So i'm quite new to this and i've been trying to find something about this subject, but most of the questions people are asking are if they can patent their game, and i'd like to know what games i can make without getting in patent related trouble with someone. So, let's say that i wanted to make a game like chess and release it on Android (And there are a lot of those). Can i just make it? Does it make any difference if the game is "Buy-To-Play" or "Adds supported" or even free? Basing on amount of chess games, there's nothing like that, so what happens when i want to change some rules in chess, like how figures move, board size, and if those "changes" can be patented, is there a good way to find if "my idea" isn't already patented somewhere?

  • You would need to do, or pay someone to do, a freedom-to-operate patent search in the jurisdictions you planned to offer it in. A quick search [ACLM/chess AND game] of the USPTO patent database [patft.uspto.gov/] shows 296 patents with "chess" in a claim and "game" anywhere in the document. Looking at the titles can quickly weed out about 1/4 of them. If you look at patents that are recent enough to possibly still be in force, it would be a smaller number. – George White Aug 27 at 20:26
up vote 2 down vote accepted

Game patents is an area I've done a fair bit of research on. This should be taken as an informal answer--I've spoken to many patent attorneys on this subject, but I myself am not an attorney.

My sense is that most of the current game patents involve technical implementations (devices and software) as opposed to game mechanics (rules of a given game or set of games.) Many regions do not recognize game mechanics as patent eligible.

In 2013 there was a US ruling known as "Alice" which cast doubt on the continued US patent eligibility of pure methods, such as game mechanics. Most game mechanics patents I've found come from before this ruling. ("Inverse Chess" as an example.) That said, I have seen a few patents subsequent to Alice that seems to involve pure method or game mechanics. (Without patents, games have no intellectual property protection--IP associated with copyright and trademark do not constitute games, merely artistic and commercial elements applied to game mechanics.) There is also a long history of precedent in the US in regard to the eligibility of game mechanics.

@GeorgeWhite's advice in his comment is highly reliable. Having done extensive searches myself, I don't think you need to be concerned, but it's always good to undertake due diligence.

Having had some involvement in the abstract game community recently, my sense is that very few designers pursue patents (the utility patent application process can be expensive with no guarantee of a grant.)

Another consideration is that any novel game mechanic or set of mechanics that are in the public domain are rendered no longer patent eligible. (Certain regions, such as the US have grace periods for the inventor, but the inventor has to file, at minimum, a provisional patent application and identify their product as patent pending.)

From a liability standpoint, in the extremely rare event that you do unintentionally infringe on a granted patent, simply removing the infringing Intellectual Property once you have been notified should be sufficient.

  • That helps a lot, thanks, there's just one more thing i want to ask - from what i've read patents are country specific, so taking into account that Google Play for example lets you release app in like ~140 countries at once, i'd have to check patents in every single country i want to release it in right? – Wiktor Aug 29 at 22:50
  • @WiktorLobejko Technically, I suppose you might, but, the types of game patents you're talking about come from solo inventors, not game companies, so it's unlikely they'll be patented worldwide (cost in the tens of thousands of dollars US for legal fees per region.) If you haven't seen your variant via google search and patent search, it's highly unlikely anyone has patented it. This does not constitute formal advice, but if you want to CYA (cover your butt) you can keep a record of your due diligence (the searches you conducted.) – DukeZhou Aug 30 at 0:28
  • @WiktorLobejko IP litigation is ruinously expensive (which is why "patent trolling" worked--cheaper to settle) so no one is going to come after you with a lawsuit unless you make a gazillion dollars (in which case you'll probably have people coming after you even without basis;) You might also check around on designer forums like reddit.com/r/abstractgames to see if anyone has come across your mechanics. There are a lot of Chess variants out there. – DukeZhou Aug 30 at 0:31
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    Ok, thanks for advice, that really cleared a lot of things for me – Wiktor Aug 30 at 12:00
  • @WiktorLobejko I might also recommend asking a general question about due diligence on the law.stackexchange.com. As a parallel, I have a friend who curates a small film festival. It's not uncommon to want to show an older, obscure film where the parties who hold the rights cannot be found. Professional legal advice there has to document the search for those parties, and, if they cannot be reasonably located, show the film. – DukeZhou Aug 30 at 17:14

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