Intellectual Property in Gambling: How to Protect Your Rights
Today dozens of companies all over the world develop software and different hardware solutions for the gambling industry. To protect intellectual property against unauthorized use, they register trademarks and author's rights and arrange corresponding patents.
What are the main aspects of intellectual property? Which subject matter can the copyright law protect in the field of gaming and what kind of developments can get patents? Read about all these things further in the article.
Intellectual property: the general notion
Intellectual property is the result of intellectual activity protected by the law. In simple terms, intangible assets that a person and/or a group of people created thanks to the intellect.
The subject matter of copyright includes:
- literary, art, dramatic, choreographic, musical, audiovisual works;
- computer programs;
- phonograms, videograms, broadcast programs;
- different inventions;
- useful models and industrial designs;
- trade names;
- geographical indications;
- scientific discoveries;
- innovation proposals;
- plant varieties, animal breeds;
- trade secrets, etc.
There are two types of intellectual property rights: proprietary and non-proprietary.
Proprietary rights imply that the author of the intellectual property subject matter (for example, an online game) is entitled to use it, allow or forbid other individuals to use it.
For example, a company or person that has developed a game of chance can issue a license for its use to the interested company. The third party has to pay the copyright owner money reward for using the intellectual property subject matter. It can be a fixed amount or a percentage of profits.
Personal non-proprietary rights belong to the author of the intellectual property subject matter or the mandatory (if the agreement for product development stipulates this case). They cannot be assigned to third parties.
The author of the intellectual property subject matter is the primary entity that owns the copyright for a certain subject matter. By acquiring a patent for invention, a certificate of trademark and/or copyright registration, the copyright holder protects the product against copying and use by others.
Key aspects of intellectual
property in gaming
The copyright law can protect the following subject matter in the gaming industry:
- different engineering solutions (inventions, useful models);
- game elements: the source code of the program, graphics, background music, title, script, characters;
- new functional elements of the interface;
- names, etc.
Copyrights for a certain work enter into effect from the moment of creation of the intellectual property subject matter. In Ukraine, it is not obligatory to register copyrights, but the registration gives the following advantages:
- the author of the subject matter juridically records the right of authorship and gets the possibility to manage this right;
- in case of disputable issues, the copyright holder does not have to prove the authorship;
- allows to conclude licensing agreements about the assignment of copyrights or to sell the property right. It allows growing your capital.
In every country, standalone authorities handle the registration of copyrights. In Ukraine, Ukrpatent (State Enterprise “Ukrainian Institute of Intellectual Property”) carries out the procedure.
The application for copyright registration is reviewed only in case the work is available in the material form. In other words, the author of online casino software should provide the readymade software solution to the licensing authority.
In the case of casino game development, copyright law protects images of characters, script, music, different graphical elements, fonts, backdrops, etc.
The source code of the computer game can be registered. However, experts state that this procedure is not always necessary, as any changes in the code style turn the software in a new product that requires a new authorship certificate.
Trademarks are signs applied to identify goods or services. They are used to distinguish products and solutions of different companies. They can be standalone words, proper names, letters, numbers, colors, etc.
In the gaming industry, the following items can be registered as trademarks:
- game titles;
- names of characters;
- images of characters, unique game elements, etc.
For example, The Sims game title and the green crystal, which hangs above the characters in the game, are registered as standalone trademarks.
To register a trademark, it should be unique (have distinct differences). The registration certificate is valid only on the territory of the country that issued it. In other words, if you have registered the game title as a trademark in Ukraine, everyone who uses it without the permit violates your rights only within this country. If the same name is used in the USA, for example, where you have no authorship certificate, you are not able to accuse anyone of the dishonest use.
A patent is a document that confirms the right of the person for the development of invention or useful model. In the gaming industry, a game can be patented as an invention or useful model.
A patent for invention requires the created product to:
- be unique. There should not be an analogous product in the whole world;
- have an inventive level. This means that the solution should not be obvious for the specialists of the corresponding expertise;
- be industrially applicable.
A patent for a useful model requires the product to be new and industrially applicable.
Besides, you can protect graphic elements of the game (decorative appearance) through patenting. For this purpose, you have to register them as industrial patterns.
You should take into account that the launch of a new unpatented product can lead to the situation when the competitors will make use of your idea by creating the exact copy of your invention and being the first to arrange the certificate that confirms the ownership right for the development.
in sports betting
In the betting industry, the issue of intellectual property arises when statistics is at stake.
In 2018, the US Supreme Court lifted the ban on the organization of sports betting. And professional sports leagues (NBA and MLB) spoke in favor of the introduction of the integrity fee – 1% of the total bet amount placed within the specified leagues.
Authors of the initiative stated that they had the intellectual property right for the sports statistics. Consequently, they wanted to receive the license fee for the use of statistics by betting houses.
However, experts state that professional leagues lack fundamental intellectual property rights for statistical data. They have copyrights to their content, logos, names, etc. But bookmakers do not use such intellectual property subject matter for the organization of sports betting. To conduct their activities, they use statistics only, which is based on game results.
In Ukraine, personal non-proprietary and proprietary rights of copyright holders are protected by the local legislation. The copyright holder can appeal to a court and demand that the inflictor compensate for non-pecuniary damage, remove the pirated games, and stop storing and/or distributing them.