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For a client I might be making a small puzzle game about getting a item out of a puzzle. The concept will strongly resemble this game :

http://www.alibaba.com/product-gs/355972089/Car_Park_Game_Brain_Teaser_IQ.html

But will not be about cars or parking, and we will make our own "levels".

The game will not be a board game, but a smartphone game (iOS + Android devices).

But does ThinkFun sit on the concept so heavily that I can't make a game like this ? And where does "the line" go to what is acceptable?

The game will be free, and we are a non-US company (based in Denmark, Europe) if that makes any difference.

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Given you are creating this for a client, I would suggest you have them determine the answer to this question. As a contractor (assuming you are), it should be their liability, not yours. –  Tim Holt Mar 1 '12 at 18:30
    
@TimHolt: wrong. If he doesn't have a lawyer, how can he be sure it is actually only them to be liable and not himself? –  Lohoris Mar 1 '12 at 21:17
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-1: Request for personal legal advice. We can't really deliver that (particularly when you don't even mention what part of the world you're in!). All we can give is some general guidelines (which may or may not actually apply to you), and exhort you to talk to an attorney who knows the laws which apply in your region of the world -- wherever that might happen to be. –  Trevor Powell Mar 2 '12 at 10:10

3 Answers 3

up vote 5 down vote accepted

http://www.copyright.gov/fls/fl108.html

Copyright does not protect the idea for a game, its name or title, or the method or methods for playing it. Nor does copyright protect any idea, system, method, device, or trademark material involved in developing, merchandising, or playing a game. Once a game has been made public, nothing in the copyright law prevents others from developing another game based on similar principles. Copyright protects only the particular manner of an author’s expression in literary, artistic, or musical form.

Material prepared in connection with a game may be subject to copyright if it contains a sufficient amount of literary or pictorial expression. For example, the text matter describing the rules of the game or the pictorial matter appearing on the gameboard or container may be registrable.

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All true, but Copyright is not the only type of intellectual property law. Really also need to check whether the game mechanics themselves are patented. (Note that patents are handled separately across different nations. You need to check in every region of the world in which you plan to distribute). As usual, check with a qualified lawyer in your area to get the specifics of the IP laws in your area. –  Trevor Powell Mar 2 '12 at 22:32

You need a lawyer and this is not legal advice.

That said,

  • being free usually makes no difference at all
  • "game concepts" usually cannot be subject to copyright, but in many perverted jurisdictions apparently are subject to patents
  • regardless of being legal or not, remember you can be sued anyway: if you can't afford to defend yourself you'd better play safe (one way or another)
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If he's doing this for a client, his client needs a lawyer, not him :) –  Tim Holt Mar 1 '12 at 18:49
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@TimHolt Nils would still need a lawyer of his own. Shotgun litigation against everyone even remotely involved in a case is often practiced. Insurance companies will often settle for modest amounts rather than risk being on the hook for a large sum of their customer loses. Putting lots of names on a suit is an easy way to gobble more money for minimally greater effort. –  Dan Neely Mar 1 '12 at 19:34

This is absolutely not a full answer (get a lawyer ;-) but I have already seen games using this "classic" concept.

I don't think you can patent a game design, just graphics, text, music and so on.

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You shouldn't, but you can. AFAIK there are patented game designs, such as Monopoly, or some nonsense about SEGA patenting "racing games" (lol?). Of course those patents might be valid or not, but once you're in court you might have already lost. –  Lohoris Mar 1 '12 at 14:55
    
Yeah, or like someone on a similar post said, even if you are right they might get you anyway... –  Valmond Mar 1 '12 at 14:58

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