So you've made a great game - how do you stop people from using major elements of it without your permission? Attorneys Ross Dannenberg and Steve Chang explain how
video game industry copyrights, trademarks, patents and trade secrets work.
A trademark can be your most valuable business asset, the authors explain, and serves as a source of origin to prevent others from adopting the same name to produce games. Without a trademark, developers have no way of preventing someone else from using their name to produce games.
"You have no quality control over their games, and they could ruin your public reputation and the goodwill you have worked so hard to create. Trademark registration is relatively inexpensive (current registration fee is no more than $375 per class of goods and services), and is typically the first form of intellectual property protection any venture formally secures.
Copyright protection, on the other hand, protects the expression
of an idea -- but not the idea itself. Dannenberg and Chang elaborate:
"Copyright protection exists the moment an author fixes an expression in a tangible medium. This means the moment you save your source code to disk, or you sketch out the artwork for your game character or level art, you automatically have copyright protection without doing anything further.
You can now read the full feature
, which contains a full run-down of the various methods of protecting intellectual property, the costs associated with them, and the implications of each (no registration required, please feel free to link to this feature from other websites).