Protecting Video Games

IMGP1188There are certain steps that one should automatically take to protect a video game.  Early in the development process, the proposed name for the game should be protected by filing a Trademark application in Canada. In Canada, a Trademark can be applied for based upon proposed use and  the applicant is given an initial period of 3 years within which to launch.   There is a 6 month foreign filing period for Trademarks.  Prior to the end of that 6 month period, one should apply for United States Trademark protection claiming priority from the Canadian Trademark application .  Claiming priority from the Canadian Trademark application allows you to reach back to your Canadian filing date and also enables you to slow the U.S. Trademark process down so you don’t have to pay extension fees or lose the Trademark if your launch date is delayed.  As soon as there is a working copy of the game, copyright protection should be applied for in Canada, as copyright registration simplifies proving ownership.     Registering copyright in Canada is a simple process that involves filling out an online form.  Most clients do not automatically file for copyright protection in the United States, as the United States requires that a copy of the object code be filed with the Library of Congress.  Prior to launch of the video game, unique features should be reviewed to determine whether they are sufficiently important to be considered for patent protection.  If you have a unique feature that gives you an edge, patent protection can keep competitors from imitating that aspect of your video game.  If you want to see what the video game industry is doing, look at recently issued patents. U.S. Patent 9,095,776 issued August 4, 2015 entitled “Video game extremity control and object interaction” discloses a skateboarding video game in which a skateboarder can grab a skateboard to do a grab trick and change position on the skateboard to do other tricks.  U.S. Patent 9,089,778 issued July 28, 2015 entitled “Video game with expedited combat” recites a methodology for determining whether a combatant dies after a single hit or a greater number of hits by setting forth a scheme of “spending” parameters and “recovery units”.  U.S. Patent 9,079,097 issued July 14, 2015 entitled “Video game with replaceable tiles having selectable physics”, describes a tile game in which tiles are moveable to fill spaces.  The “selectable physics” for the tiles relates to specified direction of movement and speed of movement, and under  certain playing conditions, the “selectable physics” of the tiles change.  U.S. Patent 9,072,974 issued July 7, 2015 entitled “Game play changes to a video game based upon social network polls”,  protects a concept in which a social network of players can influence game play.  U.S. Patent 9,039,532 issued May 26, 2015 entitled “Interactive video game with toys having functionality unlocked through game play”; the title accurately describes the focus of this patent.