The gaming industry is booming. A clear testament to its fast-rising status is the fact that eSports or electronic sports, which has video games as the main platform for competition, has been gaining attention even in conventional sports meets. Just recently, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) had acknowledged that competitive eSports may be considered as an official Olympic event in the future. In terms of revenue, Bloomberg projected that the gaming industry is estimated to figure USD196 billion in revenues by the year 2022.
You read it right, almost two hundred billion dollars.
With such a promising industry, stakeholders may want to pause and evaluate the lurking threats to their treasured investments. As in any other case, Intellectual Property (IP) rights will be a valuable jump-off point. Industry players can consider IP rights and use such rights to protect all their income-generating products and investments, and guard the same against unlawful exploitation, copying, and infringement. The same can also be said regarding player-generated goodwill and contents.
Patent Protection. Patents are, in layman’s term, an invention. While computer programs are generally not patentable, patents can be had over functional aspects of video gaming hardware and equipment like consoles, controllers, and headsets. This has become increasingly more prominent with the advent of virtual reality games that employ specialised and specific hardware to be able to fully enjoy games in virtual reality.
Copyright. Computer programs and algorithms,game storylines, music, artworks, graphics, animations, and game maps may be protected through copyright. Compared to patents, copyrights are protected by law from mere creation. Hence, registration of such works is not necessary for protection. However, registration may prove to be valuable to establish ownership in copyrighted works. Also, registrations would be indispensable in facilitating enforcement against infringers and copycats who may illegally copy or modify one’s copyrighted works. In recent trends, streaming of player games and contents all the more highlighted the importance of copyright.
Trademarks and Designs. Brands are generally protected through trademarks. Trademarks are effective IP tools to pinpoint the source of a product or service. The distinctive names and logos which game developers give their games can be protected through trademarks. In the same vein, team logos, uniforms, and tag lines may also be protected as trademarks. On the other hand, designs are, generally, the protection granted to the aesthetic appearance of a product. Designs are used to protect a distinctive color, shape, pattern, or ornamentation. The appearance of consoles, controllers, and headsets may be protected as designs.
In all, the eSports industry stands as a minefield of both opportunities and risks for IP owners and creators, as well as players and those streaming and taking part in eSports. Game companies, players and other stakeholders in the gaming industry must always be vigilant and in sync to veer away from violations and possible disputes. As always, legal advice will come in handy for stakeholders in evaluating strategies to leverage IP rights in the gaming industry.