Asked in Gaming and Trademark

Q: I am about to start a new tabletop rpg game. Do I need to register a company or trademark it is enough?

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2 Lawyer Answers
John Martin Hilla
John Martin Hilla
  • Trademarks Lawyer
  • Livonia, MI

A: Hello from a longtime tabletop rpg player! I've had the pleasure of knowing and gaming with some of the leading names in gaming going back to the early 80s. This is one of my favorite topics, and the answer to your question is—both.

A company is registered through the filing of your articles of incorporation or other formation documents with your state. If you are forming a corporation or LLC or other entity (as opposed to a DBA), this action creates your entity, locks down the name for use IN your state so that no one else can form a company with that same name, and allows you to obtain an EIN from the IRS, open a business bank account, and so on. All within your state.

None of that stops anyone from using your company name to sell RPG instruction manuals, books, dice, or other gaming accessories in some other state. If someone else in another starts a tabletop RPG publishing company (or any other kind of gaming-related enterprise) using your same or a confusingly similar name, the registration of your company as an entity within your state will not stop them from doing so.

Trademark registration is what does that.

One of the first steps that a company should take in its formational branding process is to consult a trademark lawyer in a private consultation setting to discuss its proposed name and brand and discuss the requirements for Federal trademark registration. If the name proves to be unregistrable as a trademark, you don't want to find that out after launching your product, website, and marketing efforts.

A trademark lawyer will run a professional clearance search to ensure that no one else is using name (or logo, or slogan, etc.), and then will assist you with the registration process.

Trademark registration allows you to ensure that you alone have the right of exclusive use of your name and brand anywhere in the US. It allows you to sue for infringement in Federal court, to block have US Custom block the import of infringing product, and will guarantee the strength of your brand and the value of your business for the life of the enterprise.

Brandon M. Selinsky agrees with this answer

Brandon M. Selinsky
Brandon M. Selinsky
  • Trademarks Lawyer
  • Denver, CO

A: In addition to what John said, you should consider copyright protection. A copyright protects "original works of authorship," i.e., books, sculptures, drawings, etc. The "original" requirement means it must be your work and include a minimum level of creativity (phone books don't qualify). The work also has to exist in a "tangible medium," i.e., not just in your head.

You will have an enforceable copyright as soon as you create your work, assuming it qualifies as I have loosely outlined above. You do not need to register it anywhere. However, like trademarks, you get much better protection for your work if you do register it in the federal system. Registering a federal copyright is fairly light lifting--you can likely manage it yourself and it's inexpensive. But feel free to reach out if you have questions.

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