How do I make sure I protect my video game’s intellectual property?

Written by | November 16, 2022

Intellectual Property

In past blogs I have explored trade marks and copyright, but one incredibly important (although not the most thrilling) area of intellectual property that should get a mention is video game contracts.

Throughout the development process of your game, you are going to come across lots of different types of contracts – non-disclosure agreements, publishing agreements, end user licence agreements, and terms and conditions – each of which are equally as important, and need to be drafted in such a way to make sure you are protected against any potential future issues.

Although video game contracts will deal with different stages of the game development process, each contract will need to be clearly written so that all parties understand what they need to do under that agreement.

Below are some key terms that you will likely encounter in a video game contract, and some of the key questions that should be asked:

  1. Intellectual property: who owns the intellectual property in your video game? Who is going to own the intellectual property in your video game after you sign the agreement?

Whether trade marks or copyright, your agreements should set out exactly what will happen with the intellectual property in your game, whether this is providing a publisher with the licence to use your game and it’s trade marks to market and promote the game globally, or assigning your intellectual property as part of the sale of your game’s IP.

Where you are putting together your game with a group of friends, it is still very important to make sure there is a mutual agreement about what happens with each person’s input and how any income from your game will be shared.

  1. Payment terms,
  • getting paid: how much are you going to be paid, when will you be paid, and what happens if you don’t get paid?

If you are providing services or you are licencing IP to another company, then you will need to make sure that payment terms are clearly set out in an agreement. Again, this is to avoid any issues further down the line if a dispute arises.

In particular, you’ll want to make sure that you can suspend your services pending payment of outstanding balances without breaching the contract, as well as retaining all intellectual property developed until you have been fully paid.

  • paying for goods or services: how much you will be paying, when will payments need to be made by, what happens if the goods/services aren’t performed correctly?

If you are paying others to provide you goods and services, you’ll want to make sure that if the work isn’t carried out to a satisfactory quality or quantity, you can withhold payment until the services are correctly performed.

  1. Confidentiality: what is confidential? Who can information be shared with, and for what reason?

These are important to consider at all stages of game development – whether that’s making sure that key aspects of your game are not leaked before launch, trying to prevent members of your team from leaving and creating a competing game, or even stopping bad publicity following a bug-ridden beta test.

You should make sure that any agreements correctly identify what is confidential information and set out the purposes that information can be used for.

  1. Services: what services will you be receiving/doing under the contract?  Are there any milestones to meet, or acceptance criteria? How can parties change the services that have already been agreed?

The core of any service agreement comes down to one question – what is the contract for? Having this clearly set out in writing is essential to a good working relationship as this will help to prevent any questions or challenges as to the scope of work that you need to provide or are expecting to receive.

As with all contracts, there will be a balancing act to make sure all parties are happy with the arrangement, and at Briffa we can help with reviewing contracts to make sure there are no red flags, we can help negotiate amendments, and can put together template agreements.

If you need help with a video game contract, please get in touch with us for a free initial consultation and we’d be happy to chat about how we can assist!

Written by Chloé Vertigen – Solicitor

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