The journey of an indie game developer is filled with challenges, and one significant hurdle they may encounter is the infringement of their intellectual property (IP) rights.
A poignant example of this occurred in 2019 when the founder of the highly popular game Clicker Heroes shared a distressing ordeal on Reddit.
Their game was removed from the app store by Apple, not due to any wrongdoing on their part, but because a company in China had created a clone, trademarked the already-used name, and successfully convinced Apple to take down the original game worldwide.
The consequences were severe, with the developers losing hundreds of dollars per day.
This incident serves as a stark reminder of the critical importance of safeguarding one's intellectual property rights.
In this article, we will explore the realm of intellectual property in the gaming industry, shedding light on its various aspects, potential consequences of infringement, and the actions that copyright holders can take to protect their creative works.
Per the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), intellectual property:
“…refers to creations of the mind, such as inventions; literary and artistic works; designs; and symbols, names, and images used in commerce."
In gaming, intellectual property encompasses a wide range of creative works that developers produce during the game development process, such as:
Note that this list is non-exhaustive. As technology advances, the scope of intellectual property continues to expand and evolve.
In the gaming world, copyright infringement occurs when a substantial portion of an original work is copied without permission.
To prove independent creation and defend against infringement claims, the alleged infringer must provide evidence that their work was not copied from the original.
Let's explore a hypothetical situation to illustrate this.
Meet Alex, an indie game developer who creates a game called Examplemon, which Alex holds exclusive rights to reproduce and distribute.
However, without Alex's permission, another developer named Ben copies parts of Examplemon and sells it under a different name, Example Quest, without giving credit or compensation to Alex.
In this case, Ben has infringed on Alex's copyright by unlawfully copying and distributing their work. Alex has the legal right to take action against Ben, seeking to prevent further infringement and claim compensation for any damages caused.
In essence, anyone who wishes to use your copyrighted work must get your permission before doing so. But this applies only if you safeguard your work with intellectual property rights.
Infringing another developer’s copyrights (whether it’s accidental or not) can lead to a lot of unwanted trouble for either party.
To ensure that you don’t inadvertently infringe on someone else's copyrights, you can:
Being involved in a copyright infringement dispute can have practical implications for indie game developers. Let's explore some of the potential consequences: