At the risk of stating the obvious, the video game industry is big business. Global video game revenue topped one billion dollars last year alone, and this is likely to increase year after year. And it is not only revenue that has an upward trajectory. Video games are also being enjoyed by an increasingly diverse consumer base, and the industry is supported by unrivalled innovation and creativity.
It is not surprising then, that such a lucrative and growing industry is threatened by piracy and looses hundreds of millions of dollars each year in sales of counterfeit products. It takes significant time and money to bring a video game to market, and it has a short period in the limelight before it is replaced with the next exciting game. As a game developer, it is important to know what rights in your game need to be protected. Your game is such a complex product with many components that contribute to the overall product. Appropriate IP protection of each component is absolutely essential to exploit the full commerciality of your video game.
This is probably the most obvious form of protection for video games. As the copyright owner, you have the exclusive right to deal with your creation in particular ways, including reproducing it, adapting it and showing it to the public. Copyright owners can sell or licence these rights to others and prevent others from dealing with their creation without their express consent.
Specifically, the underlying program or source code has copyright protection in the same way as another piece of writing would, such as a book or manuscript. Anything that is expressed in letters and numbers is a “literary work”, which is protected by copyright. The graphics in your game can also be the subject of protection because they are an “artistic work”. This is anything from the artwork in your game to the images of the characters, both the still and animated forms can be protected. Even the script and the sound effects can be protected. The upshot of this is that anything that can be ripped off in the images, sounds, script and source code of your game can have copyright protection. Furthermore, if you do give permission for someone else to use your work, you have the right to have it used in a way that doesn’t harm your reputation. You also have the right to be acknowledged as the creator of it.
If you have any names or logos associated with your game or even your business name or logo, you can register them as a trademark. If you are regularly creating games, and it’s your livelihood, a brand strategy is probably very useful and necessary for you because your logo and name can immediately identify you to your consumers. A trademark can consist of words, numbers, symbols or images or a combination of any of these. Unlike copyright, which exists as soon as the components of your game come into existence, you actually have to take steps to gain trademark protection. The registration process can be tricky, so this would be a good time to get legal advice and assistance in checking whether your name or logo is already taken and preparing an application to get your trademark registered.
Once you have your trademark registered, it can be a real asset for your brand strategy and creating goodwill with your customer base. Registration allows you to use the symbol ® next to your trademark and provides an immediate visual representation that you have taken steps to protect your logo. Registration also prevents others from using your trademark in relation to their games. It can be detrimental financially and reputationally for someone else to adopt the same name or logo as you to produce games, especially if the games are lousy. You want your customers to see your trademark and know straight away that the game is going to be an amazing experience!
Stay tuned for Part 2 on IP protection for video games. If you have a game you are developing, and you wish to protect your invaluable intellectual property, get in touch with LegalVision on 1300 544 755. Our IP lawyers would be happy to assist.