Are Card Games Copyrighted or Patented?

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By Valerie Becker

If you’re a game designer or enthusiast, you may be wondering whether card games are copyrighted or patented. The answer is that card games can be subject to both copyright and patent protection, depending on the type of protection sought.

Copyright Protection for Card Games

Copyright law protects original works of authorship, including literary, artistic, and other creative works. This can include the rules and gameplay of a card game if they are expressed in a tangible form of expression, such as a written document or software code.

In other words, if you write down the rules of your card game or create software that implements those rules, you can claim copyright protection for your work. This means that others cannot copy your rules verbatim without your permission.

However, copyright protection does not extend to the underlying ideas or concepts behind your card game. For example, if your game involves players trying to collect sets of cards to win points, others can create their own games with similar mechanics as long as they don’t copy your specific rules.

Patent Protection for Card Games

Patent law protects inventions that are new, useful, and non-obvious. This can include new methods of playing card games that provide a unique advantage over existing games.

To obtain a patent for a card game invention, you must file an application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Your application must describe the invention in detail and demonstrate how it is different from existing games.

If granted, a patent gives you exclusive rights to make, use, and sell your invention for a limited period (usually 20 years from the filing date). This means that others cannot create similar games without obtaining permission from you or licensing your invention.

Examples of Copyrighted Card Games

Some popular card games have been copyrighted by their creators. For example:

  • Uno: The rules and artwork of this classic game were copyrighted by Merle Robbins in 1971.
  • Magic: The Gathering: This collectible card game was copyrighted by Wizards of the Coast in 1993.

Examples of Patented Card Games

Patents for card games are less common than copyrights, but there have been some notable examples. For instance:

  • Blackjack Switch: This variation of blackjack was patented by Geoff Hall in 2009.
  • The Game of Life Adventures Card Game: This card game version of the popular board game was patented by Hasbro in 2013.

The Bottom Line

In summary, card games can be subject to both copyright and patent protection. Copyright protects the expression of the rules and gameplay, while patent protects new and non-obvious methods of playing. If you’re a game designer or inventor, it’s important to understand these forms of protection and how they can help you safeguard your creations.