Board and Card Game Patents
Lee Proctor
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Ok, it's about time I did my first Geeklist. I've been interested in patents and the patent process for some time. I have several (non game) patents and now work primarily in the management of potential and issued patents. So, what better topic for my first GeekList than games that are patented.

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.

http://www.google.com/advanced_patent_search
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1. Board Game: Monopoly [Average Rating:4.38 Overall Rank:21353]
Board Game: The Landlord's Game
Lee Proctor
United States
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Patent No: US 748626
Title: Game-Board
Inventor: Lizzie Magie
Date of Patent: Jan. 5, 1904
Assignee: N/A
http://www.google.com/patents?vid=USPAT748626

Patent No: US 2026082
Title: Board Game Apparatus
Inventor: Charles Darrow
Date of Patent: Dec. 31, 1935
Assignee: Parker Brothers, Inc
http://www.pat2pdf.org/patents/pat2026082.pdf

Interesting history of Monopoly on Wikipedia. Darrow is historically given much of the credit for Monopoly, but the major influence of Lizzie Magie's game can be seen from her patent. Surprisingly the timeline at http://www.hasbro.com/monopoly/history/history_timeline.htm doesn't include any of the pre-Darrow conception.
Unfortunately the Darrow patent is not available on the Google site - hence the alternative URL.

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2. Board Game: Magic: The Gathering [Average Rating:7.53 Overall Rank:156] [Average Rating:7.53 Unranked]
Board Game: Magic: The Gathering
Lee Proctor
United States
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Patent No: US 5662332
Title: Trading Card Game Method Of Play
Inventor: Richard Garfield
Date of Patent: Sep. 2, 1997
Assignee: Wizards of the Coast, Inc
http://www.google.com/patents?vid=USPAT5662332

The first claim patents the tap mechanic. Only other patent I found for Richard Garfield was a reissue of the Magic patent.
 
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3. Board Game: Dark Tower [Average Rating:6.84 Overall Rank:2624]
Board Game: Dark Tower
Lee Proctor
United States
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Patent No: Des. 270650
Title: Game Board
Inventor: Vicent Ersato
Date of Patent: Sep. 20, 1983
Assignee: Milton Bradley International, Inc
http://www.google.com/patents?vid=USPATD270650

This is a design patent covering the look of the tower and board. I'm not familiar with the game, other than it goes for lots of money on Ebay.
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4. Board Game: Apples to Apples [Average Rating:5.80 Overall Rank:5130] [Average Rating:5.80 Unranked]
Board Game: Apples to Apples
Lee Proctor
United States
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Patent No: US 6328308
Title: Creative Comparison Card-game w/Board Game Variant
Inventor: Matthew Kirby
Date of Patent: Dec. 11, 2001
Assignee: N/A
http://www.google.com/patents?vid=USPAT6328308

As alluded too by the title, the patent includes a board game variant. Anyone seen this variant?

 
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5. Board Game: Perfection [Average Rating:4.32 Overall Rank:21324]
Board Game: Perfection
Lee Proctor
United States
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Patent No: US 3710455
Title: Educational Game
Inventor: Thomas Liversidge, Thomas Begley,
Date of Patent: Jan. 16, 1973
Assignee: N/A
http://www.google.com/patents?vid=USPAT3710455

The geek page for Perfection does not mention the designers, but the patent drawing looks identical to the game image here.
 
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6. Board Game: Polarity [Average Rating:6.37 Overall Rank:2893]
Board Game: Polarity
Lee Proctor
United States
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Patent No: US 4902011
Title: Magnetic Game Apparatus
Inventor: Douglas Seaton
Date of Patent: Feb. 20, 1990
Assignee: N/A
http://www.google.com/patents?vid=USPAT4902011
 
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7. Board Game: Nuke: The Last Game on Earth [Average Rating:5.57 Unranked]
Board Game: Nuke: The Last Game on Earth
Lee Proctor
United States
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Patent No: US 4687206
Title: Global Domination Board Game
Inventor: Christopher Cordry, Stephen Weeks
Date of Patent: Aug. 18, 1987
Assignee: New Earth Games
http://www.google.com/patents?vid=USPAT4687206
 
