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Asked and Answered: Protection for a game.

Q; I'm developing a game which is an original idea and is based on a film that I did (wrote, produced, directed) and on scripts that I'm working on.  I've register in Mexico but I know I need to register further in the US.

What is the best way to register games ?

Which is the most inexpensive way to do so?

A: “Games”  encompass a very wide variety of technologies, so it's difficult to answer this question without knowing more.

Generally, speaking, Many types of games may be registered for copyright, patent, trade secret, and even trademark protection, depending on what's being protected.

Copyright law protects the original expression of ideas, such as the text of instruction manuals, artwork of a game board, displays, music, game pieces, play cards, etc.  Copyright law also protects computer code, to a certain extent, so this may apply for video and computer games.

Patent law can protect novel, non-obvious systems, methods and processes which accomplish something (such as a  particular newly invented method of game play).  Patent law may also protect software methods and processes, as found in many video/computer games.

Trade Secret protection covers non-public information (i.e., “secrets”).  Even a non-patentable method or algorithm encrypted and embedded in a computer program may be protected against misappropriation by others.

Finally Trademark law may protect the title of a game, the distinctive design of a game board, playing pieces, etc. (think, for example of the Monopoly ® or Trival Pursuit ® boards.)

The “Best” way to protect a game is to seek and obtain all of the appropriate forms of protection.  Unfortunately, Patent and Trademark protection can be costly to obtain, and require some maintenance.  Copyright registration is relatively inexpensive, and trade secret protection costs nothing, except the effort to ensure secrecy.

This is intended as general information only and does not establish an attorney-client relationship. It is not a substitute for a private, independent consultation with an attorney selected to advise you after a full investigation of the facts and law relevant to your matter. We will not be responsible for readers’ detrimental reliance upon the information appearing in this feature.

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