And as an extension to this question, if anyone is aware of the copyright / trademark status of the shapes / designs of the other wooden tokens used in Carcassone and also Catan I'd very very interested to hear your thoughts.

(Yes, I know you're not a lawyer and that your answer doesn't constitute legal advice – all answers will be gratefully received regardless)

Thanks!
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Manchuwok
Canada
Mission
BC
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
http://boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/146246/keyflower-an-explan...

Item 6 on that geeklist mentions seeking permission from Hans im Gluck.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Arjen Schouten
Netherlands
Veenendaal
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Imagine what would happen if Games Workshop had copyright to the meeple shape.
10 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Aaron Morgan
United States
Sacramento
California
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Vargen666 wrote:
Imagine what would happen if Games Workshop had copyright to the meeple shape.


They'd release then in resin for $20 apiece, then obsolete them after four to six years when the new Codex: Space Mariples came out?
16 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Arjen Schouten
Netherlands
Veenendaal
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
laugh
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
David Cole
United Kingdom
flag msg tools
manchuwok wrote:
http://boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/146246/keyflower-an-explan...

Item 6 on that geeklist mentions seeking permission from Hans im Gluck.


I hadn't come across that one - thanks
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Steve S
United States
Roscoe
Illinois
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Interesting question - although most games that use "*eple" figures seem to try and find their own shape, and Keyflower got permission to use the Carcassonne-style ones, I'm still wondering if they had to do so or if it was more of a professional courtesy.

The meeple shape is such an iconic figure in gamer culture now that you see it being used all over the place, and I've never heard of a case of HG getting uptight over it.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Gavan Brown
Canada
flag msg tools
designer
publisher
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Because all meeples are slightly different shapes, I think it would be EXTREMELY difficult to make a copyright infringement case.

Also the meeple has become a symbol of boardgaming in general, and is used literally everywhere. When this occurs it's extremely difficult for a company to later claim trademark over something they've not actively protected from the beginning. Not unless they are as rich as the Tolkien estate anyways.
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Bat Profile
United States
Sandworms USA
Plateau of Leng
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
can you trademark a human silhouette?


they could sue every living and dead person....that had arms, legs and a head
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
David Cole
United Kingdom
flag msg tools
RoosterJuice wrote:
Also the meeple has become a symbol of boardgaming in general, and is used literally everywhere. When this occurs it's extremely difficult for a company to later claim trademark over something they've not actively protected from the beginning. Not unless they are as rich as the Tolkien estate anyways.


This is the reason for the argument that the meeple shape is effectively in the public domain, as in this blog post:

http://geeklawyers.com/2012/02/24/meeples-rights/
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
David Cole
United Kingdom
flag msg tools
Altair IV wrote:
can you trademark a human silhouette?


If it's distinctive enough to clearly be an original creative work, like the Carcassonne meeple, then I'm sure you can trademark that shape.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Markus Hagenauer jr.
Germany
Surheim
Germany
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
grinningcatgames wrote:
RoosterJuice wrote:
Also the meeple has become a symbol of boardgaming in general, and is used literally everywhere. When this occurs it's extremely difficult for a company to later claim trademark over something they've not actively protected from the beginning. Not unless they are as rich as the Tolkien estate anyways.


This is the reason for the argument that the meeple shape is effectively in the public domain, as in this blog post:

http://geeklawyers.com/2012/02/24/meeples-rights/


As far as I know, Hans im Glück has protected it form the beginning.
But if you kindly ask, they will verry likely give you permission.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Ryan King
United States
Stockbridge
Georgia
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
hmmm...I have a shirt with a big meeple on it! And another one with lots of them that says "You wouldn't understand, it's a Meeple thing" (OK, my partner picked that one out shake)

Anyway, these shirts were not licensed, but still sold legally.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Steve S
United States
Roscoe
Illinois
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
ryanking wrote:
Anyway, these shirts were not licensed, but still sold legally.


Well, honestly copyright/trademark seems to be a bit of a "grey area" on sites like CafePress though...
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Bat Profile
United States
Sandworms USA
Plateau of Leng
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
grinningcatgames wrote:
Altair IV wrote:
can you trademark a human silhouette?


If it's distinctive enough to clearly be an original creative work, like the Carcassonne meeple, then I'm sure you can trademark that shape.


what makes the human shape they use "distinctive"?



