Law Issues in the Gaming Industry


When people hear about the gaming industry, they will most likely think of fun and joking around. Law issues would be the last topic that would float through their minds. This paper would like to outline four such law issues that relate to the gaming industry and will mention why these issues are so critically needed to be abided by in order for the gaming industry to thrive on its profits from sales. The four such issues will be Trademarks, Copyrights, Patents, and Moral Rights and will describe why each issue is so important to the gaming industry as well as describing some steps that can be taken to prevent law suits from happening when relating to these issues.


Let me start by describing Trademarks. Brinson & Radcliffe (1997) say that a trademarks are “marks and words, names, symbols, or devices used by manufacturers of goods and providers of services to identify their goods and services, and to distinguish their goods and services from goods manufactured and sold by others.” For Example, the Trademark ‘Splinter Cell’ is used by the company Ubi Soft to say that this game belongs to the company and so other companies can’t use ‘Splinter Cell’ in any title they create. I find this to be a critical issue in the gaming industry for one simple reason, confusion. If any company could use any title for their own game products then people will be confused as to which game they are interested in. The consumers would most likely be annoyed by the fact that there is now five games, for instance, with the same name. Marketing will also be a problem. If companies advertise for their game ‘Splinter Cell’, unless the advertisement states which company the game belongs to, the public will not be aware to what the game is about. Whether they have it confused with the other ‘Splinter Cell’ or whether there is a new ‘Splinter Cell’ that yet another company has come up with. So confusion, I think, posts a major problem with trademark issues. But who owns the trademark?


According to Rubin (2002) “a trademark is owned by the first party to use it in connection with goods or services, or the first to apply to register it under the federal intent-to-use procedure if the mark was not previously in use.” However, there are steps that can be taken to protect your trademark from being used by others.


“Trademark protection is available for words, names, symbols, or devices that are capable of distinguishing the owner\'s goods or services from the goods or services of others. A trademark that merely describes a class of goods rather than distinguishing the trademark owner\'s goods from goods provided by others is not protectible.” (Brinson & Radcliffe, 1997). For Example the words RPG, meaning Role Playing Game, cannot be a protected trademark, since it describes a type of game that several companies manufacture, rather than distinguishing one game manufacturer\'s goods. Brinson & Radcliffe (1997), then go to say that “to obtain trademark protection you must fill out a federal trademark registration application in the Patent and Trademark Office.” This is a similar procedure to take when registering copyrighted material. Copyright registration requires “completion of a copyright registration form along with the registration fee (currently $30) and two copies of the work.” (Rubin, 2002).


Rubin (2002) states that “Copyright law protects "original works of authorship," specifically including literary works; musical works, including any accompanying words….” He then leads in to mention that “Copyright protects most multimedia work s- e.g., video games-- which are audiovisual works, compilations, or derivative works, or a combination of these. In addition, copyright protects the underlying computer software which implements a multimedia work, as well as the "look and feel" of the user interface in a multimedia work” I find this issue to be most critical in the gaming industry due to fraud. I have had personal experience from a person illegally obtaining programming code from a game that I was working on at the time. He then later on used the code within his own game project. The important issue to note here is that he passes off this code as his own work, when it wasn’t. I had had the