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8. Board Game: Ace of Aces: Handy Rotary Series [Average Rating:7.03 Overall Rank:2146] [Average Rating:7.03 Unranked]
 Missing Image
Lee Proctor
United States
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Patent No: US 4378118
Title: Action Game
Inventor: Alfred Leonardi Jr
Date of Patent: Mar. 29, 1983
Assignee: N/A
http://www.google.com/patents?vid=USPAT4378118
 
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9. Board Game: Abalone [Average Rating:6.45 Overall Rank:1705]
Board Game: Abalone
Lee Proctor
United States
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Patent No: Des. 325749
Title: Game Board
Inventor: Michel Lalet, Laurent Levi
Date of Patent: Apr. 28, 1992
Assignee: Abalone Games Corporation
http://www.google.com/patents?vid=USPATD325749
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10. Board Game: Gobblet [Average Rating:6.60 Overall Rank:2360]
Board Game: Gobblet
Lee Proctor
United States
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Patent No: US 6955355
Title: Board Game With Nesting Pieces
Inventor: Thierry Denoual
Date of Patent: Oct. 18, 2005
Assignee: N/A
http://www.google.com/patents?vid=USPAT6955355
 
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11. Board Game: MegaNation [Average Rating:5.43 Unranked]
Board Game: MegaNation
Lee Proctor
United States
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Patent No: US 4733870
Title: Strategy Game Emphasizing Economical and Political Development
Inventor: Ed Rinehart
Date of Patent: Mar. 29, 1988
Assignee: N/A
http://www.google.com/patents?vid=USPAT4733870
 
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12. Board Game: Navia Dratp [Average Rating:7.17 Overall Rank:3025]
 Missing Image
Lee Proctor
United States
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Patent No: US 7090218
Title: Strategic Board Game
Inventor: Koichi Yamazaki
Date of Patent: Aug. 15, 2006
Assignee: Bandai America Incorporated
http://www.google.com/patents?vid=USPAT7090218
 
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13. Board Game: Strat-O-Matic Baseball [Average Rating:7.79 Overall Rank:1498]
Board Game: Strat-O-Matic Baseball
Lee Proctor
United States
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Patent No: US 2812181
Title: Baseball Card Game Apparatus
Inventor: Harold Richman
Date of Patent: Nov. 5, 1987
Assignee: N/A
http://www.google.com/patents?vid=USPAT2812181
 
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14. Board Game: Cashflow 101 [Average Rating:5.22 Overall Rank:21167]
Board Game: Cashflow 101
Lee Proctor
United States
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Patent No: US 5826878
Title: Apparatus and Method of Playing a Board Game for Teaching Fundamental Aspects of Personal Finance, Investing and Accounting
Inventor: Robert Kiyosaki, Rolf Parta
Date of Patent: Oct 27, 1998
Assignee: Cashflow Technologies Incorporated
http://www.google.com/patents?vid=USPAT5826878

I understand that this goes for a lot of money - no wonder they protected it with a patent. Wins the prize for the longest title on the list.
 
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15. Board Game: Icehouse [Average Rating:6.64 Overall Rank:4020]
Board Game Accessory: Looney Pyramids
Lee Proctor
United States
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Patent No: US 4936585
Title: Method of Manipulating and Interpreting Playing Pieces
Inventor: Andrew Looney, John Cooper
Date of Patent: Jun. 26, 1990
Assignee: N/A
http://www.google.com/patents?vid=USPAT4936585

Andrew Looney has another related patent (http://www.google.com/patents?vid=USPAT6352262). IceTowers?
 
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16. Board Game: Stop Thief [Average Rating:6.37 Overall Rank:4138]
Board Game: Stop Thief
Lee Proctor
United States
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Patent No: US 4341385
Title: Electronic Board Game Apparatus
Inventor: Holly Doyle, Robert Doyle, Wendl Thomis
Date of Patent: Jul. 27, 1982
Assignee: N/A
http://www.google.com/patents?vid=USPAT4341385

