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Five Types of IP for Gaming Studios
Digital Alberta welcomed Amar Sidhu from Amar-VR Law for an informative session on IP Law and how different protections apply to gaming studios. Intellectual property is defined as “a concept in which tangible expressions of intellectual/creative pursuits – such as inventions designs, creative works, ect. – are treated in legal and social spheres as property, with all its attendant implications.” Studios interact with and generate immense amounts of IP so its important to understand your rights and the steps you can take to protect your assets. Keep reading to learn about the five types of IP.
Definition: The exclusive legal right, given to an originator or an assignee to print, publish, perform, film, or record literary, artistic, or musical material, and to authorize others to do the same.
Whether its music, art, characters, or a story, copyrights are automatically given when the IP comes into reality. This means as soon as you create that piece of art, it is automatically protected. Further it is protected in 176 countries and for a period of 70 years after the author’s death through The Berne Convention. However this right can be hard to protect and may not be enforceable unless the copied work is identical or very similar.
Definition: Additional rights held by authors of literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works. They consist of rights that protect the integrity of a work and the reputation of its author.
Unlike copyrights, moral rights cannot be transferred however they can be waived by express consent of the author/creator. Even after the use rights are sold, the author retains the ability to determine that they don’t want their creation to be associated with a certain brand or cause.
Definition: A Combination of letters, words, sounds, or designs that distinguish a company’s products or services from competitors.
Trademarks can range from a company name like “Nintendo” to a catch phrase such as “Just do it.” Although a formally registered trademark provides increased protection and enforcement rights, trademarks can also exist informally as an unregistered trademark. Companies can begin building their brand around a term and can use the letters ™ following the term to build a case around its use relative to the company. Before doing this you should check with CIPO and the United States Patent and Trademark Office to ensure it is not already taken. Trademarks must be registered in each jurisdiction and can be time consuming and costly to obtain. It is highly recommended to work with a Trademark Agent for this process.
Definition: Formula, Pattern, physical device, idea, process or compilation of information including strategies and business plans that give you a competitive advantage.
A Famous trade secret is Coca-Cola and their notoriously secret recipe for their signature drink. Trade secrets are enforced by Common Law in Canada, which takes into account precedent set by other cases in regards to how trade secrets are protected and how that is enforced. The best way to protect a trade secret is through NDA. Companies are advised to have all employees, contractors, and potential business partners sign NDAs to ensure they are protecting their trade secrets.
Definition: Securing a monopoly to profit from something you have invented for a specified time.
Patents are not common in the gaming industry as they are typically reserved for hardware or really unique game play mechanics. As many studios use publicly available gaming engines and tools, there is more often than not nothing proprietary enough in their technology stack to warrant a patent. This is good news however as patents are notoriously difficult and expensive to get and require a Patent Agent.
Amar has produced gaming tip sheets, which can be obtained by clicking the links below:
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