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I have an idea for a game. Also I have almost everything worked out considering coding.

What interests me the most is how can I know if that game can be published.

As it would be for iOS and android, these markets are of the geratest interest for me.

I found on apples store something similair to what I would make and it's published by some big game developer. How can I be sure I am not breaking any laws when publishing the game? Can I make a game like board game 'Risk'?

I don't have any knowledge considering licencing. This game would be avaliable for free, with an option to donate, so money isn't my objective (but it won't hurt) [:

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closed as primarily opinion-based by Philipp, Anko, Seth Battin, ClassicThunder, bummzack Jul 9 '13 at 6:41

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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IANAL, but I'm pretty sure you can make a game mechanically identical to Risk, so long as it's not called Risk or use any of the original artwork. –  Robert Rouhani Jul 7 '13 at 19:34
    
I guessed it worked something like that, but it's always good when someone confirms it (: –  Invader Zim Jul 7 '13 at 19:42
    

2 Answers 2

up vote 7 down vote accepted

There are three areas that you must take care of:

  1. Copyright
  2. Patents
  3. Trademarks

Even if you break something, you might get away with it. The company legal department can contact you and ask you nicely to remove the infringement. Or they can directly sue you, especially when the company is making profit by holding and licensing patents.

Copyright

Every piece of art, source code or documentation is copyrighted by the author or the game studio. By using the original art you not necessarily breaking the copyright. Copyright gives the author exclusive right to allow or disallow anyone else to use the art. In case of commercial games, read the EULA to prevent any infringement. It is safe to assume that you can't use any original media files, but you can contact the authors - they might be willing to make an exception.

Patents

Copyright protects artwork, patents protect ideas. Even a simple idea like how to treat game achievments on consoles can be (and IS!) patented. You can read about some of the well known game patents here. You can never be sure that you are breaking some patent unless you know all of them. You need a legal department to make sure you are not, it's not an easy job. If there is any patent infringement, the patent holder will most likely contact you and ask you to either license their patent or remove it from your software. I have seen this happen several times, but not in a game. In case you dispute their right, they will most likely sue you. However as stated above, some companies make money by sueing other companies over patent infringement, so they might not even issue a warning.

Trademarks

Trademarks protect brands and names. You can't use identical or confusingly similar name to the trademarked one. Trademarks are usually limited to one industry, unless the trademark holder broadens (read: pays more) the trademark. E.g. you might be ok with your McDonald's shoe repair, but not with McDoland's fast-food.


But even if you really take care of all this, you might run into problems. Depends on how much revenue you are making and how much revenue is the other company losing. As an example, look at the image below. It is from one of the big lawsuits recently, EA vs. Zynga. No original artwork was used, no patents and no trademarks infringements. They settled the suit without anyone winning.

EA vs. Zynga

See also: Wikipedia article Video Games Clone

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Small correction: ideas cannot be patented -- only their concrete implementations can. However sometimes the claimed implementation is so broad that it is virtually impossible to design a system that works in some other way... –  Pasha S Jul 8 '13 at 17:51
    
So basically if I do the artwork and coding on my own, I'm (probably) good for publishing? In "Video Game Clone" wiki article it is mentioned that Apple has a team that tries to resolve conflicts between app developers, so that's a plus. Thanks for the info, I can make this game now, without (almost) any worries [: –  Invader Zim Jul 9 '13 at 0:48

It is true that one is allowed to make games that are similar to others. You are not allowed to use any copyrighted materials though, this includes names, art, music, sounds and any other content. I have a game published on the windows phone marketplace called "Casino Dice" which is similar to a game that is registered to Hasbro. I had the name the same as theirs and received a letter asking me to change the name as they have trademarked the name.

I changed the name and all is well.

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Cool. So even if you do something illegal you first get notified and asked to change –  Invader Zim Jul 7 '13 at 19:59
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@InvaderZim: maybe. Don't rely on that. –  Sean Middleditch Jul 7 '13 at 21:47
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This is very misleading answer. The fact that changing name worked in one instance, might not work again. And you must not forget that some game mechanics can be patented. Especially by big companies. Their legal department might not treat you as nicely. –  sm4 Jul 8 '13 at 2:13
    
A very dangerous answer and shouldn't have been accepted. Person here got lucky that Hasbro was very nice and didn't pursue legal action. –  5ound Jul 8 '13 at 16:28

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