Can You Patent a Game? Game On!

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Patent a Game


In game development, many wonder, “Can you patent a game?” The answer isn’t straightforward, but understanding intellectual property law is crucial to protect your game ideas effectively.  In this article we will dive into important elements required for patenting your game idea, and alternatives to a traditional patent route.

Understanding the Basics of Intellectual Property (IP)

At the heart of this discussion lies the concept of intellectual property (IP). IP covers intellectual creations, including inventions, written and artistic pieces, logos, brand names, and commercial images. Within the realm of IP, patents play a pivotal role, especially when it comes to the video game industry.

Video Game Idea

When we talk about games, we’re referring to a broad spectrum, from board games and card games to video games. The mere idea of a game cannot be patented. However, the method or process that gets protection can be. For instance, while you might have a groundbreaking video game idea, it’s the mechanics, the rules, and the methods of play that might be eligible for a patent.

Board Games and Other Types of Games

When discussing games, it’s essential to recognize the vast variety that exists. Board games, for instance, have been a staple of entertainment for centuries. From classics like Chess and Monopoly to modern hits like Settlers of Catan, board games have a rich history of bringing people together. The mechanics, design, and even the playing pieces of these games can be unique and, in some cases, patentable.

Beyond board games, there are card games, tabletop role-playing games, physical sports games, mobile games, and augmented reality games, to name a few. Each of these categories has its own set of mechanics and designs, which can be considered for patent protection. The diversity in the gaming world underscores the importance of understanding intellectual property rights across different game types.

The Essence of Game Patents

Game patents are essentially government-granted rights that shield and protect the creators of games and related gaming products. This protection legally prohibits parties, other than the inventors, from using, producing, or selling the protected creations for a designated duration. Over the years, numerous games, gaming features, and ideas from prominent video game companies have been patented, emphasizing the importance of these rights in the industry.

Patent Application

The patent application process for games can be intricate. For a game to be patented, it must meet certain criteria. It should be novel, non-obvious, and have a clear utility. The game mechanics, which are the specific elements of gameplay, are often the focus of patent applications. The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) requires a detailed description of the game, ensuring that the general public and patent office can understand and replicate the invention.

Why Patent a Game?

The gaming industry, encompassing video games, board games, card games, and other types, is booming. With such a vast landscape, fierce competition is inevitable. Patent protection offers game developers and designers a competitive edge. By patenting a unique game mechanic, design, or even playing pieces or game board, creators can prevent other companies from using the same concept, giving them a monopoly in the market for a specified period.

The Breadth of Game Patents

The video game industry, with its rapid advancements, has seen a surge in patents. These patents can range from game ideas, controllers, systems, methods of play, to even figurines and other accessories. Some patents might seem unconventional at first glance, but they play a pivotal role in the industry. For instance, the Pong Patent, a significant patent in gaming, traces back to the industry’s inception.

The Power of a Patent Portfolio

A strategic approach to patenting involves building a patent portfolio. This collection comprises concepts that are actively patented as they emerge. Game creators and companies adopting this comprehensive approach to patenting enhance their chances of genuinely safeguarding their gaming domains. Such utility patent portfolios can be as potent as litigated patents, offering a holistic protection strategy.

The Complexity of Game Patent Claims

Game patents are diverse and consist of multiple claims. Each claim is scrutinized individually during the patent application process. A rejection of one claim doesn’t necessarily spell doom for the entire application file. This granularity in the review process ensures that only truly unique and non-obvious game mechanics or designs receive patent protection.

Unconventional Game Patents

The gaming industry has seen its fair share of unique design patents. For instance, Namco patented load-screen mini-games, which were designed to keep players engaged during game loading times. Electronic Arts (EA) patented the dialogue wheel in the “Mass Effect” series, enhancing player interaction during conversations. Nintendo introduced a novel concept with its character sanity bars in “Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem,” offering a fresh take on the horror genre.

Alternatives to Patents

While patents offer robust legal protection, they aren’t the only form of IP protection available. Copyrights and trademarks also play a role in the game industry. For example, while a game’s mechanics might be patented, its logo can be trademarked, and its storyline copyrighted. Understanding the differences between these forms of protection and when to use each is crucial for game developers.

Cashing In On Your Game Patent

Once you’ve navigated the patenting process and have been granted a patent, the next step is monetization. Licensing utility patents is a popular route. By licensing your game mechanics or design to other companies, you can earn royalties. Alternatively, selling the patent outright can provide a lump sum payment.


In the ever-evolving landscape of the game industry, protecting one’s intellectual property is paramount. Whether you’re a game designer with a novel concept or a game developer looking to safeguard your invention, understanding the nuances of patents, copyrights, and trademarks is the first step towards cashing in on your creativity. If you have any unique questions, and aren’t sure where to start, be sure to consult with a licensed patent attorney to ensure you get proper guidance and legal protection.

Warning & Disclaimer: The pages, articles, and comments on do not constitute legal advice, nor do they create any attorney-client relationship. The articles published express the personal opinions and views of the author as of the time of publication.


Warning & Disclaimer: The pages, articles, and comments on do not constitute legal advice, nor do they create any attorney-client relationship. The articles published express the personal opinions and views of the author as of the time of publication.


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