New Paltz, NY asked in Contracts for New York

Q: I gave the rights to a game I designed to a scammer who is not producing. Can I design a new game with the same theme?

I designed a game and it was picked up by a games publisher who has since been revealed to be a scammer, and their reputation in the industry is lower than dirt. Unfortunately, they refuse to relinquish any of my titles despite never producing anything. Can I design new games with similar themes to the ones I've signed over to them without risk of reprisal? How different do they need to be?

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1 Lawyer Answer
Kevin Abessi
Kevin Abessi
  • Franklin Lakes, NJ
  • Licensed in New York

A: Ah, what an interesting legal area! Games-related cases date back quite a bit. On the analog side, you have Parker Brothers (now Hasbro) fighting to protect Monopoly by imitators like anti-Monopoly and Ghettopoly over decades. On the digital side, you can all all the way back to Pong for video game copyright cases!

Based on the (very) limited information offered, yours may be a potentially involved and complex matter with multiple legal paths to consider. An attorney would need to, among other things, review what agreements you have with the publisher, the extent to which the publisher may have acted in bad faith or failed to perform, and even what your design and creative plans and the potential that the publisher's intellectual property rights preclude those plans. As a "gamer" who knows a thing or two about how the industry intersects with IP protection, I can assure you that no attorney can adequately answer your question based on the limited information that you have provided. Consequently, you would have to spend some meaningful time with experienced counsel detailing the background leading up to your current situation and objectives.

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