A board game can be patented if it meets three basic criteria for a patentable invention. The game must be new, useful and nonobvious. To be considered new, a game cannot have been invented before and cannot have been on sale or otherwise made public for more than a year. To be useful, a board game must have some entertainment, educational or other purpose, which is an easy requirement for a game to meet. Nonobvious simply means that the game is not an obvious variation or extension of an existing game or combination of games. To receive a patent on your board game invention, you’ll need to file a patent application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
Prepare drawings of your board game. Show game features in enough detail so that an examiner at the patent office can easily see and understand your game. Place key features of your game in an enlarged figure to show more detail. Number each figure and add a reference number for each element of the drawing. Connect the reference number to the drawing element with a lead line.
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Develop one or more claims for your board game invention. Think about what sets your game apart from other board games and focus your claims on these features.
Provide a written description of your board game. Describe each figure and each numbered element within each figure. There are a few required sections of a written description you’ll want to be sure to include. These are a Brief Description of the Drawings, Detailed Description, Claims and Abstract. The claims and abstract sections must start on a separate page.
File your written description and drawings with the Patent Office. You can file a patent application online using forms provided by the Patent Office website. Be sure to pay the appropriate fees during the online application process. Without the fees, the Patent Office will not examine your application.
Promptly answer any correspondence from the Patent Office. Once the Patent Office reviews your application and issues a communication, you will typically have a short time frame in which to respond, ranging from one month to six months.
The Patent Office has guidelines for patent application drawings available online. Read these before you prepare your drawings to make sure your drawings will comply.
You can look up board game patents free online at Google Patents or on the Patent Office website. Check out some issued board game patents to get a sense for the level of detail required and the formatting of a board game patent.
If you need help understanding a communication from the Patent Office, you can call the Patent Office employee listed in the communication, or you can hire a patent agent or attorney to help.
In addition to patents, a board game may also be eligible for protection under copyright and trademark laws.
Steve Aycock has a background in engineering and law. Writing since 2002, Aycock has been published in "IPLaw360" and BNA's "Patent, Trademark and Copyright Journal." Aycock earned a Bachelor of Science in computer engineering from the University of South Florida and a Juris Doctor from The George Washington University.