Play: Intellectual Property – Lexology



Why are IPRs important?

The value of a game usually lies in its intellectual property rights (IPRs), and protection is key to maximizing business rewards and preventing others from trading your creative product, brand reputation, and technological innovations. Having proper IPR protection adds significant value to a potential sale and opens up potentially lucrative revenue streams through licensing to third parties.

On the other hand, it is important to ensure that you have the correct permissions to use IPRs that you do not have in order to avoid inadvertently infringing on someone else’s rights. Doing so could require you to significantly withdraw or rewrite games and pay monetary compensation to the IPR owner, as well as damaging your reputation.

Developing a proactive and agile IPR strategy to protect and secure the appropriate rights is essential to enable the successful development, funding and distribution of games.

This article explains the main IPRs that protect games, who owns them, and the additional considerations raised by user-generated content. For more information on this topic, including how to enforce your IPRs against third-party infringers, the line between authorized inspiration and infringement, and steps to ensure you don’t infringe yourself, download the guide. Full play here.

Protection of games

The games include several elements that can be protected by international IPRs. The same elements of a game could be protected by more than one DPI. The main types of IPR that protect games in the UK are:

  • Copyright – The copyrighted elements most likely to exist in games include graphics, illustrations, detailed narratives, text, audio, and software code. The work must be original to be protected, that is, it has been created using skill, judgment, effort and individual creativity. Copyright protection lasts a long time – in the UK, the copyrighted material most likely to exist in games is protected from creation for up to 70 years after the creator’s death.
  • Trademarks – Company names, trade names, product / service names, brand names, logos, audio and even certain shapes, movements and colors, among others, can be protected by registering them as trademarks. In addition to the name of the video game and any logo, it is worth thinking about whether character names, level names, character images and the like should be recorded. Trademarks can provide indefinite protection if used and renewed.
  • Death – The UK Illegal Marketing Act protects the goodwill generated by the use of company names, trade names, product / service names, brand logos and ‘get ups’ (i.e. the general appearance of the products and their packaging). The exercise of rights in a deceptive marketing action is generally more expensive and less straightforward than the exercise of trademark rights. This is why obtaining registered protection for key brands can be crucial.
  • Designs – Design rights can be used to protect such components as the appearance of a game itself, including potentially individual game frames, as well as the appearance and shape of game consoles, controllers and devices. ‘other accessories. The criteria for eligibility of these features for protection, and the extent of protection, differ between registered and unregistered design rights, with registered rights generally offering a greater scope of protection.
  • Patents – Patents are registered IPRs protecting inventions that are products or technical processes. In the UK, patents are granted for new and inventive inventions over prior technology (called prior art) which are susceptible of industrial application. There are different categories of subject matter which cannot be protected by patents in the UK, including computer programs, presentations of information, mathematical methods, algorithms “as such” and rules and methods. to perform mental acts, play games or do business. However, inventions that are implemented by running computer software on a conventional hardware system to produce an additional “technical effect” – which may be present in games – are potentially patentable.

Who owns IPRs?

In most cases in the UK, when employees develop IPRs during their employment, the employer will automatically own the IORPs. When outside consultants or contractors develop IPRs, a written and signed contract is required to transfer ownership to the business. If the IPRs are developed before the creation of a business or by a third party studio, the developer may own the property.

It is recommended to enter into signed contracts with employees, consultants and any necessary third parties at an early stage. These contracts must expressly state who owns the already existing IPRs and state that all IPRs created in the future are automatically assigned to the company.

Importantly, external developers will own the IPRs in games unless they officially assign them to publishers.

User Generated Content

Additional DPI considerations apply when games feature user-generated content. Ownership of user-generated content must be provided for in the terms of use. Publishers who make user-generated content available online may be liable for users’ infringement of third-party IPRs if they become aware of the infringement (for example, through a notification from the relevant third party, and do not remove the counterfeit content).



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