Board Game Inventors .com TM
Any advice offered by the administrators or other persons associated with this site should be considered "opinion" and should be verified with a proper legal authority prior to taking any action based upon such advice/opinions.
In doing some research, trying to find information concerning protecting my own game, I found the following (it is specific to the US):
In most cases, a combination of copyright and trademark protection will suffice. These are probably reasonable protections for your game(s). And these can be done for free. But please realize that having TM or © on your game may not keep others from copying some or all of your ideas. It only helps if, once you discover the copying has occurred, you want to pursue legal action in protecting your creation.
But to sell your game you will likely need to expose yourself to some risk. Your game is unlikely to sell while receiving only the attention of the critters who dwell in your attic.
COPYRIGHT - Your game, rules, etc., will likely be protected by copyright laws. It is always a good idea to print © YEAR NAME (see bottom of this web page for an example). The copyright protection begins as soon as you transfer your work from your brain onto something others can see. Use the year of that transfer in your copyright mark. For added protection you can register your copyright with the US Library of Congress for $30. For more copyright information visit the US Library of Congress website at http://www.loc.gov/copyright. When registering your game with boardgameinventors.com, you will be given the option of displaying copyright protection with the description of your game.
TRADEMARK - Your game name and unique symbols (your "brand"), may be protected by trademark laws. It is always a good idea to print "TM" in immediate proximity to your game's identifying symbols and symbol+text combinations. Typically it appears in small print to the upper right of the name, symbol, etc. (see top of this page for an example.) You may not legally use the ® symbol unless your trademark is registered with the US Patents and Trademarks Office (USPTO). But it is not necessary to register with the USPTO in order to have trademark protection. Simply put the "TM" in the appropriate places. Additional protection is offered if you do register, but registration costs $325. For more information on trademarks, including a free online search for registered trademarks (which seems to work pretty well) visit the USPTO website at http://www.uspto.gov/main/trademarks.htm. When you register your game with boardgameinventors.com you will be given the option of displaying TM with your game name.
PATENTS - Patents are expensive and cumbersome to obtain (unless you have loads of the filthy green stuff and are willing to hire someone else to do your dirty work) and that's assuming that there is something about your game for which a patent will be issued. In my experience (yes I poofed away some money on a patent application for my game) and from what I've seen elsewhere, it is a stretch to find anything patentable with most board games. But trademark and copyright protection should be enough. For more information on patents, including a free online patent search, visit the USPTO's website http://www.uspto.gov/main/patents.htm.
By the way, I was told by the USPTO that one aspect (actually a relatively insignificant aspect) of my game was patentable. Then I learned of the post-application fees associated with obtaining and maintaining a patent.
If you believe any of this information to be incorrect, have comments about it, or would like to add something to this page, please feel free to drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org
© 2001-2007 Brett Schmidt