Trademarking Your Video Game Idea? Basic Things You Should Know

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Candy Crush, Flappy Bird, and 2048 are just a few of the games that were so good, they were cloned so many times by other game developers. Flappy Bird, in particular, had over 800 clones it could be awarded as the most cloned game of all time!

It’s crazy how a game you’ve worked so hard for can easily be copied and stolen away from you. Nonetheless, there are many ways to protect your intellectual property, and one of them is trademark protection.

If you are wondering what a trademark is for, what it can do to protect your video game, and how to do it, then let’s dive in!

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What is a trademark and what’s it for?

A trademark is a symbol, word, sign, or design that is used to recognize and differentiate your products from others, the easiest example would be Apple for electronics. Apple trademarked not only their company name and logo, but also other terms that are used to name their products, such as iPhone, iPod, iPad, Mac, and Retina.

One of the “trademarking” trailblazers in the video game industry is King, the creator of Candy Crush.

Now, the purpose of a trademark is to protect your brand from unfair use that could harm your brand’s reputation and to prevent the use of the unique terms, logos, or signs that are used to represent or recognize your brand from commercial use without licensing rights.

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Can you trademark a game? Is it limited to a certain country or location?

Yes, as stated in previous examples, you can trademark a video game. Ideally, you want to file for trademark registration before your video game is released since applying for trademark registration may take time, for instance, it generally lasts 10 months.

Rovio, the developer of the video game Angry Birds, faced litigation when they launched the game because a pet toy company trademarked “Angry Birds” as a company name 2 years before the video game was released.

To prevent mishaps like this from happening, you can apply for a trademark even 3 years before your game’s release.

You can use the ™ sign but it doesn’t offer legal protection. Only those with a ® registered trademark sign have a legal fang to make clone developers think twice.

On the other hand, the trademark is limited to the country where you applied for protection, such as the case in the US. While in the EU, a European Union trademark registration applies to all EU member states and lasts 10 years, the same as in the US.

You can also seek for international trademark registration under the Madrid Protocol of the World Intellectual Property Organization, but it’s obviously going to take more time than on a national level.

Gaming

How much does it cost to trademark a video game?

The cost will actually depend on how much of the game you’re trademarking for. You have to file a separate application and pay a separate fee for each item that you want to trademark, e.g. logo, brand name, slogan, game characters, etc.

Including your attorney’s fee, it might go over $1000 easily if you’re applying for multiple trademarks.

Ready to apply for a trademark? Here’s How.

Depending on where you applied for the trademark, in EU or the US, there are generally 5 basic steps to the trademark application.

  1. Trademark Details. Selecting a mark.

This includes choosing the type of mark that you are trying to register. Is it a wordmark, a figurative mark, or a shape mark? There are plenty of options to choose from.

You have to attach the files in the correct format, provide details about the mark, and a description of its representation.

  1. Identification of goods and services.

You have to choose the type of goods and/or services where your mark is going to apply. In the EU, you have the option to provide your own list of goods and services using an advanced form.

  1. Finding similar trademarks. Searching the database.

Before paying for the application or processing fee, you have to search the USPTO database (US) to check whether someone is already claiming trademark rights similar to what you’re filing a trademark for.

In the EU, it’s called a “Similarity Report” and it compiles a list of a trademark that can adversely affect your application.

  1. Online application.

If you have all the documents, you can now complete your application. Not all applications are successfully registered, but the application fee is non-refundable.

To help you with your application, you can hire an Intellectual Property attorney to increase your chances.

  1. Receive the approval/denial of your application.

In the US, the examining attorney will order the publication of your registration through the USPTO official gazette. You will receive a notification about the publication date, and 30 days after that, any opposition has the chance to file an opposition or an extension of the opposition application.

If there’s no opposition, you will receive a certificate of registration within 3-6 months after the date of publication.

You need to keep the registration live by sending maintenance documents and you have to monitor your registration status yearly even before its expiration.

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