Have you invented a board game? It is natural to want to protect this invention or idea.  You don’t want to lose the opportunity to be the next Hasbro or Parker brothers. A Patent is a legally enforceable right that gives a patent owner rights to exploit and commercialise an invention. A patent is a protection granted to a device, method, substance or process that fulfills the requirements of being new, inventive and useful.

Patent Eligibility

In many countries, the method of playing games is excluded from being eligible for a patent. Fortunately in Australia and New Zealand, Board games may qualify for a patent by fulfilling “novelty” and “non-obviousness” criteria.

Despite the eligibility, it’s important to highlight the components of a board game may not be novel. A standard cardboard square that involves the tossing of dice, dealing cards and moving of pieces may have a novel artistic idea, but will not be novel and inventive for patenting. Furthermore, abstract ideas such as a set of rules for playing a game are not eligible for patent protection.

As you can see, it’s difficult to protect a board game and would require analysis by a patent attorney to determine whether your game meets patent threshold requirements.

How Can I Protect my Board Game if I Can’t Patent It?

If you can’t protect your board game with a patent, you can do so through copyright, trademarking or design registration.

1. Trade Mark

You may like to register the name of your board game as many have done before you like Guess Who, Monopoly or Settlers of Catan – now, household names. Trademark registration will provide you with proprietary rights to use the name or logo of your game in association with the goods that is your game. This will provide your board game with a professional appearance, prevent competition from using your name and also create a high-value asset that you can sell, licence or assign.

2. Copyright

Copyright under the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth) is an automatic right that attaches to your game once it has been expressed in its material form. Copyright can protect the rules of the game in their written form as this falls under a literary work. Copyright also protects the drawings of the board game, cards, and graphics. Copyright protection will exist for the life of the author with an additional 50 years.

3. Design Registration

Design registration allows you to register the design of the product and overall appearance, including shape, pattern and visual appearance. Copyright protection will be lost concerning the board game’s shape and appearance if a design is registered under the Designs Act 1906 (Cth).  However protection of the artwork will not. Design registration lasts for ten years, and it has a threshold criteria of novelty and distinctiveness.

4. Commercialising your Board Game

The protection provided to your board game’s intellectual property provides you with enforceable rights to use, licence and sell your design. Licensing or Assigning your board game IP and prototype to a board game publisher may be a way to earn royalties from your idea without having to go through the manufacturing and marketing process.

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Unless you have created a board game that uses new and inventive principles, you’re unlikely to be able to procure patent protection. But that doesn’t mean you can’t protect your game. If you have any questions about protecting your creative ideas, get in touch with our IP lawyers on 1300 544 755. 

Sophie Glover

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