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I am UK based and am looking to set up my own game studio - essentially, just myself working from home, looking to build casual game apps. I want to ask you guys what steps or process i need to go through and do to make this happen, specifically the legal side of things. Will be great to hear from those who have been through this themselves! Need to register with HRMC as self employed is the only thing i know i have to do but what else?:

  1. Do i need to register/trademark my own company/studio name? If so, where do i do this and does it cost money? Or can i just simply start using a name as is?
  2. Do i need to also do this for any games/apps IP i make? Or is copyright automatically assumed?
  3. I gather acting as sole trader is more appropriate at this stage? At what point, if ever, should i consider moving to an actual limited company setup?
  4. Is it wise to open a new bank account solely for this business?

I think my plan was simply to: 1. Find a suitable domain name and create website based on my company name - assuming available and different enough from similar competitor names 2. Register as self employed with HRMC 3. Sell my game on app store

And thats it! Is this ok or do i need consider other stuff as well such as the questions above?

Thank you for reading and any advice you have!

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2  
You should also consider how you'll make money. –  Anko Feb 3 '13 at 14:43
    
Yeah, although right now i want to try and finish my game and get it out there! Need to make a living obviously but in a sense, i'm not really thinking about money. I've managed to save some money over the years as a web developer, now i want to do my own thing and change career - and make games! –  tifbs Feb 3 '13 at 19:51
    
Also want to ask: how do you go about making sure your company name or game IP name is not already in use or too similar to other ones? Would you simply do a google search? Are there any official channels in which to check this and make sure your name is ok? For eg, if there is already a company with a similar name but in another industry or field, would this pose a problem? Would i get sued? What if i bame my company after a generic popular saying or phrase? –  tifbs Feb 3 '13 at 19:57
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Is this games-related in any way? It seems like a generic "how do I start a company" question to me. –  Trevor Powell Feb 3 '13 at 23:16

4 Answers 4

First of all, all of this information will vary from country to country.

1: To have exclusive rights to that name(in your country) you will need to register your company with the government. While I suppose you could use it without registering your company, it would hold no legal authority. In my country(New Zealand), you do this at the Companies register with a small one time fee. I assume it's the same or very similar in all developed countries.

2: I think copyright is automatic, though at least in the US you can get copyright for your game by applying for it even though it isn't required.

3: I am unsure of the advantages and disadvantages of sole trade vs company, but in my country it seems very simple to set up a company and you only need to do a small amount of extra work each year, somewhere around 30 minutes. I imagine the UK is similar to mine, whereas the US has some whacked-out tax system that might be rather complex to use.

4: If you start a company, I imagine it would be better to have a bank account attached to that instead of having it in your own name, although I am not certain it would matter too much either way early on.

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Thanks for the reply too! Yeah, i'm UK based so was asking specifically for that "country" although hearing what other people have done in their own countries also help! –  tifbs Feb 3 '13 at 19:45

The short answer is "it depends" but let me explain.

First off I am not a Lawyer (nor would I want to be) so this is information I found.

Company Registration

OK Assuming you wish to set up as a sole-trader (which is the comparably lowest start-up cost). You have to consider that the area in which you do your "work" could be charged business rates (kinda like council tax on your house) also you tax assessment has to be handled by yourself. VAT also has to be managed by you.

To register go to Companies House which cost at time of writing £15.00

Copyright

From intellectual property office suggests that all works will be protected automatically. UK is extremely strict with patents so do not expect to get one of those for your games.

When to "Upgrade" company

Well you are allowed to hire employees as sole trader and all the usual... I believe however after 35k revenue you start being taxed hard and are advised to change to limited company.

Bank Account

As a sole trader you are solely liable for all debts your company gets so your personal finances will be affected. That being said simply having a new account makes it easier to manage and track.

Personally from your question it suggests you as yet to have a product to market then you may wish to put this on hold until you do as it a lot of work to manage and will negate from your time actually developing the products.

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Thanks for the reply back. Yeah still building my prototype and still have to buy some of the software/development licenses. Regarding tax as a sole trader, is it not just income tax? I do a self assessment so i thought if i register as self employed, any money made will be towards your income which then is taxed (as income tax). I imagine if i register/upgrade as a limited company then it will be different (as corporation tax, amongst other things?). –  tifbs Feb 3 '13 at 19:40
    
Yes it is mainly the Self-assesment tax form, the business rates is based on premises costs even if working from home. VAT see here for when to apply. Going to LTD is as my old boss used to say "A Good problem to have". There is alot more cost involved (I Don't know the details) and as its a whole new kettle of fish I would save that for when you need the information. –  AbstractChaos Feb 3 '13 at 21:40
    
I don't know how it works in the UK, but most startups should prefer the LLC form (like the German GmbH or the Japanese Godo-Kaisha), specifically to avoid the "As a sole trader you are solely liable for all debts your company gets" part. –  Panda Pajama Feb 8 '13 at 6:38
    
It seems like as a sole trader, trading under another trading name, there is no need to register with companies house. Obviously trading as a Ltd company is probably more professional and better. I did also read that it may be a good idea to register the name as a Ltd company at the start, but leave it as dormant, so that you have the name reserved should in the future you decide to go Ltd. I'm not sure if i'll do this at this moment in time though (it costs money!). –  tifbs Feb 8 '13 at 18:09

I think you're going about this backwards and possibly haven't done enough research into the feasibility of "going indie". Try this before quitting your job...

  • Make a complete game that isn't a low quality tech demo
  • Sell it
  • See how much you earn
  • Keep a log of how long it takes to make
  • Figure out how much your time is worth per hour

If it's less than minimum wage, go work at McDonalds instead.

Seriously, "sell it on the AppStore" is not going to fund your future. People moan and begrudge paying 69p for a game that might take you two years to make, and unless your game is something special I bet it already exists for free on the AppStore already.

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Yeah i understand and hear you! I am under no illusions on this either. If after a year - maybe reassess after 6 months - its not going anywhere then i still would have learnt some skills and experience for which i may then look for a job working with a company making ios games. I see this as sort of like taking a year out and learning somehing new - and for the fun to build my own ios game to play on my iphone! Starting up as a sole trader, i think costs are quite low so its really just living costs and purchasing the necessary licenses, etc. –  tifbs Feb 8 '13 at 18:07

If you live in the UK there's always the Citizen's Advice Bureau whom I believe you can contact with any issues like these and they'll point you in the right direction. I'd also disagree with others in that if you honestly want to make games, go for it, don't quit your job straight away but if you're making enough income off of a game I see no reason why you can't work on that full time.

Sorry I couldn't help out more than that and it seems this question is quite old but if it helps I'm glad to offer it.

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