Startup and video game law, from a Canadian and U.S. perspective
Intellectual Property Rights for Video Game Studios
For our video game clients, protecting intellectual property is an important part of their business. Intellectual property protection for a video game commonly comes in the form of trademark and copyright but may also involve patents and trade secrets
Trademarks can protect the titles and logos associated with a game. Without a registered trademark, another studio could register a trademark that is confusingly similar to your existing game, thereby creating confusion, negatively impacting your ability to enforce trademark rights and potentially the complete loss of all trademark rights.
Copyright can protect game code, artwork, music and characters. A copyright registration could be obtained on a particular character used in a game to prevent third parties from creating and selling plush toys based on the character.
Patents can protect new and innovative hardware, systems, technical solutions, innovative game play or design elements and technical innovations such as networking or database design.
Trade secrets can protect customer mailing lists, pricing information, publisher contracts, developer contracts, in-house development tools, and terms and conditions of any agreement the studio enters into. Note that the enforcement of a trade secrets requires that a confidentiality agreement be put in place.
The following chart provides a helpful overview of intellectual property protection options:
|Music||Studio name||Hardware systems||Customer mailing lists|
|Code||Studio logo||Inventive game play||Pricing information|
|Story||Game title||Technical innovations such as new software, networking or database designs||Publishing contacts|
|Box design||In-house development tools|
|Website design||Deal terms|
We recommend that studios become familiar with the range of intellectual property protections available and to prepare an intellectual property strategy for both the studio and its games.