Can I Get Trademark Protection For A Board Game?

Most savvy entrepreneurs know to apply for trademarks on their product names, company names, logos and slogans. Of those, inventors who make board games often go straight to patent filings and forget about the trademark analysis, as explored in my article here: This article considers a sub-category of trademark law that allows for some interesting board game protection: it’s sometimes known as Trade Dress protection.

Trade Dress protection serves to protect products that, on their face, remind consumers of the entity that provides those products. Take, for instance, a Coca-Cola bottle. Even if the trademarks Coca-Cola name didn’t appear on the bottle, the appearance of the bottle itself instantly reminds consumers of the brand the bottle belongs to. -OR- How about this car

Bottle of soda isolated on white background. Clipping Path                               lamborghini-593105_1280

You don’t need an emblem or a name tag to recognize this design as the legendary Lamborghini.

Trademark law is meant to protect a company’s branding. Of times, the product design goes hand-in-hand with the company’s brand. In those instances, where the product design can be shown to remind consumers of the origin of the product itself – Trade Dress protection can be granted.

So, what does it mean for your board game? It means that, even if you can’t get a patent on your board game, getting a trademark on the board design can still be an option. And, unlike patents that expire within certain periods of time (20 years of utility patents and 14 years for design patents), a trademark lasts for as long as the company uses the mark (which, in this case, is the design itself).

Here is a good example of a board game that has been granted Trade Dress protection.

In some cases, you can even file trade dress on particular “Hexagons” of your board:

IN JAIL JUST VISITING

FREE PARKING

GO TO JAIL

If you are interested in more detail related to your situation it is best to speak with an attorney.

Yuri Eliezer heads the intellectual property practice group at Founders Legal. As an entrepreneur who saw the importance of early-stage patent protection, Yuri founded SmartUp®. Clients he has served include Microsoft, Cisco, Cox, AT&T, General Electric, the Georgia Institute of Technology, and Coca-Cola.

yuri

 

Source: Smartup Legal

How Long Does It Take to Register a Trademark?

The length of the U.S. Federal trademark registration process can vary. Once filed, an application is typically assigned to an Examining Attorney within about 3 months. The Examining Attorney will firstly review the application to make sure that the applied-for mark can be registered at all. The Examining Attorney will then review the selected classes and sub-classes in the application, make sure that the specimens are acceptable, and that ‘use’ of the mark is proper. Finally, the Examining Attorney performs a search to find possible conflicting marks – including those that look or sound substantially similar to the one in the application.

If the applied-for mark can be registered, no issues are found in the application itself, and if no conflicts are found, then the Examining Attorney will issue an ‘allowance’. An allowance simply means that the mark has passed the USPTO’s internal review, which is oftentimes the biggest hurdle for registration. It is not atypical for this process to take 1-4 months after the application is assigned to an Examining Attorney.

Once the mark is allowed, the application is published for opposition – a period of 30 days during which third parties can ‘oppose’ the mark, if they reasonably believe that registration of the mark in the application will harm them. If no third party opposes the application, then a registration is typically issued 1-2.5 months after that.

Therefore, a period of approximately 8 months from filing to registration is not unusual. There is a possibility that a registration may be granted within 6 or 7 months. It is also worth mentioning that a registration can require much more time (possibly years) if the Examining Attorney issues a refusal or if a third party files an opposition to the application.

If you are interested in more detail related to your situation it is best to speak with an attorney.

Andrei Tsygankov is the Co-Founder and COO of SmartUp® and a partner at Founders Legal (Bekiares Eliezer LLP). As an attorney, Andrei specializes in corporate, commercial, trademark, and international business matters.

andrei

Source: Smartup Legal

If You’re Making Your Own Board Game, How Do You Protect Your Idea?

Say there is a game thats been around. A lot of people are familiar with it. No one has made a board game out of it. How do I protect something that everyone knows but no one is actually selling?

