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Old 01-30-2023, 01:46 PM   #11
Join Date: Sep 2007
Default Re: Does anyone even, like, own rules??

Originally Posted by RyanW View Post
Recipes may fall under trade secrets.
True. But trade secrets have no IP protection. That is, they're secret. If the secret gets out, too bad. So that's a different category than copyright / trademark / patent.

As you point out, it's an irrelevant category for games, as you kind of have to tell people what the rules are for them to be useful. Though there's always that one GM that insists on just doing it all his own mysterious way...

My intended point was merely that if you wanted to protect game mechanics, you could. It's not copyright or nothing. Only a few cases that I know of have done so (Magic: the Gathering, Scrabble, Monopoly...), but it's possible. Also read that some video games have patented mechanics.

Which possibility raises the specter of "defensive patents" for game companies. If owners of D&D never patented those mechanics, then theoretically Paizo (say) could try to patent those used in Pathfinder. And then possibly turn around and sue D&D for using their patented mechanics like "roll d20 plus modifiers over AC to hit". We can of course hope such a lawsuit would fail due to D&D itself being prior art and differences between editions (say, THAC0 or inverting the AC scale) counted as obvious to a practitioner of the art of game design. But we'd only know after an actual court case. So for safety, a lot of companies just patent everything they do just in case, with no intent to use those patents against anyone else, but rather fend off the reverse. That kind of legal expense would be another burden on RPG companies with tiny revenue. So it could just as well to declare the mechanics as open and at least collect the goodwill that might bring.
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Old 02-02-2023, 04:54 AM   #12
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Join Date: May 2010
Location: Alsea, OR
Default Re: Does anyone even, like, own rules??

Originally Posted by Embassy of Time View Post
I just got back into RPG industry gossip after, you guessed it, the big Wizards of the Coast OGL 1.1 screw-up. Somewhere in the many articles I caught someone (I think Legal Eagle) say that rules cannot be copyrighted. The texts describing them can, but not the actual rules themselves. Anyone know how this works? Could SJG technically release "GURPS D&D" without WotC being able to punish them??
French law protects the mechanics, not just the expression of them. There was a moderately notable case of a couple boardgames, with the same mechanics, and same rules layout, but different exact wordings. The later one lost in the courts.

Legal Eagle was answering from a very strictly US point of view; other nations have different rules on rules.

A quick google shows that UK law on copyright for board games mirrors the US...

Last edited by ak_aramis; 02-02-2023 at 04:57 AM.
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Old 02-05-2023, 04:14 PM   #13
Join Date: Jun 2006
Default Re: Does anyone even, like, own rules??

Also, just because you can legally get away with something, does not mean people are going to consider it ethical. In a way the entire OGL debate is just proving that yet again. In a business like RPGs, where some of your customer base cares about this sort of thing and has places to go, and most stuff is produced by essentially freelance talent, who [definitely] care about this stuff since it is their source of income, getting a reputation for "stealing" other people's intellectual property is not a particularly smart business decision even if you win the court cases.
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