IP Concerns for Video Game Creators

Some tech companies have not been shy about using legal tools to protect their intellectual property rights. Apple, Microsoft, Yahoo and Research in Motion are several of the biggest tech companies that have been known to take competitors and alleged infringers to court over intellectual property. In contrast, fewer video game companies have exhibited this same tendency, and, in this post, we cover some of the common reasons why.

Preference for open source development

Taking a cue from Google’s informal motto “Don’t be evil,” many in the video game business are fans of open source technology development. These individuals and companies may be reluctant to file for copyright, trademark or patent protection out of fear that these protections inhibit the growth of the tech world by keeping new technology secret.

In years past this may have been more the case, but do not let a belief that others in the industry will do the right thing prevent your company from protecting your work. The video game business is big business today, and the largest publishers and developers have huge corporations and teams of lawyers behind their intellectual property.

Length and complexity of filing for intellectual property protection

Depending on the IP protection you seek, time constraints can be a concern. For example, video game companies usually do not go through the trouble of patenting any software. As the patent process will likely take a year or several, by the time the US Patent and Trademark Office (“PTO”) grants a patent, the game will no longer have much of a shelf life. On the other hand, companies usually opt to pursue hardware on patents. Also, the PTO does offer a provisional patent application that may provide short term patent protection for certain inventions.

Copyright and trademark protection is less complicated than patent applications, and the former two can exist without your even having to do anything. You own the copyright on a video game as soon as you create it; formal registration is necessary if you want to bring a lawsuit against an infringer later on, but the copyright protection already exists.

Are you involved in the video game business? What hesitations have prevented you from seeking intellectual property protections for your work?

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