Board and Card Game Patents
- Lee Proctor(covkid)United States
Typically when I look for existing patents, I will use commercial websites. However, Google has recently made available US patent searching and has scanned in most of the over 7 million US patents issued. So armed with Google Patents and BoardGameGeek search tools I went searching for games, designers, publishers etc.
Interestingly, I found very few US patented games by the top game designers or publishers. Patents seem to be mainly held by the bigger mass-market publishers (eg Mattel, Hasbro etc) - this makes sense given the high cost of obtaining and enforcing patents. What was really surprising, was the vast number of game patents for which I could not find corresponding games on BoardGameGeek, suggesting that patenting games does not necessarily correlate well with commercial and/or critical success. This also reflects the majority of opinions in the numerous forum questions about "how do I protect my best-thing-since-sliced-bread game".
A brief introduction to the formats of patents.
There are two types of patents issued for games. The first is a Utility Patent that covers the functional aspects of the invention. The second is a Design Patent that covers the look of the invention. Utility patents are generally the more valuable, with Design Patents only protecting against blatant lookalikes. Some of the key elements of a patent:
Patent No: - eg 5,662,332 (for Utility), Des. 270,650 (for Design)
Inventor: - List of all inventors.
Assignee: - The original owner of the rights to the patent (typically the publisher). Note that current ownership may be assigned to another person/company.
Drawings: - The most important part for Design Patents.
Background of the Invention: - Discussion of the general area, related inventions, why the invention is needed.
Detailed Embodiment - Description of the invention and how the invention can be enabled by someone "skilled in the art".
Claims - The series of inventive steps that are covered by the patent. This is the most important part for Utility Patents.
Why not do your own detective work and try and find other patented games and their associated patents and post them here. I would recommend using the Advanced Patent Search on Google where you can specify inventors, assignees, filing timeframes etc. Alternatively search your game collection for patent indications on the boxes/rules etc.
- [+] Dice rolls