There is a very old game from Westwood Studios currently owned by Electronic Arts I'd like to remake, but I don't know if I can turn it into a business due to the related copyrights and possible patents on the game (I'm not even sure if you can patent a computer game or its internal mechanics).

The game was originally released in 1999, and I've heard that software patents have a lifetime of up to 20 years. Does that mean after that time I can make similar game characters/soldiers, or even make similar soundtracks to the original game content? Is it possible that the copyright on the soundtracks or the possible patents on the game can be extended further into the future even if 20 years have passed?

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    Ever since the Alice case, it's been found that software patent system suffered high mortality rate in court cases. You are more likely be in trouble with copyright law. Since copyright law is not covered here, you should bring the question to Law Stackexchange.
    – daniel
    Commented Feb 27, 2016 at 17:32
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    @daniel Thanks for your answer! If you'd like to elaborate a little bit more and actually answer the question I shall mark it as accepted. I will check the Law Stack Exchange. Commented Feb 27, 2016 at 17:45

1 Answer 1


Software as such are potentially patentable. However there is quite some limitations to this, even in the US. See for a related question that has been answered here:Can I patent a new internet based game which doesn't exist already?

It is as you say there will be issues with copyright and this expires generally 70 years after the death of the author. For the game you will even have multiple authors, since you said there is music etc..

Patent protection runs out after 20 years.

Related note: For softwarepatents in the US the hurdle to pass could be summarised in inverting one of the last sentences of Justia Opinion Summary on the Alice case:

A patent on software needs to

"purport to improve the functioning of the computer itself or improve any other technology or technical field."

Otherwise it will be just seen as an "abstract idea".

The Justia Opinion Summary you find here: https://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/573/13-298/

Therefore it is even quite unlikely that a valid softwarepatent even existed in this case.

I hope you get more details in Law Stackexchange. Good luck.

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    I agree that copyright is the most likely source of problems. However, I am not confident your comment on software patentability is correct. Software (even "as such") remains potentially patentable in basically all jurisdictions. The Alice decision raises (or at least clarifies) the bar, but it's still a bar which is able to be overcome with a suitable software invention.
    – Maca
    Commented Feb 29, 2016 at 10:01
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    I agree, Maca. How should I amend my reply? I'll give it a try.
    – zip
    Commented Feb 29, 2016 at 19:11

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