Introduction to Intellectual Property in the Games Industry
The games industry is the fastest growing sector of the entertainment industry, with an estimated 37.3 million people playing video games on a PC, console or mobile device in the UK.
As gaming companies are constantly looking to innovate to stand out in an increasingly crowded market, developing a well-defined and proactive IP strategy to secure adequate IP rights is essential to their success.
While traditional industry giants are often familiar with intellectual property, many smaller teams and independent developers are unaware of its importance in safeguarding their business interests. However, regardless of size, all developers should have a basic understanding of what their intellectual property rights are.
Having registered intellectual property rights adds value and makes it a more attractive prospect for potential investors
Why intellectual property is so crucial for developers
Developers invest a significant amount of effort, time, and money in their projects, and it can often take several years to design and release a new game. Protecting distinctive elements such as game titles, characters, and design is crucial to allow them to obtain the maximum commercial reward and prevent other people from exchanging their ideas and reputations by launching games with similar characteristics.
If creators want to sell their game or company to one of the industry giants, having registered intellectual property rights also adds value and makes it a more attractive prospect for potential investors, as well as allowing them the ability to open up new sources of income. through licensing. the right to use your intellectual property rights registered to a third party.
What types of intellectual property are most prevalent in the industry?
The most relevant rights within the gaming industry are copyrights, patents, trademarks and industrial designs.
Copyright protects the creative expression that goes into a video game and is an automatic right that can be applied to original literary, musical and artistic works. This could include a game’s code, soundtrack, characters, or story, and the protection it provides helps prevent duplication of those items.
Patent protection extends to hardware or technical solutions along with the inventive playability involved in a game. This type of intellectual right protects technical characteristics, which means that no other entity can introduce on the market any product or process with technical characteristics similar to the product or process covered by patent law.
In some parts of the world it is also possible to protect aspects of game engines, although the industry has generally disapproved of this protection as contrary to usual behavior in the industry: many believe that aspects of game engines should be available for use. . used by others to build.
Trademark registrations can be used to protect the names and logos of gaming companies and products. The object of a trademark is totally different from that of a patent and is the legal protection of a distinctive sign used in commerce to identify products and / or services. This sign can be a word (or words), logos or other signs used to identify.
Industrial designs, generally referred to simply as “designs,” protect the appearance of a particular product. These rights do not protect any technical functionality, but only external characteristics such as lines, contours, colors, shape, texture and / or materials of the product and its ornamentation.
The owner of a design has the exclusive right to commercially use a product with a specific appearance, regardless of the type of product. These registrations make it impossible for any other entity to profit without the consent of any product with the appearance of the subject covered by the design registration.
How developers can protect their intellectual property
For game developers, the first step in protecting their intellectual property is to recognize what type of intellectual property rights they or your company may have. While in an ideal world they would protect all the various types of intellectual property that apply to your games and your business, funding can be limited for many in the industry and advancements in technology can occur quickly, which can pose many obstacles. .
A reputable and qualified intellectual property attorney will be able to help assess what aspects of your intellectual property a developer should protect and when. They will consider factors such as the developer’s business goals and which core intellectual property assets will be most important for development and commercialization purposes, as well as whether a developer has urgent intellectual property such as patents and industrial designs.
It is crucial to come up with a strategy that works for a specific game, and timing can be very important, as each of the various types of IP has ramifications for not taking action at any given time. Talking to an attorney about strategy creation and implementation should be part of any game development process. The video game industry is constantly evolving creatively, technologically and commercially, and the sheer amount of innovation involved in every gaming experience and the intellectual property that surrounds it can come with many challenges and difficulties.
For developers, having the right intellectual property protection must be a priority if they want to establish a fundamental advantage over all the competition, and it can mean the difference between reaping the financial rewards of developing a game and seeing all their hard work lost to it. others on the market.
By taking the time to understand relevant forms of intellectual property, seek qualified legal advice, and put protection at the earliest opportunity, developers can harness the full economic potential of their creations and position themselves well to tap into a multi-billion dollar industry.