So if you don’t already know from Part 1 of these Card Game Creation Quest posts, my partners and I at FlubberKnuckle Studios are hard at work creating a new card game called Flipz. At this stage of the game I am researching what we need to get the physical version of the card out of the idea phase and into production and on hobby store shelves. Before production and self-release, I believe our first step should be protecting our IP so that the idea isn’t whisked away while we’re shopping our product around.
So this thinking has led me into the world of copyrighting, which I am considering for my own book Average Joe and the Extraordinaires. Further research has taken me into the realm of trademarking and patenting as well. So I wondered which one of those we would need and looked up the differences between them.
So which one does our group need?
Well I’ll tell you, first however I’d like to explain the difference in layman’s terms because I’m a simple man and found most of this very confusing.
Each of these methods: copyrighting, patenting, and trademarking are used to give you (the creator) certain protections on your creation. You can sell your product all willy-nilly and make money off of it but if someone suddenly wants to market that product, idea, or service themselves or take the steps of copyrighting, patenting, or trademarking the work/invention that you made then they have that right. What’s more, they can tell you that you can’t market the product that you created/conceptualized and they would be valid because the law would be on their side since you didn’t have the proper protections. If you create anything and think you’ll sell it or want credit for it then one of the below methods of protection should be sought out.
So I’ll start with copyrighting, since that’s so near and dear to my heart (and my novels). With copyrighting what’s protected are intellectual properties (IP’s) such as books, music (lyrics and beats), plays, movies, T.V. shows, and scripts. In a nutshell, it protects any images, words, or sounds that have been authored and considered tangible forms of expression. It does not however protect a slogan or a single word (trademarks do that). It has to be substantial and it has to be original.
To seek out a copyright you want to head over to the Copyright Office over at the Library of Congress. They have a phone number which is, (202) 707-3002 or 1-877-476-0778. They can also be conveniently reached at their website (http://www.copyright.gov/).
Copyrighting is said to be a much quicker and cheaper process than either Patenting or Trademarking/Service marking.
After reading up on copyrighting it definitely looks like what we’ll need for our card game. But I still want to read up on the other two, so next is…
Trademarking or service marking is actually explained by looking at the word itself. When I read up on what trademarking does I had to go “oh, that makes sense.” I’m sure many of you will have that moment too. You see, trademarking is used to basically separate your product, or service for service marking, from other products and services. Useful for federal trading of your product, and local too. This is done by registering a symbol, word, or phrase to your product. Think the McDonald’s yellow (golden) arches and the words McDonald’s. These are trademarked symbols for the company. Trademarks are basically used to stop others from using similar symbols to confuse or steal your customers. A trademark does not prevent your product from being used or sold by someone else though. Trademarks/Service marks can be sought at the Trademark and Patent office.
Patent and trademark info can be found at http://www.uspto.gov/.
Trademarking didn’t seem like a NEED to us but I figured we’d need to it anyhow.
So now we get to patenting. A patent is used to protect an inventor’s inventions. It prevents others from being able to make, use, offer for sale, or sale your invention but only applies to the boundaries of the United States. A patent does not protect you from having someone overseas recreate your invention and sell it under their name overseas. You’d have to seek a patent in that country to secure your rights to your invention there. Patents, like trademarks, can be sought at the Trademark and Patents office.
After extensively researching each of these methods I’ve come to the conclusion that our card game will need a copyright…and a patent…and a trademark. The copyright will be applied to the game’s concept, artwork, and rules. The patent will apply to the actual physical card game and the overall mechanics. The trademark will be used for the logo to ensure branding. We’re going to have to spend a lot of money to get this board game off the ground. Next up, I’m going to check out the costs of manufacturing and see if I can get a few of these companies on the horn.
Here are some links to the articles I used for research:
Copyright vs. Trademark vs. Patent
The Cost of Various Patents
Patenting Board Games