 
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17. Board Game: The Mole in the Hole [Average Rating:6.29 Overall Rank:4003]
Board Game: The Mole in the Hole
Lee Proctor
United States
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Patent No: Des. 275020
Title: Game Board
Inventor: Virginia Charves, Wayne Yee
Date of Patent: Aug. 7, 1984
Assignee: Milton Bradley International, Inc
http://www.google.com/patents?vid=USPATD275020
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18. Board Game: Yu-Gi-Oh! Hexors Collectible Battle Tile Game [Average Rating:4.47 Unranked]
Board Game: Yu-Gi-Oh! Hexors Collectible Battle Tile Game
Lee Proctor
United States
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Patent No: US 6938899
Title: Tile-Based Board Game
Inventor: Tyler Kenney, Tadd Callies
Date of Patent: Sep. 6, 2005
Assignee: Mattel, Inc
http://www.google.com/patents?vid=USPAT6938899

 
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19. Board Game: Harry Potter: Diagon Alley Board Game [Average Rating:5.35 Overall Rank:20030]
Board Game: Harry Potter: Diagon Alley Board Game
Lee Proctor
United States
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Patent No: US 693242
Title: Board Game
Inventor: Jeannie Hardie, James Harrison
Date of Patent : Aug. 23, 2005
Assignee: Mattel, Inc
http://www.google.com/patents?vid=USPAT6932342
 
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20. Board Game: Chrononauts [Average Rating:6.20 Overall Rank:2585] [Average Rating:6.20 Unranked]
Board Game: Chrononauts
Lee Proctor
United States
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Patent No: US 6474650
Title: Method of Simulation Time Travel in a Card Game
Inventor: Andrew Looney
Date of Patent: Nov. 5, 2002
Assignee: N/A
http://www.google.com/patents?vid=USPAT6474650

Note that the patent uses a completely different scenario to the released game, however the patent description indicates that the patent is for Chrononauts.
 
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21. Board Game: 3 SPOT game [Average Rating:5.26 Overall Rank:18382]
Board Game: 3 SPOT game
Daniel Danzer
Germany
Stuttgart
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Patent number: 5507494
Title: Three Spot Game
Filing date: Aug 9, 1995
Issue date: Apr 16, 1996
Inventor: Edward De Bono

http://www.google.com/patents?vid=USPAT5507494&id=yN8lAAAAEB...
 
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22. Board Game: Oval 2001 [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Board Game: Oval 2001
Lee Proctor
United States
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Patent No: US 6464223
Title: Race Vehicle Game
Inventor: John Rutter
Date of Patent : Oct. 15, 2002
Assignee: N/A
http://www.google.com/patents?vid=USPAT6464223

Adding on behalf of David Bohnenberger (Dweeb). See comments below.

 
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23. Board Game: Scoozie [Average Rating:7.30 Unranked]
Board Game: Scoozie
Lee Proctor
United States
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Patent No: US 44784919
Title: Football Type Board Game
Inventor: Richard Maiers
Date of Patent: Oct. 23, 1984
Assignee: N/A
http://www.google.com/patents?vid=USPAT4478419

Identified by sos1.
 
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24. Board Game: Spinergy [Average Rating:5.72 Overall Rank:15761]
Board Game: Spinergy
Jeffrey D Myers
United States
Albuquerque
New Mexico
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"Always rely upon a happy mind alone." Geshe Chekhawa.
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Patent No: US 6719290
Title: Storytelling and idea generation game
Inventor: Kristina Kershner
Date of Patent: April 13, 2004
Assignee: N/A
http://www.google.com/patents?vid=USPAT6719290

Prepared and prosecuted by yours truly.
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25. Board Game: Mage Knight [Average Rating:6.17 Overall Rank:4700]
Board Game: Mage Knight
Jeffrey D Myers
United States
Albuquerque
New Mexico
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"Always rely upon a happy mind alone." Geshe Chekhawa.
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Patent No: US 6899333
Title: Game piece and method of playing a game and supplying the game piece
Inventor: Jordan K. Weisman
Date of Patent: May 31, 2005
Assignee: Wizkids
http://www.google.com/patents?vid=USPAT6899333

Patent No: US 6899332
Title: Game piece and method of playing a game and supplying the game piece
Inventor: Jordan K. Weisman
Date of Patent: May 31, 2005
Assignee: Wizkids
http://www.google.com/patents?vid=USPAT6899332

Patent No: US D506788
Title: Game piece and method of playing a game and supplying the game piece
Inventor: Jordan K. Weisman, Ethan S. U. Pasternack, John J. Grubb
Date of Patent: June 28, 2005
Assignee: Wizkids
http://www.google.com/patents?vid=USPATD506788

Patents relating to the Clix systems.
 
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