How to Receive a Patent on a Board Game

By Lee Hall, J.D.

How to Receive a Patent on a Board Game

By Lee Hall, J.D.

Today, many board game players design games and look to crowdfunding to create marketable game sets. If a game is unique and original, they can patent their work. Main reasons why game inventors apply for patents include opportunities to earn revenue from sales or licensing, credibility in the marketplace, and sole rights to the concept.

Group of friends playing a board game

How to File

To receive a patent on your board game invention, you'll need to file a patent application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). First, to avoid rejection due to similar, existing works, search the USPTO database.

An inventor who applies for a utility patent files a written description and drawings with the USPTO. Today's preferred method is online filing, using forms supplied on the USPTO website. Utility patents last for 20 years and must meet three basic criteria to qualify.

1. Originality

Your game must be novel, meaning it cannot replicate prior work. Study available games and explain the prior state of the art in writing, as a backdrop for the uniqueness of your own invention. If you created a flying game, are other flying games already available? Explain clearly, step by step, what distinguishes yours from the pack. When you describe the existing works, you become likely to refine your own, making it distinct. What do your players do that they won't do in any other game? Why does the difference matter? Does it help teach or reinforce a skill, for example? Explain how the game keeps track of players' progress and success. In your explanation, link the mechanics and the graphics of your game to its novelty and originality.

2. Nonobviousness

File for a patent only if other game makers couldn't think up the idea through experience with other games. Simply put, your game may not be an obvious take on an existing game or a blend of existing games.

3. Utility

An innovation must have value. New games, as long as they work, have value. Education and even entertainment value meet this standard.

Elements of an Application

An application for a game patent has several key elements, including:

  • The name of the game: Title your work within a few descriptive words. "Ailerons: A Game About Learning to Fly" is a straightforward, succinct title for a patent.
  • A detailed description: Explain and describe your board game with care and in detail.
  • Drawings, with a brief description of the drawings: Prepare detailed, understandable illustrations of the game. Have a designer work with you to supply professional illustrations of the moves (Fig. 1, 2, etc.), with key features enlarged as necessary to make them clear. Explain the uniqueness of your game through every aspect with a brief description of the drawings.
  • Alternative game modes: Devise variations on the rules so that players can accelerate or vary the game. This can prevent another gamer from thinking up an alternative version of your game and applying for rights to it.
  • Application fees: The current fee schedule appears at the USPTO website. Be aware that the maintenance fees for successful patent applications raise the overall costs.

Option to File a Provisional Application First

A provisional patent application is a simpler way to start marketing an invention. The application comprises a cover sheet, a description, and detailed illustrations. Once submitted, it allows its author to call the concept "patent pending."

The provisional patent application represents a cost-efficient, confidential, legally protected chance to take time exploring your game's market potential. You must proceed to patent the game when it is new—within a year of introducing it commercially. A provisional patent does not transform into a patent on its own.

Descriptions in a provisional patent application must be precise. Yet, if they are broad enough to allow you to adjust the game and still match the application, they allow you to tweak your game based on other players' reviews.

A great game is not only a contribution to people's social lives. It is also the inventor's intellectual property. Securing a patent allows you to protect your original work. If you need help in protecting your work, you could always speak to a qualified attorney specializing in the patent industry.

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.

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