Questions in the business part of game development

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Wrks 101 Oct 16, 2011 at 23:42

I have some questions that are either legal or business related, hope you guys can help me. Our game is almost finished and we need to start working on polishing, marketing and other details.

1) Should we register our game name as a trademark? Since we’re not in the US, how can we do this? Any price ideas?
2) Should game logos and so on be also registered?
3) Any ideas of how to approach publishers? Or find good ones?
4) What’s the best way to go? Indie or publisher-aided?

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TheNut 179 Oct 17, 2011 at 00:04

I’m not particularly fussy about registered trademarks as they take a lot of time and money to approve, and they can still be repudiated in court. Having said that, a trademark is only limited to the country in which you register it. If you register your trademark in Canada, it holds no protection in the US or other countries. To properly trademark your product, you need to register internationally, which is expensive and time consuming.

  1. For “peace of mind”, I would register your company name and/or logo first. If you get large enough to afford trademark lawyers, then I would think about getting specific name trademarks.

  2. Yes, and you can only register one at a time (two separate fees), unless the logo contains the name as well (although this is not generally recommended). Logos are also grayscale, so don’t worry about colours and beautifying it. You’re only registering the shape.

  3. First ship a successful product. They will either come to you if you make a large impact in the market, or you will need to contact a random publisher and offer a proposal. It helps if you have contacts. There’s tradeshows all over the globe where this kind of activity is the best place to score a relationship.

  4. Indie first. No need for lawyers, contracts, liabilities, etc. If you do well, then that’s a sign for you to expand.

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Wrks 101 Oct 17, 2011 at 00:22

Are we talking $x,xxx for company trademarks? Title and logo?

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TheNut 179 Oct 17, 2011 at 02:23

Here in Canada, it’s about $500 to register a trademark and it goes through several stages. You don’t pay all up front. I think it starts off with a $300 fee and you continue to pay progressively as you move to each new step in the process. If you encounter opposition with your trademark and you can’t argue for its defence, then you have to try again with something else. The fee is not reimbursed. So if you don’t do your research (check online databases), your costs could add up.

I think the fees are about in the same in the US from what I recall, but their wait times are different. You need to check their website. The registration process is a lot more work though. The US government puts no effort into their websites.

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robobrain 101 Nov 01, 2011 at 15:46

Don’t bother with Trademarking or Copyrighting anything right away. It costs too much and you can get most of the benefits of a Copyright by just putting the (c) symbol on your work. (At least in the U.S. that is.)

Finish your project, get a game out the door. Once it’s done, then worry about the legal stuff. Trying to do it before you are actually making money will only create many headaches for you early on. Do you really want to hire a trademark lawyer when you could be working on your game?

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alphadog 101 Nov 01, 2011 at 19:59

IANAL.

But, from experience and IMO, for items 1 and 2, you are already too late. :)

If you are that serious with publishing your efforts commercially, hire a lawyer now familiar with the entertainment/game IP domain. And, as opposed to robobrain’s position, I say get your all your paperwork going now, rather than later. For example, early registration of copyright entitles the registrant a) presumption of copyright validity and 2) statutory damages.

Line up your legal ducks now, like copyrights, trademarks, NDA on collaborators, etc., because if the money starts rolling in, you find that some people you thought you knew, you didn’t. It happens. :)

PS: There are entire books on this.