PROTECTING IP IN GAMES Simon Ambroz, trainee patent attorney at IP firm Appleyard Lees, explains why safeguarding intellectual property is crucial for games developers
ame development requires a substantial investment of time and money, as it often takes
that manages interaction among characters from different instances of a virtual world, in a massive, multiplayer online game. You enjoy this invention when you enter a battleground or a dungeon whilst playing World of Warcraft. Epic Games, the developer of Fortnite, also has multiple patents. Some of the patents combine social and technical aspects of its games. For example, granted patent number US9072974 relates to methods of making gameplay changes based on a social networking poll. My personal favourite Fortnite patent is US9744461, which relates to methods that make resource gathering more fun and engaging. All Fortnite players are aware of the need to farm materials; if you don’t farm, you are a ‘noob’. Striking a tree to farm wood creates a weak point in the tree. This patent explains why and how the weak point appears. Riot Games, the developer of League of Legends, also owns several patents. In my opinion, one of the more interesting patents is US10016675, which relates to the technology that facilitates in-game reporting of other players for inappropriate behaviour. Trademarks are signs that indicate the origin of goods, such as games. Epic Games, Riot Games and Blizzard Entertainment all own a significant
number of trademarks around the worlds related to their games. For example, they have trademarks for the logos and names of their games, giving them the exclusive rights to use – and prohibit competitors from using – these titles. Riot Games also trademarks the names of the champions in its games, such as Teemo and Ahri, as well as the names of official game leagues. Epic Games has obtained trademarks for nearly all the names of locations in Fortnite – for instance, Retail Row. Many games companies also have ‘fan content policies’, which are usually part of the terms and conditions of the game. These policies relate to IP created by fans – based on the IP of the company – such as artwork, videos and other materials. This may be a more important consideration than you think. Take Warcraft III, developed by Blizzard, for example. The game includes an in-game, free world editor, which allows players to create customised maps, objectives, items, and so forth. This is how Dota, one of the most popular games ever created, was born. Unfortunately for Blizzard, it does not own any rights to Dota because its fan content policy at the time assigned the rights to the player who created Dota. This was a very costly mistake. Unsurprisingly, Blizzard recently updated its fan content policy, to ensure that, from now on, the company owns all custom games created by any players using its platforms! Most people probably don’t realise how much IP exists in the gaming world. However, as you can see, protecting IP is a critical consideration for game developers.
creators several years to design and launch a new game. Mobile games can be developed more quickly, but still require several months of investment. Given the investment, and given that popular games are at risk of being copied, it is critical that the intellectual property (IP) associated with a game – the inherent technology, the design, the branding – is properly protected, to ensure that games companies reap maximum commercial reward when the game is launched. If a computer program provides a technical solution to a technical problem, and has a technical effect inside or outside of the computer, the program may be patented. Blizzard Entertainment, the creator of the Warcraft universe, has several patents. For example, granted patent number US10086279 relates to a method of hosting a cross-realm zone
Riot Games trademarks the names of the champions in its games, as well as the names of official game leagues”
LEFT Simon Ambroz of Appleyard Lees is keen to highlight the possible risks of failing to protect valuable IP
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