Asked in Copyright and Gaming

Q: Hello! If the name of something consists of 3 quite specific words, am I allowed to use one of them separately?

The question is about online card game. I am considering making my own, but interested in using one quite specific word from another card game which is one from multiple words in original card game so my thought was that the phrase might be copyrighted as a whole and not each word separately

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1 Lawyer Answer
Timothy John Billick
Timothy John Billick
  • Intellectual Property Lawyer
  • Seattle, WA

A: You are blending copyright and trademark issues here. Trademark law protects phrases, symbols, and "non-traditional" (e.g. smell, auditory) indicators of a source of goods. Copyright law protects tangible "expressions" of creative works.

A word by itself that is not used in connection with a brand or company most often has very little protection in itself. Copyright protection *can* attach with respect to that *particular* expression of that word (e.g. in association with a full character, place, story, etc.) Very "thin" copyright protection attaches if at all just to a mere word.

Without knowing the particulars of your facts, it's hard to answer your question; and you should absolutely schedule a consultation with an IP attorney to chat. But I believe your risk of infringement is very low if you are just using one word from a larger phrase that is *not* being used as a trademark.

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