Are board games copyrighted or patented?
It’s a good question because we do see that some board games are copyrighted. But at the same time, we see many copied versions of some games circulating around. So are board games copyrighted or patented? Yes and no.
Most board games are copyrighted in the sense that their art, design, structure, etc., cannot be copied. But the essential idea of the game cannot be copyrighted or patented, and hence can be copied easily. This is why we see many card game versions of Cards Against Humanity but in a different format or with different question-and-answer cards. There are also many different versions of games like Monopoly circulating for lower prices than the original.
Protecting a board game by copyright is actually very difficult. This is because the only parts of the game that cannot be copied are the artwork and the rule book. The game mechanics and the general idea of the game cannot be copyrighted, and these can be copied easily to make newer games that are slightly different from the original.
But a board game patent is different. A patent is legal protection for a game board used to prevent others from copying and profiting from our idea. By patenting our game, others cannot resell our ideas under another name. Patenting is, therefore, one of the major ways to protect board game rights.
But for a board game to be eligible to be patented, it must follow certain regulations. Board games must be original and novel, not a spin-off from an existing board game. And it must also not be a common game idea that anyone can come up with.
There is also a design patent to protect your artistic miniatures and artwork from being copied. Again, the pieces you wish to patent must be novel and original.
Trademark protection exists to protect the integrity of a brand and to prevent customer confusion. Trademarks protect not only the name of a game board but also the game designs, cards and tokens. For example, Hasbro owns the trademark for ‘Monopoly’ and has also registered some recognizable symbols like ‘go to jail’ and the layout of the game.
So are board games copyrighted or patented at all? A Summary
Yes, most board games are copyrighted, but the only things that cannot be copied are the rules book, the title, the artwork designs and the wording on the cards. But the mechanics behind the game and how they are played cannot be copyrighted, and anyone uses the same concept to come up with a game board of their own.
But patenting a board game is different. If your game board is eligible enough to be patented, then you may be able to claim legal action if anyone has copied the same mechanics, design and layout of your board game. Mostly, protecting the rights of board games is pretty confusing, and there are multiple copies of Monopolies and Cards against Humanity available. But they will never be able to be as popular or groundbreaking as the original ones.
How much do board game designers make or do they make anything at all? Read this article for the truth.
*All pics are taken from Unsplash.com