Protecting Your Ideas


What is a copyright? How can I get copyrights?

Basically, a copyright means that when you do something – you own your work. Like, for example: as I write these texts, I own the copyright – no one else cannot copy/publish my text and present them as their own or they would violate my copyright. (Btw – I’m more than willing to let people present these texts – although I would appreciate a link back).

Same way: when a programmer in a team writes code, he owns the copyright for that code. It’s his and nobody cannot copy that code (without violating his copyrights) unless there’s agreement about that.

I’m not a lawyer so I won’t go any deeper into this issue. But what I just wrote roughly describes what a copyright means.

There’s more detailed information available in the Internet. Here’s some sites which you might find useful.


I’ll pose it by relating my current situation. I have a small development team currently producing it’s first title. It’s aimed at the casual market, and we think the concept is fresh enough and current enough to be a popular seller. (Though what game development team doesn’t?)

I wouldn’t usually worry about giving ideas away, as generally the playability and sellability of a game is more in the implementation rather than the idea. However, in this instance the idea is one we feel has never been seen before, and is likely to be copied very, very quickly once it’s gone into the wide world. Obviously, we need to balance this with the need to demonstrate it to publishers. What are the best steps we can take to allow us to protect our idea while still allowing us to demonstrate it as appropriate?

If you have finished your game then there’s no need to worry about that. We never had any problems with this. Eventually all the best game ideas will be copied anyway.

I believe there are couple of reasons why they wouldn’t copy your game idea:
– It would cost them time & money to develop the game
– They cannot know if it’s a hit game until they’ve seen sales
– Usually publishers focus on *publishing* rather than *developing* (of course there are also publishers who publish & developer games)

You will eventually need to publish the game in some way. When the game is released you cannot protect the idea anyway – so why would you be afraid at this point?

Logically: There is no 100% proof way to protect your game, but you can use something:
– Finish your game before presenting it to public (in case they want to copy your game idea – they will have less time to do it as your game is in the market)
– Patents/trademarks (Don’t know if anyone has done this – but that’s why they invented patents)
– NDAs when dealing with the publisher. Let them sign the paper before presenting the demo (although I would bet not many publisher will use time to sign it… they see thousands of games each year, and putting extra effort on something would require special reasons). If they clone the game you might be able to issue a law suit. I still think this is far fetched, but as you asked – I respond.

The best ways to protect your game, in my opinion, are not based on copyrights or laws or patents. I believe the best ingredients are:
– Make a darn good game and keep updating it! When competitors clone your game with 100 levels, you can upgrade your game to contain 200 levels. When competitors announce new graphics – you announce new graphics, sounds and special effects. Update the game. Or when competitors announce their copied game… you announce a sequel: “Yourgame II”. Be proactive rather than reactive.
– Build a loyal community: discuss with your players, play the game with them and get friends. If competitors launch a similar game, you already have better one and good friends playing it. Why would they switch now when they seem to like your game?

To sum up:
– Don’t worry about your unique game idea. If it gets copied, it gets copied. Make sure you have the best execution.
– Let publishers see the finished demo. I’m sure you are okay with them. If you worry about copy issues – hire a game attorney or get the publisher to sign a NDA.

Good luck with it.

Juuso Hietalahti


  1. Well… it’s bit difficult to claim that against bigger marketing forces. Look at Apple’s iPhone. There was a company that made that “innovation” previously and some other claimed that iPhone was their trademark… but Apple was the first to bring the product VISIBLE.

  2. I think that good way to protect from copying is… do it yourself :P I mean make it as public as possible, so everyone will know that YOU are the precursor of that particular idea ;) Whoever wants to copy that idea then, they will be only a follower, not a pioneer like you ;)

  3. Hello,

    you could publish your writing under the GNU Free Documentation License like Wikipedia does, just a suggestion :)

  4. I don’t think you should spend time worrying about your game being copied. Spend more time developing a GREAT game where the original is the best. Even if your casual game download gets copied, at least you’ll know it was good!

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