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Online gaming platforms and intellectual property

By

Sakshi Shairwal

S. Ashita



Introduction

Online gaming is a video game that is played via the internet. "The phrase "Online Gaming" has numerous implications nowadays, since internet network platforms permit procurement or game-play of practically all games," according to a KPMG India research. The core game-play experience or monetization requires the use of the internet, which may be purchased or accessible through online channels. Online games come in a variety of genres and can be played in single-player, multiplayer, and massively multiplayer modes.


The gaming business is one of the most rapidly expanding sectors. From card games and board games to gesture recognition and multiplayer internet games, today's gamers have a wide range of alternatives. However, game creators and marketers frequently lack methods for safeguarding their commercial interests in the game. In a word, game creators and promoters want to ensure that the games they create and/or advertising are not duplicated by their competitors. While the legal structure may not have safeguards to prohibit all components of a game from being duplicated, a well-defined intellectual property protection plan may help game developers and promoters secure their economic interests to a considerable extent.


Factors that lead to a boost in the gaming industry


(i) Increasing smartphone adoption

(ii) Growing internet penetration

(iii) Young Population

(iv) Adoption of digital payment methods


The epidemic, which was sparked by COVID-19, also served as a catalyst for the growth of India's online gaming business. People who were confined to their houses and had few options for amusement turned to internet gaming for fun and socialization. During the initial wave of Coronavirus, the monthly active users (MAUs) reached 630-670.


Intellectual Property Protection For Games


Since the 1970s, the gaming business has had a stronghold in India, and the digital gaming sector is developing at a rapid pace. According to Forbes, India's gaming business is one of the top five in the world for mobile gaming, with a market value of over $890 million. The industry's magnitude alone demonstrates the evident need for legal protection, as well as the role IPR may play in this regard, given the numerous aspects of the area. Given the industry's rapid growth and the increased legal protection it provides, the area of intellectual property rights (IPR) has been increasingly active in the sector.


However, game creators and marketers frequently lack methods for safeguarding their commercial interests in the game. In a word, game creators and promoters want to ensure that the games they create and/or advertising are not duplicated by their competitors. While the legal structure may not have safeguards to prohibit all components of a game from being duplicated, a well-defined intellectual property protection plan may help game developers and promoters secure their economic interests to a considerable extent.


Trademark


Trademark law may protect a variety of characteristics of a gaming firm. One of the benefits of trademark registration is that it may last an endless amount of time. The following are some of the features of a gaming business that can be trademarked:


i.) Holy Pilgrim Runners are examples of game names.

ii.) A tag line linked with a game or a gaming corporation, such as Sony's "Live in your world, play in ours."

iii.) A game's logo, such as Manabu Sakamoto's PlayStation logo for Sony.

iv.) The game content is contained and sold/marketed in a unique box.

v.) Characters from a video game


Protecting the aforementioned features of a gaming company under trademark law can help prevent rivals from misrepresenting their products as those of the game's original creators/promoters.


In Boston Professional Hockey Association vs. Dallas Cap & Emblem Manufacturing, the team persuaded the court to grant them trademark protection in order to prohibit others from using their trademarks without permission. Although trademark protection is confined to the business use of another's mark and does not extend to non-commercial uses, electronic sports hosts must avoid utilizing the genuine sports team's logo without first obtaining a permit. When a professional team is recognized by name, the host should either secure a license or place the name in a smaller font than on their website.


Copyright


Copyright refers to a creator's exclusive legal rights to original work. Artistic works, cinematographic films, musical works, literary works, theatrical works, sound recordings, and computer software are all protected by copyright. A prevalent misunderstanding is that copyright may protect game rules. Copyright, on the other hand, cannot protect the rules of a game. A gaming handbook, for example, may contain the rules of a game. Anyone who copies the manual without your permission may be infringing on your copyright. Anyone who follows the game's rules and plays the game, even without your permission, will not be infringing on your copyright.


It is one of the IPs that protects the biggest number of works related to the gaming business, and it is a complex and necessary safeguard for games. A game is a collection of different creative and interactive outputs that are wonderfully translated into a technologically engaging experience for the users/players. The emphasis on copyright is significant since the gaming business is undergoing ongoing changes in terms of playable platforms and improved user experience in current times. Although it was not mentioned in this article, India does not have special gaming regulations and is governed by gaming industry business practices. This simply emphasizes the need for copyright laws in gaming.


While copyright law may not allow you to restrict people from obeying the rules of a game you designed, it may protect a number of features of the gaming industry. The following are some of the features of a gaming business that can be protected under copyright law:


i.|) Digital games, such as video games, include source and object codes.

ii.) The game's user manual

iii.) Characters from a video game

iv.) In a game, the background music

v.) In the game, there is also other multimedia stuff.

vi.) Additional game-related creative assets


In the case of Sega Genesis v Accolade Games, Accolade created a development manual (for its gaming console) that incorporated the information it had discovered (Game code or the chip sequence of the game discs that was readable through the Sega Device) about the requirements for a Genesis-compatible game through a reverse engineering process.


The Ninth Circuit of the United States found that disassembling (or reverse engineering) copyrighted object code constitutes a fair use of the content if it is the only means to access copyrighted sections of the code and there is a reasonable cause for doing so.


Patent (Utility)


A utility patent can cover scientific and technology-related parts of a game. A patent can be used to protect an innovative and non-obvious product or technique. The following are some of the characteristics of a game that can be protected under patent law:


i.) Baseball bats and playing boards, for example, are examples of such articles/products.

ii.) Joysticks used in video games are examples of hardware digital goods.

iii.) Digital game software advancements

iv.) Technical processes that enable games, such as those that enable real-time multiplayer games, are examples of such processes.


Patent (Design)


A design patent, on the other hand, covers the decorative design (aesthetics) of a functional item, whereas a utility patent protects the functional qualities of a product. The following are some of the characteristics of a game that can be protected under design patent law:


i.) A playing board's appearance.

ii.) Appearance of game-related items, such as toy bikes.

iii.) In the game, there are icons (computer icons).


Existing regulations may not allow creators and promoters of original games to prohibit rivals from copying their rules. However, as previously said, a well-designed intellectual property protection plan may safeguard numerous components of a gaming firm. Such a tactic might dilute a counterfeit or inspired game's attraction to gamers, limiting its success and providing legitimate game creators and promoters a competitive advantage in the market.


In the case of Fantasy Sports Properties, Inc. vs. ESPN/Starware Partners, the court ruled that hosts cannot allow users to enter scores in a form that has already been trademarked by another e-sport or gaming organization. Also, if the users adopt a different way of keeping a score, that technique must be copyrighted in order to be protected.


Conclusion


It is impossible to overestimate the importance of obtaining exclusive rights through registrations of applicable intellectual property rights. In such a competitive market, granting exclusive rights is critical since it may decide whether a product succeeds or fails.


These exclusive rights guarantee that no other party will be able to commercially exploit any of their games' protected aspects. The act of registering all intellectual property rights should be considered a top priority when starting a new project since these rights give a basic competitive advantage. Given the rigorous and competitive nature of the gaming industry, getting there first is the surest approach to triumph in this regard.



The article first published on Lexology.com and the same can be accessed here.





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