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I have been designing a Role-Playing Game engine that allows the game to be played via table-top, card-game, board-game, or even converted to a MUD/Video game seamlessly.

I have been working on this project for 12 years...

The core of the game will be in 3 books(like Dungeons & Dragons). What parts of this can I patent, if anything?

I know that if something ever come of it, companies will start copying my system and equations for combat.

In 2007 I showed a unfinished version of the game design to an "idea" company. They seemed very enthusiastic about it, offered to hire staff to finish for me, and was only gonna give me 7% in royalties. I backed out because I wanted to finish the design myself(i'm picking about my design). After that they harassed me for about year about partnering with them. For only 7% royalties, that was kind of a turn-off.

FYI, I know nothing about the patent system or it's process.

Thanks.

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2 Answers

If the disclosure in 2007 was not under an understanding of confidentiality you have lost all ability to patent whatever you disclosed at that time. Although it changed somewhat in March, the U.S. does have a one-year grace period from public knowledge to first filing. After that year it is too late. What qualifies as publicly known? From the USPTO:

“Known or Used” Means Publicly Known or Used “The statutory language ‘known or used by others in this country’ (35 U.S.C. § 102(a)), means knowledge or use which is accessible to the public.” Carellav. Starlight Archery, 804 F.2d 135, 231 USPQ 644 (Fed. Cir. 1986). The knowledge or use is accessible to the public if there has been no deliberate attempt to keep it secret. W. L. Gore & Assoc. v.Garlock, Inc., 721 F.2d 1540, 220 USPQ 303 (Fed. Cir. 1983).

It only takes one person who is under no confidentially agreement to be publicly known. And the AIA removed "in this country" so it is worldwide now.

Whatever is still eligible might be claimed in a patent application. Is something about the game engine new and not obvious? The characters, worlds, story lines are not patentable but could be protectable by copyright.

The 7% sounds pretty good.

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I knwo the characters, story-lines, etc are not patent-able, but what about skill sets used, or combat formulas? –  Xarcell May 4 '13 at 1:08
    
The formula per se no. But a computerized game that uses a certain scheme for causing game play response, prolly yes. Take a look at "System and method of conducting simulated combat" google.com/patents/US8409011 –  George White May 4 '13 at 5:24
    
Then is it safe to say I don't need to patent my design at all. Just get it published and let it be protected by copyright? –  Xarcell May 4 '13 at 19:51
    
This is getting to be a very specific question about your situation and probably off-topic, at least. –  George White May 4 '13 at 20:04
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Try copyrighting your formulae and considering one or more design patents for any artwork or graphic design. You would probably want to have valid trademark.

As for negotiating any license, you should probably consider consulting an attorney. Do not be surprised if the company develops a variation of your work based on your disclosure to them.

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