Global Game Industry News Blog

Monday, September 24, 2007

Patents and Copyright, Oh My - (Some of) The Rules of the Game Industry Game

In my RSS reading early this morning I encountered something which piqued my interest. I wish I'd somehow managed to atLinktend this event, because I've been very interested in patent and copyright law as it relates to the video game industry. Even more disturbing was the title of the talk given in London to a group of IGDA members. That title was, "Rules of the Game: Legal Issues in Game Development," which though purported to be about copyright, trademark, and patent law seems at least based on the notes to have been more about copyright and trademark.

Anyway, the following bit caught my eye:

Game Career Guide - IGDA Rules of the Game
How Similar is Too Similar is Too Similar?
"There has to be copying," says speaker Vincent Scheurer, a speaker at the IGDA meeting. "Accidental similarity is not an infringement." Scheurer expressed his disgust with the similarities -- or what he thinks is just plain copying -- between Webzen's art style (left) and Nintendo's in Wind Waker (right). He wonders why the Japanese game giant allows Webzen get away with it, as Nintendo has never filed suit.

Which lends yet even more evidence to a theory that has been developing in my head throughout my research. Namely, that Nintendo has a different vision of what patent, copyright, and trademark in the game industry is supposed to be doing. While Scheurer seems to look down on "plain copying," as he sees it, Nintendo seems to see something else.

This same sort of non-litigation has occurred in the space of patents by Nintendo as well. Nearly every 3rd Person game for the PS2, PS3, Xbox, Xbox360, Gamecube, and Wii actually infringe on several patents by Nintendo related to the use of analog sticks on controllers. Yet Nintendo does not litigate. So it is either (in the case of patents anyway) done out of only self protection, but I'm beginning to suspect that it is also done out of a desire to carve out new areas in the world of game development and to protect them.

So sure, "Webzen get[s] away with it," but maybe Nintendo is willing to carve new directions out for others to also pursue. Remember, frequently Nintendo seems simply happy to be somewhere first, they don't necessarily want to rule those places.

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  • Did webzen get away with it? As far as I can tell, they have yet to ship the game and its possible the game is shelved.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9/25/2007 05:07:00 PM  

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