Most savvy entrepreneurs know to apply for trademarks on their product names, company names, logos and slogans. Of those, inventors who make board games often go straight to patent filings and forget about the trademark analysis, as explored in my article here: This article considers a sub-category of trademark law that allows for some interesting board game protection: it’s sometimes known as Trade Dress protection.
Trade Dress protection serves to protect products that, on their face, remind consumers of the entity that provides those products. Take, for instance, a Coca-Cola bottle. Even if the trademarks Coca-Cola name didn’t appear on the bottle, the appearance of the bottle itself instantly reminds consumers of the brand the bottle belongs to. -OR- How about this car
You don’t need an emblem or a name tag to recognize this design as the legendary Lamborghini.
Trademark law is meant to protect a company’s branding. Of times, the product design goes hand-in-hand with the company’s brand. In those instances, where the product design can be shown to remind consumers of the origin of the product itself – Trade Dress protection can be granted.
So, what does it mean for your board game? It means that, even if you can’t get a patent on your board game, getting a trademark on the board design can still be an option. And, unlike patents that expire within certain periods of time (20 years of utility patents and 14 years for design patents), a trademark lasts for as long as the company uses the mark (which, in this case, is the design itself).
Here is a good example of a board game that has been granted Trade Dress protection.
In some cases, you can even file trade dress on particular “Hexagons” of your board:
If you are interested in more detail related to your situation it is best to speak with an attorney.
Yuri Eliezer heads the intellectual property practice group at Founders Legal. As an entrepreneur who saw the importance of early-stage patent protection, Yuri founded SmartUp®. Clients he has served include Microsoft, Cisco, Cox, AT&T, General Electric, the Georgia Institute of Technology, and Coca-Cola.
Source: Smartup Legal