Q: Hi, I was wondering if you are able to file patents for video game ideas that are built on a 3rd party platforms.

In short, we run several large-scale game servers (such as Minecraft) which are run for profit. Due to the nature of Minecraft being a sandbox game, this allows content creators to have maximum flexibility over what they choose to provide to their audience. Minecraft "servers" (i.e. public communities players can join) can offer a wide variety of different "game-types" for players to play on.

A basic example of a game-type might be Capture the Flag, or Build Battles. We are wondering if patenting a specific "game-type" would be something possible, despite being built on a 3rd party platform (in this case Minecraft). The game-type in particular would be unique to us, however would be using the tools provided by the 3rd party platform.

1 Lawyer Answer
David E Blau
David E Blau
  • Patents Lawyer
  • Westwood, MA

A: The short answer is: yes, it's possible. Almost all patents are based on improving technology originally developed by someone else.

A patent can be filed on any new and useful process or improvement to a process. Playing Minecraft is a process (believe me, I know). You probably wouldn't file for a patent on actually playing the game, because enforcing that patent would mean suing potential customers. But looking at the situation in reverse, a computer performs certain processes to "present" a game of Minecraft to a player, and you can file for a patent claiming an improvement to those "presenting" processes. That patent would be aimed at a competitor running your game, not at customers (or at Mojang / Microsoft Studios, for that matter).

That being said, you can only obtain a patent on an improvement that is not "obvious" (that's that the legal term). Whether or not your particular game type improves the underlying technology in a non-obvious way is something you would want to explore with a patent attorney that you hire. You may also want to consider getting a copyright on any expressive in-game content.

Justia Ask a Lawyer is a forum for consumers to get answers to basic legal questions. Any information sent through Justia Ask a Lawyer is not secure and is done so on a non-confidential basis only.

The use of this website to ask questions or receive answers does not create an attorney–client relationship between you and Justia, or between you and any attorney who receives your information or responds to your questions, nor is it intended to create such a relationship. Additionally, no responses on this forum constitute legal advice, which must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case. You should not act upon information provided in Justia Ask a Lawyer without seeking professional counsel from an attorney admitted or authorized to practice in your jurisdiction. Justia assumes no responsibility to any person who relies on information contained on or received through this site and disclaims all liability in respect to such information.

Justia cannot guarantee that the information on this website (including any legal information provided by an attorney through this service) is accurate, complete, or up-to-date. While we intend to make every attempt to keep the information on this site current, the owners of and contributors to this site make no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information contained in or linked to from this site.