Discover how we can advise and help you to protect your valuable brand, designs and ideas in this competitive sector.

With millions of video games available for download at the touch of a button, games are now more accessible than ever. Such availability inevitably leads to a crowded market with fierce competition and protection of the IP surrounding your creation is therefore an important factor in the success of your business.

The team at Abel + Imray have experience in working with game developers and publishers, and gaming peripheral designers and manufacturers; ranging from university spin-outs releasing their first game to international corporations offering cutting-edge gaming solutions.

There is no denying that the upfront costs of game development can be substantial, and getting a return on investment is essential for your business. Having a robust worldwide IP strategy helps protect your investment by reducing the risk of third parties taking advantage of your creative work, causing detriment to your goodwill, or forcing you into litigation over infringement of IP rights.

Being an intangible product, video games are essentially a bundle of IP. The most applicable forms of protection are likely to be:

  • Trade Marks for the names, logos, slogans and, more unusually, sounds and animation. A trade mark is a unique “sign” that helps consumers identify goods and services from a particular business, such as the names and/or logos of game titles, characters, producers and publishers; and even start-up sounds and animation.
  • Designs for the appearance of products or objects, resulting from features such as lines, contours, colours, shape, texture and materials. Design protection could apply to “objects” relating to your game such as characters, items, buildings; and even user interfaces.
  • Copyright for the presentation of original work such as art, illustration, photography, software, written articles, databases, sounds and music. Copyright is of particular relevance since it would cover your source code, artwork, audio, texturing, animation and associated assets such databases.
  • Patents for new solutions to technical problems. Whilst the eligibility of computer programs for patent protection is a complicated area of the law, patents have been granted for many aspects of software designed for use in games. Where, in the development of your game, you have developed a new technical solution to overcome a technical shortcoming in or problem with an existing technology, you may have developed a patentable invention. If no-one has previously disclosed your solution, and if your solution delivers a technical advantage (for example, by offering increased computational efficiency or enabling a result not previously obtainable), you may be able to obtain a patent to control the use of your solution by third parties.

The games industry faces some unique challenges when it comes to IP protection, for example, there is no single method for protecting game mechanics. You would therefore need to rely on a combination of rights, including unregistered rights, which varies widely from country to country.

We also understand that the international nature of gaming means IP consideration must take into account localisation; and the need to balance the risks, benefits and costs for obtaining registered rights in multiple geographical territories. For example, it may not practicable to apply for trade mark protection for a name in a hundred different languages.

Whether you are in pre-production, development, or running live ops, we can help you navigate the many options for third party IP rights and advice you as to protecting your own IP worldwide.

Gambling and Lotteries

We work with some of the most recognised names in this growing sector and understand that a gambling or lottery company’s trade mark is generally its most valuable asset. This is because it is the name (brand) remembered by repeat customers and which is passed on by word-of-mouth to potential new customers. If these brand names are not adequately protected, companies run the risk that a returning or potential customer may be mistakenly diverted to a competitor’s website or game using a confusingly similar or even the same name resulting in lost revenue and possibly incurring reputational damage.

Lotteries in particular have become increasingly under pressure from ‘secondary lotteries’ or lottery betting companies that target those lotteries’ customers by offering bets on the official lottery results, and this has emphasised the importance of having suitable registered trade mark protection in place.

How to learn more

Contact Matthew Smith for more details.