We have been asked many times what game companies can do to protect their games, assets and IP. This is the first of a series of blog posts aiming to answer that question. We will start from the most fundamental matters.
Legal affairs are often seen as complicated and time consuming. This conception is understandable, and even relatively correct in some cases, but for game companies the most essential issues are actually quite straight forward. The most important legal matter is the management of intellectual property rights (IPR).
Firstly, before you start spending money on trademark applications and on other protection, you should make sure your company actually owns the assets that you are planning to protect. There is obviously not much point in protecting something that is not even yours to keep.
All companies need to make sure they get sufficient rights from their employees, founders, subcontractors and all other people who contribute material – whether it is graphics, software, music, sound or something else – to the game in order to be able to distribute the games to consumers without legal hassle.
This can be achieved by making written agreements and by storing these agreements so that they can be found when needed. In practice this means that all game companies should have an employment contract template and a subcontracting agreement template in place. Shareholders’ agreement may also be needed to agree on the matters between the founders and the company. In addition, if your friends help you out with a game, it is recommended to sign a one-pager with them stating that all the rights to the materials are transferred to your company.
Ensuring that your company owns the rights to the games and other assets developed forms the legal foundation of your company. Once you have this foundation figured out, your company is already in a pretty good shape in terms of legal stuff and it’s worth the effort to start thinking about further IP protection.
The next post will be about copyright matters. Stay tuned!