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  proprietary games and "trainers"  (Read 1432 times)
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Offline philfrei
« Posted 2011-12-05 08:35:40 »

I've been doing a bit of work on the game Boggle as an exercise. What I'm curious about is if there are any general rules of thumb about proprietary games and books or tools written to help people learn to play those games better. Anyone know anything about this?

Are all the Scrabble books and apps controlled by the holders of the Scrabble copyright?

For example, if I wrote an app that presented "training rounds" with feedback, I'm wondering if it would run afoul of copyright laws. A training round isn't exactly the same thing as Boggle itself, and I wouldn't be allowing two-player or multi-player modes. Boggle is essentially a multiplayer game, it seems to me.

I suppose one could come up with "sub shapes" (e.g., make smaller sections of board for the various training drills), and further stuff to make it less like the game itself.

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Offline delt0r

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Medals: 27
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Computers can do that?


« Reply #1 - Posted 2011-12-05 10:02:36 »

The correct answer is "ask a lawyer, pay thousands and still don't get an clear answer".

Technically it would be hard to prove a copyright violation directly, since copyright can't protect an idea, but a specific expression of that idea. Also you are being clear on trade marks.

In practice it depends on the company and how popular your stuff is and if you are selling it. In all cases however with copyright, they must ask you to stop before they start asking for "lost income" or damages. If you cease and desist at first notice you are unlikely to get sued for such a tool. And it is harder for them to get much money out of you, especially if you are not selling it.

But be warned, it a lawyers playing field. Just finding out if you are in the right or not can be very expensive in some countries and take years. No matter who loses, lawyers win.   

I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.--Albert Einstein
Offline pjt33
« Reply #2 - Posted 2011-12-05 18:26:08 »

I played Scramble on Facebook for ages before they brought in the policy that all third party apps must support SSL and Zynga decided, for some reason, that they didn't want to (or couldn't) with Scramble. It was basically Boggle: the only obvious difference was that scoring didn't eliminate words which someone else got (because that doesn't scale well beyond four or five players - almost everyone ends up scoring 0). It's possible that the dice were different as well, but who knows?

The basic rules of thumb are:
  • Game mechanics don't fit into any of the categories of IP. While the text of the rules can possibly be copyright-protected, the way the game plays can't.
  • Game images and non-functional design can be IP.
  • Trademarks are definitely IP, and some companies are very aggressive about what they consider an infringement on their trademarks.
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Offline sproingie

JGO Kernel


Medals: 202



« Reply #3 - Posted 2011-12-05 18:29:30 »

Unless you're actually copying something, copyright isn't what you need to be concerned about, it's trademark.  It's a long standing precedent that game rules can't be protected by trademark or patent, though the actual publication of the game rule text can be copyrighted like any other text.  When it comes to board games, the picture is a little muddier though, because the appearance of the pieces and the game board, down to the layout of its elements can be trademarked -- and in the case of Scrabble, it most certainly is.  

It goes without saying that the names Scrabble and Boggle are themselves very much protected trademarks.  Oh and it also doesn't matter if you have the law on your side, because if they want to crush you with lawyers, they will anyway.

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