VROOM – Video game interfaces! – Task 2: Research: IP Law & Copyright In Games

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What is IP law?

IP stands for Intellectual Property. This means in layman’s terms, creations made by people. Creations can be anything to a logo design, art(istic effects), and a text piece that is used to create revenue for a company. The law is enforced my many means, including: Patents, Copyrights, Trademarks and sometimes Trade Secrets. In relation to games, any new franchise of a game is new IP. Some examples franchises of games that have IP are: Uncharted, Super Mario, Call of Duty, Need for Speed Etc. Any new game that is unique and has no other game in the series is sometimes called a ‘New IP’

This is essentially to protect their assets (Designs, logos, ideas) from other people so nobody would be able to create revenue from the same idea. This has only been recently used from the 20th century.

Patent

Patents

Patents are a right given to an inventor or company for a set period of time (Approximately around 20 years from the patent being accepted) to exclude other people (generally the public) from creating, using or selling an invention without permission from the patentee. The invention is a technological problem (EG: Coldness of a house in the winter) and is a product that can solve it. (EG: Radiator, Sweater) Patents are only for inventions and are only for specific reason. Game companies also have patents for problems players face when playing a game. EA has a patent for Mass Effects dialogue wheel, and Nintendo’s patent on the simplistic design of a D-pad. These patients have given game companies an edge over rivals that cannot possess the unique idea due to the threat of legal action.

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Trademarks

Trademarks are familiar designs and expressions (Certain words) that identify the products or services of a company from another. This is to protect the company brand name and logo to identify that company from others. Examples of trademarks are: McDonalds giant M on a red background, Google’s quirky colour wheel logo, and EA’s unique way of writing ‘EA’’. An argument has broken between Mojang (Creators of ‘Minecraft’ and ‘Scrolls’) and Bethesda (Creators of ‘Elder Scrolls: Skyrim’ and ‘Fallout’) over the trademark over the word “Scrolls”. Mojang was creating a game in development called ‘Scrolls’ and tried to trademark the word ‘scrolls’ to protect the name and assets from other game companies. A lawsuit was filed to Mojang by Zeinmax (parent company of Bethesda) with claims that Mojang was infringing in their trademark ‘Elder Scrolls’. It was sorted out and both parties ended with what they wanted in terms of trademarks for both of their game.

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Copyright

Copyright is a legal right to protect the creators over their artistic and literal assets over a course of about 50 years after the author of the works has died. (In most circumstances) Copyright only protects artistic or literal ‘Works’. They don’t protect the names of the product and business, only the way the specific idea is portrayed. Some examples include: Music, Art, Movies, Games, a copy of an existing copyright (Call Of Duty Series) Etc.

There is a giant controversial argument about how games have to pay a licencing fee for using models of real-life inventions. It has started with racing games (and later, gun manufacturers) wanting a ‘licencing fee’ to use their works. However, a game is a work of fiction and doesn’t need to pay for a gun model or the name. Copyright is intended for other companies profiting off the same work but obviously, the lines are blurred somewhat. EA has stopped paying licencing fees for gun models stating,’ writers don’t need to pay to include the AK-47 in their fictional books’.

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Public Domain

Works under Public Domain are works that have no Intellectual Property rights due to: expiry of the right or is not applicable to the work. For example, early famous works are under public domain (Such as: Shakespeare’s plays and the ‘Mona Lisa’ painting) and all work published by your countries government are in the public domain. Public domain essentially means that all works under it can be used by anybody. (Without fear of legal action being taking against you)

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