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Uncovering the Legalities Of Board Game Mechanics

By Tom Seest

Can Board Game Mechanics Be Copyrighted?

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If you have developed a board game, you need to know whether or not it can be copyrighted. The answer to this question depends on whether or not the game mechanics are in the nature of a literary work. However, certain aspects of a game, such as the mechanics and images used in the game, may be protected. This can be done through a patent, which grants ownership rights to the inventor.
Although the decision in Bang! It did not give tabletop game creators stronger protection against copyright violations, but it does clarify the law for game designers. The key to remember is that copyright law protects the original creative elements of a game, not its functional parts. That being said, it does not prohibit a game from incorporating original game mechanics as long as it is based on a well-known game mechanic.
Although board game mechanics cannot be copyrighted in the USA, they are protected in other countries. For example, in Australia, a game mechanic that is used in a game may be protected by a patent. Nevertheless, patents are costly and difficult to enforce.
It is possible to patent board game mechanics, but the requirements for patentability are stringent. The mechanics must be novel, useful, and not obvious. They must also be connected to a custom component. For example, a game mechanic that involves the “tapping” of cards may be patentable.

Can Board Game Mechanics Be Copyrighted?

Can Board Game Mechanics Be Copyrighted?

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