Protect Your Board Game Mechanics: Tips & Tricks
By Tom Seest
At BestBoardGameNews, we help people who love board games by collating information and news about board games.
There are a few ways to protect your board game mechanics, including Copyright and Patents. Patents protect toys and games for a limited time, unlike Copyright. However, patents do not prevent clones from being made, and they do not keep mechanics in the public domain. While patents are good for all of us, they do not protect the original. A clone can outsell an original. It’s like how Oreos don’t look like the sandwich biscuit that started it all, but they still are more popular.
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Copyright protects board game mechanics as part of a board game’s intellectual property. Board games are not as protected as software, but the actual mechanics of a game may be protected. Mechanics include rolling dice and moving a token along a track.
Board game mechanics are protected under the copyright laws and can be patented. To be eligible, a board game mechanic must be new, useful, and not obvious. It must also relate to a custom component. For example, a drawing card would not qualify as a patentable element, while a playmat for a game such as Twister can qualify.
If a board game is patented, the creator of the game can obtain a trademark for the name of the game. Nevertheless, this trademark does not protect the artistic aspects of the game. The mechanics of the game cannot be protected by trademark. Copyright, on the other hand, protects the original creative work of the board game creator.
Board games have many essential elements and components that are not covered by intellectual property statutes. These elements include the basic idea and mechanics of the game. Getting a patent for the basic idea and mechanics of a board game is not as simple as getting one for the game equipment. However, game designers can use contractual protection to prevent unauthorized use of their game mechanics.
Patents for board game mechanics are extremely rare. Unless there are unique physical elements, patents are unlikely. However, trademarks can protect a game’s reputation in a similar market. However, trademarks are hard to register, so they are only useful if a board game has a major reputation.
Patents for game mechanics are often filed as software. The USPTO has relaxed its examination standards following the Supreme Court’s Alice v. CLS Bank decision. This has created significant hurdles for software patents. Previously, the USPTO’s examination standards were extremely high. The revised examination guidelines released by the USPTO in January 2019 alleviated these hurdles and made it easier for game developers to obtain patent protection for their game mechanics.
A design is a recognizable shape, pattern or visual appearance that has been applied to an article or product. A design is generally protected for ten years from the date of registration, or its priority date. It can be applied to an article or product as a single design or to variants of that design as long as they are substantially similar to the original design.
Design registrations are an inexpensive way to protect the visual appearance of your board game mechanics. A design registration is much cheaper than a patent and lasts for about 15 years. A trademark, on the other hand, protects your brand and its associated logo or three-dimensional shapes and sounds.
The DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) is a tool that helps to deter content thieves. These notices are sent to websites that host copied content. These websites are responsible for protecting the content and are required to remove the content as quickly as possible.
The DMCA protects online content, including videos. It also offers protection against intellectual property law problems. However, very few people know how to properly file a DMCA takedown notice. Most DMCA takedown notices are aimed at large record labels shutting down YouTube channels.
Copyrights protect a company’s brand, reputation, and valuable intellectual property. If bad actors take advantage of copyrights, they can hurt a company’s reputation and lead to a loss of revenue. To this end, executives should keep the reputation of their company in mind and make sure it is protected at all costs. DMCA takedown notices are one more way to protect the assets that a company has created online.
DMCA takedown notices also have another side effect: they deter would-be thieves. These notices often include the URLs of sites that have stolen content. This makes it easier to find the original owner. It is also more likely that the owner of the copyright will take action to stop the infringements.
The DMCA is designed to protect copyright owners and help them resolve any content conflict quickly. It also offers protection to service providers who may not be responsible for posting or sharing copyrighted content. Oftentimes, these service providers are simply sharing content that is copied by others. In these cases, the DMCA shields them from liability.
In addition to copyright takedown notices, service providers can post a DMCA protection badge next to their copyright-protected content. While it is not required by DMCA, a DMCA protection badge can be an effective deterrent to would-be thieves. The badges make it easier for owners to make takedown requests and help service providers verify the ownership of copyrighted content.
Be sure to read our other related stories at BestBoardGameNews to learn more about board games.