2
\$\begingroup\$

I am currently developing a game that pulls in the basic ideas and concepts from 3 other games. I want to make a trailer, and can I put in the trailer something like this:

Pulling Game Concepts from: ...Pokemon ...Fable ...and Harvest Moon

Can i do this? Or would I have to get permission to even reference them?

\$\endgroup\$
  • \$\begingroup\$ Trademark law varies per country but generally says that it's fine to use a trademark to identify products as those of the proprietor as long as you aren't attempting to confuse or deceive anybody. To be safe, you can place a ™ character next to the names and state at some point in your trailer "Pokémon is a registered trademark of Nintendo Co., Ltd.", for example. Of course, your safest bet is to speak to a lawyer in your country. \$\endgroup\$ – Joseph Mansfield Aug 27 '13 at 10:22
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I probably speak for the majority here when I say IANAL. This is not a place to get legal advice with any kind of certainty, especially since law is different in different countries. If you're unsure, either don't do it or speak to a lawyer that knows about this kind of stuff. If I had to guess, some kind of "Inspired by X, Y and Z" would be okay, probably. But "Pulling Concepts from.." sounds a bit like stealing from them, which is not nice to hear for the original developers and to players it sounds like a cheap rip-off. But as I said, I have no idea about the legal side of things. \$\endgroup\$ – Christian Aug 27 '13 at 10:22
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Your trailer is supposed to be talking about your game. Why did you chose those mechanics? what makes your game special? \$\endgroup\$ – Matt D Aug 27 '13 at 12:18
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ You often cannot use someone else's trademark for advertisement purposes. A trailer referencing other games is you trying to make money/sales off someone else's name. You may end up in hot water. Don't do this. \$\endgroup\$ – Sean Middleditch Aug 27 '13 at 17:44
3
\$\begingroup\$

IANAL, this is not legal advice, gamedev.SE is not a good site for legal Q&A.

You may have noticed that most promotional material either avoids mentioning competitors, or avoids mentioning them by name.

Example (Colgate):

"Tastes better than the leading competitor"

I believe this issue is covered on the Wikipedia article Comparative Advertising. While it's perfectly okay in most jurisdictions, usually there are strict standards on how factual or truthful the comparison is, and it must not be misleading. Of course this can be up to interpretation, so in order to avoid legal liability, most companies just avoid directly naming the comparison, even if it's blatantly obvious. Your competitors could have many reasons to stop you from mentioning them too, for example to avoid being associated with your product, or to control the image of their own product.

I know that sometimes it's very convenient to describe your product in terms of other products; "it's like Minecraft with an Angry Birds vibe and a Starcraft-esque lore!" your elevator pitch might go. Professionalism issues aside, you can try mentioning genres and game design buzzwords instead. Examples include sandbox, persistent world, action role-playing.

\$\endgroup\$
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'll also mention that saying your game is like another game is one way to kill an investor's interest in the project (not that you have investors). You should be standing on your own, and if your game design borrows from other games, that's fine, just downplay it and showcase what makes your game unique and worthwhile. You don't want your pitch to be "It's like pokemon, but half the price!" \$\endgroup\$ – Katana314 Aug 27 '13 at 13:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ Actually it's quite common to tell publishers/investors that your game idea is like some existing game; he makes direct reference to this in the last paragraph (an "elevator pitch" is when you describe your game to a publisher or investor). Indeed a common lament about the industry is the other way around, that people only invest in games when it's like an existing successful game. No you wouldn't want your only differentiating factor in a pitch to be lower price, but the pitch for Digimon was surely something like "It's like Pokemon, but with VR computer monsters!" \$\endgroup\$ – jhocking Aug 27 '13 at 13:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'll acknowledge your viewpoint; but I have been told the exact opposite by industry veterans. While game similarities are pretty common and perhaps recognizable, they would tend to keep those similarities unspoken for the most part. \$\endgroup\$ – Katana314 Aug 27 '13 at 15:16
0
\$\begingroup\$

Using the names of other games should be OK under fair use, specifically nominative fair use. Where the qualifications for nominative fair use are one of the following situations:

  • The product or service cannot be readily identified without using the trademark (e.g. trademark is descriptive of a person, place, or product attribute).
  • The user only uses as much of the mark as is necessary for the identification (e.g. the words but not the font or symbol).
  • The user does nothing to suggest sponsorship or endorsement by the trademark holder. This applies even if the nominative use is commercial, and the same test applies for metatags.

Make it clear that you're not doing anything to suggest sponsorship or endorsement. You're just using the name of the game to identity those games. Also ensure you're not using their logos in your trailer. Use a plain text to display their names along with the text saying how users should compare your game to those ones. Look up how to properly use fair use of a trademark to ensure you're properly crediting the other games.

This fair use is something you'll regularly see at grocery stores, when an "off brand" product is asking shoppers to compare their product to a well known brand:

See the lower right text: enter image description here

\$\endgroup\$

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.