In protecting board games, you have the following options to consider:

  1. Copyrights and Design Patent – Work with a patent attorney to register your game board designs under Design Patent and copyright law. this will cover the actual design of the board. A Design Patent will enable you to exclude others from making, selling, or using your patented board design for a period of 14 years. This is subject to the requirement that your game board is novel and not used for other games.
  2. Trademark – The name you come up with the board game, and any logo’s associated therewith, are protectable under Trademark law. This will prevent others from making a similar board game using the same Name as your board game. The design of your board can also be registered under Trademark Law as a Trade Dress/product configuration, provided that your board game obtains sufficient recognition and popularity that consumers recognize the board with your brand.
  3. Utility Patent – if you board game has some software/technology/function built-in, you may consider a utility patent filing. A Utility Patent will enable you to exclude others from making, selling, or using your patented technology for a period of 20 years. Average Price for a Utility Patent filing $5000-$6500.

In general, the rules of the board game will remain unprotected and open to the public domain. You can copyright the specific language used to explain the rules, but this will not prevent others from using those same rules for their own game.

If you are interested in more detail related to your situation it is best to speak with an attorney.

Yuri Eliezer heads the intellectual property practice group at Founders Legal. As an entrepreneur who saw the importance of early-stage patent protection, Yuri founded SmartUp®. Clients he has served include Microsoft, Cisco, Cox, AT&T, General Electric, the Georgia Institute of Technology, and Coca-Cola.

yuri

 

Source: Smartup Legal

How to Protect Your Brand – Trademarks 101

It is common for entrepreneurs to spend years of their lives, in addition to their blood, sweat and tears to grow a company and the name associated with it. That name can be not only dear to those who invest in it but it can also become a very valuable piece of property.

It is also not unheard of for entrepreneurs to invest in a name, only to be stopped in their tracks by a larger, established company who has been using a similar name previously. Additionally, it is possible for unscrupulous competitors to try and use the same name as the true innovators who did not properly reserve it.

To avoid such problems and unhappy surprises later, it makes sense for entrepreneurs to reserve and protect the name – the ‘brand’ – as early as possible, before significant resources are invested in it.

Trademarks 101 – How to Protect Your Brand

 

Andrei Tsygankov is the Co-Founder and COO of SmartUp® and a partner at Founders Legal (Bekiares Eliezer LLP). As an attorney, Andrei specializes in corporate, commercial, trademark, and international business matters.

andrei

Source: Smartup Legal

What Is Trade Dress?

The term ‘Trade Dress’ refers to the overall aesthetic, visual design of your product or even your brand as a whole.  This is all about a unique look that consumers associate exclusively with your brand or product and no else’s.

Trade Dress can include one or more of the following:
  1. Colors or color combinations
  2. Visual designs (including patterns)
  3. Unique shapes
  4. Layouts
  5. Packaging
  6. Even the Overall ‘Look and Feel’
How Can I Protect My Trade Dress?

The best way to protect your Trade Dress is to register it with the USPTO as a Trademark under the Lanham Act.  There are many benefits to doing so.  The real key to protecting Trade Dress is that it has to be:

  1. Distinctive (truly unique to only you); and
  2. Non-Functional (it cannot involve any useful components that give your design any utility)

For example:  Picture a classic Coca-Cola bottle with its red and white label.  Coca-Cola could have been made its bottle to be of any shape; the label could have been of any color.  Different choices here would have made no functional difference to the product (so, non-functional).  Instead, Coca-Cola chose its bottle shape and colors for aesthetic reasons and then invested heavily, over time, into making them iconic and instantly recognizable (and thus distinctive).

How Can I Use My Trade Dress Registration To My Advantage?

You can file a Trademark application to protect each unique visual aspect of your brand or specific product (this can be anything from a physical product to a computer user interface).  If granted, the resulting registrations would then work together with the Trademark registrations you have on your name and logo to keep unscrupulous competitors from copying any visual aspect of the brands or products you worked hard to create and promote.

If you are interested in more detail related to your situation it is best to speak with an attorney.

Andrei Tsygankov is the Co-Founder and COO of SmartUp® and a partner at Founders Legal (Bekiares Eliezer LLP). As an attorney, Andrei specializes in corporate, commercial, trademark, and international business matters.

andrei

Source: Smartup Legal