Combining the world of technology and creativity, video games represent a form of amusement as well as an enormous part of the entertainment industry today. From the game’s storyline, to the characters, to the music and art, video games are composed of intellectual property. Intellectual Property law is therefore crucial for the creators and developers and will continue to grow in importance with future innovations.
The most relevant rights applicable to the video game industry
The most relevant rights applicable to the video game industry are :
Copyright protects the expression of ideas including the story, the music (soundtrack and sound effects), the characters and even the software running the game. It can also include the conceptual art as well as the dialogues.
- Trade secret
Trade secret protects advantageous business information and grants an economic benefit to its owner. It includes algorithms, customer lists, notes on game development, business contacts,etc.
Trademark allows a company to be identified in commerce through words, symbols, graphics, short phrases, 3D marks,etc. A trade mark is therefore used to protect a name or a logo of a video game. Trademark covers the logo, game titles and even catchphrases and characters.
- Patent protection
A patent protects innovation and invention.
Notable case law on IP infringements in video games
The use of real life objects within video games constitute a challenge in IP law and have given rise to some notable cases :
- One of them is the case involving the use of Bell helicopters in the Battlefield 3 video game.
- Another famous one is the case involving the use of “Humvees” ( a type of US military vehicle) in the Call of Duty video game.
In both cases, the artistic relevance of using real life objects was at the core of the debate accompanied by the idea of freedom of speech. In the case involving the Bell helicopters, the Court judged that the use of helicopters in the video game was an infringement of freedom of speech. Nevertheless, in the case involving the Humvee, the Court concluded that it did not constitute an infringement of freedom of speech and “if realism is an artistic goal, then the presence in modern warfare games of vehicles employed by actual militaries undoubtedly furthers that goal.”
With the fast growth of technology and innovations, the video game industry will only continue to develop. This will be accompanied by legal uncertainty in terms of legislative framework and regulations.
M2 Cyberjustice – Promotion 2022/2023