 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Maykel Santos Braz
Brazil
Brasília
Distrito Federal
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Game crafter recently changed its meeple form, but I don't know if it is something related.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
David Cole
United Kingdom
flag msg tools
Altair IV wrote:
grinningcatgames wrote:
Altair IV wrote:
can you trademark a human silhouette?


If it's distinctive enough to clearly be an original creative work, like the Carcassonne meeple, then I'm sure you can trademark that shape.


what makes the human shape they use "distinctive"?


The designer has used particular proportions, curves, lines etc. that mean when you look at it you can tell straight away it's a Carcassonne meeple. It wouldn't have become such an iconic and much copied design if it wasn't so distinctive and recognisable.

It's like the way all cars basically look like cars, but you can straight away whether it's a Jeep Cherokee, a Dodge Viper or a Volkswagen Beetle just by looking at it.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
David Cole
United Kingdom
flag msg tools
Shadoglare wrote:
The meeple shape is such an iconic figure in gamer culture now that you see it being used all over the place, and I've never heard of a case of HG getting uptight over it.


It's conceivable that they're reasonably happy for people to use the meeple shape in their own works, as essentially every meeple is another advert for Carcassonne (that's pure speculation, however).

If that is the case, I wonder if it has boundaries, for instance if they're happy for people to sell exact copies of Carcassonne meeple wooden tokens.

I emailed Meeple Source to ask if their meeples are licensed – I think if Hans Im Gluck were going to get annoyed about anyone using their meeples without permission, it would be them – but I never got a reply.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Mik Svellov
Denmark
Copenhagen N
EU
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Whether protected or not, the European games industry is small enough for most publishers to know each other. It would be bad form to copy someones ideas or design without asking permission, and both Hans im Glück and Kosmos/Teuber Gmbh. are run by good and friendly people.
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
David Cole
United Kingdom
flag msg tools
Great Dane wrote:
Whether protected or not, the European games industry is small enough for most publishers to know each other. It would be bad form to copy someones ideas or design without asking permission, and both Hans im Glück and Kosmos/Teuber Gmbh. are run by good and friendly people.


Best answer so far in my opinion
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
John "Omega" Williams
United States
Kentwood
Michigan
flag msg tools
designer
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
ryanking wrote:
hmmm...I have a shirt with a big meeple on it! And another one with lots of them that says "You wouldn't understand, it's a Meeple thing" (OK, my partner picked that one out :shake:)

Anyway, these shirts were not licensed, but still sold legally.


No. The shirts were sold potentially illegally. And just havent been caught yet.

As is though since the use is not being contested. Its essentially slipped into public domain. You have to go after people to maintain your right to a thing.

Bemusingly. When I first saw a meeple. My initial thought was of the starfish people from the Japanese movie "Warning from Space".



1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Dan Norder
United States
Knoxville
Tennessee
flag msg tools
mbmb
Omega2064 wrote:
You have to go after people to maintain your right to a thing.


That is true for trademarks, but it's not true for copyrights.

I doubt the Carcassonne meeple design is being protected by copyright or trademark, but it seems foolish to risk it unless there's a very good reason to do so.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
John "Omega" Williams
United States
Kentwood
Michigan
flag msg tools
designer
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
True. But is the meeple design original or not? Its essentially a star with two ends cut off. And I have this odd feeling I've seen something like them long long ago in school. Only flat puzzle piece rather than thick blocks.

Something like these.



I doubt we'll ever know.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
David Cole
United Kingdom
flag msg tools
Omega2064 wrote:
True. But is the meeple design original or not? Its essentially a star with two ends cut off. And I have this odd feeling I've seen something like them long long ago in school. Only flat puzzle piece rather than thick blocks.

Something like these.



I doubt we'll ever know.


This really isn't a Carcassonne meeple shape – I can see there are some similarities, but the differences are significant enough that I can't imagine anyone would confuse one for the other.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
John "Omega" Williams
United States
Kentwood
Michigan
flag msg tools
designer
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
And people have been tagged for items with fewer points of simmilarity.

Round the head of a meeple and there you go. Or plane off the person tile head to a cone.

As said. The meeple status is odd.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
1 , 2  Next »   | 
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.