Daniel Enetoft works with IP issues in the fields of electronics and IT, and specialises in software patents at the Swedish offices of Awapatent, a leading international IP consultancy. He is also part of the new “Games and the Law” track at NG15, and will take the stage in May with a session named “Intellectual Property - Why Bother?”
NG: Why is it important to increase the IP awareness in the games industry?
DE: Regardless of your personal feelings to the IP system, if you have the ambition to build a successful business it is important to incorporate IP considerations in your business strategy.
This is since IP is part of business today. Almost all major players in the gaming industry do IP in one way or another. This is not surprising, since IP in many cases can help to prolong and protect revenue streams from a hit game. In the games industry, almost all value in a company is tied to intellectual property. This means that the knowledge of the employees, the value of brands of the company and any revenue streams from the games released by the company are the assets that determine the company’s value.
Therefore, if you have ambitions to build a successful business and you want to make sure that you are the one who gets the active users, goodwill and/or revenues from a hit game, the question of how to protect and also how to increase the value of the IP should be considered.
NG: The activity in the field of patenting computer-implemented inventions seems high in Europe. I thought that it’s not possible to patent software here. Can you elaborate on that?
DE: According to European patent law, it is not possible to get a patent for software code in itself; such code is protected by copyright. However, a computer program as a technical implementation of a method solving a technical problem may very well be patented. This is called a computer-implemented invention.
There is no difference between a computer-implemented invention and other inventions when it comes to patentability. Just as with any invention, for a patent to be granted for a computer-implemented invention, a technical problem has to be solved in a novel and non-obvious manner. A computer-implemented invention is one which involves the use of a computer, computer network or other programmable apparatus, where the invention is realised wholly or partly using a computer program or software. Examples of technical problems solved by computer implemented inventions are increasing the compression rate of graphical data sent to graphics card in order to improve graphics in a game or improve copy protection of a game. Further examples of patented features will be provided during the seminar.
However, just as with any technical field, software not solving a technical problem in a novel and non-obvious manner is not patentable. An example of software not solving a technical problem is software displaying information in a more comprehensible way for the user. Helping a user to comprehend data is not considered as a technical problem, but instead as a mere design improvement and thus not patentable.
NG: What should I consider when I name my game? What pitfalls are there and how can they be avoided?
DE: Names of a game can become registered trademark. What importance this has depends on your business plan.
For a young company or a fast-paced project where the long-time of a product is hard to estimate beforehand, it is normally sufficient to conduct searches to establish that no other party have can claim trademark rights to the chosen name. This is in particular important, since several trading platforms for apps such as the Apple App Store have conflict resolution systems that will remove an app from the platform immediately upon a claim from a trademark owner. Meaning that an app that comes close to a registered trademark may lose access to trading platforms as fast as they gain it, at a low cost for the trademark owner.
By choosing a name that is more unique and not protected by prior rights, a developer or studio also has the opportunity, if the product proves a hit, to protect the name themselves and thereby gain protection against later copycats as well as create a platform to drive value from the name, like merchandising.
For more ambitious projects with more resources spent in the development, a company should consider establishing a trademark strategy. For instance, if you are launching a gaming community and strive to gain a million active users, this is a process that takes time. It is advisable to protect your name in key markets to prohibit others from coming to close to your name and thereby diluting your user database, which in turn would directly detract against the future valuation of your company.
In our seminar we will also explore the trademark strategies of some big players in gaming today, and how the names of hit games has been commercialised.
Daniel Enetoft’s talk with colleague Kristian Martinsson entitled “Intellectual Property - Why Bother?” is scheduled for Thursday morning, 21 May in the Reykjavik room at Slagthuset. Read more about Daniel Enetoft on the conference website here and his talk here.
Ready to get informed? Daniel Enetoft – IP and software patent expert – another great reason to join us for Nordic Game 2015, 20-22 May in Malmö, Sweden. Register today!