A game may be registered as a literary work if the predominant form of authorship in the work consists of text. Examples of works that may satisfy this requirement include word games, card games, party games, riddles, brain teasers, and similar diversions, including the instructions or directions for playing a particular game. A game may be registered as a work of the visual arts if the predominant form of authorship consists of pictorial or sculptural authorship. Examples of works that may satisfy this requirement include board games, playing cards, playing pieces, and the like. See 37 C.F.R. § 202.3 (B) (1) (I), (iii).
When submitting an application to register a game, the claim should be limited to the text, artwork, and/or photographs that appear in the work (as applicable), the applicant should provide the name of the author who created that material, and the applicant should provide the name of the claimant who owns the copyright in that material. The Literary Division may accept a claim in “text” if the game contains a sufficient amount of written expression, or a claim in “artwork” and/or “photograph(s)” if the work contains a sufficient amount of pictorial or graphic expression. When completing an online application, this information should be provided in the Author Created field, and if applicable, also in the New Material Included field. When completing a paper application on Form TX, this information should be provided in space 2, and if applicable, also in space 6 (B). For guidance on completing these portions of the application, see Chapter 600, Sections 618.4 and 621.8.
A registration for a game covers all of the copyrightable elements that appear in the work, regardless of whether the game has been registered as a literary work or a work of the visual arts. However, copyright does not protect the idea for a game, the name or title of a game, or the procedure, process, or method of operation for playing a game.
Nor does copyright protect any idea, system, method, or device involved in developing or marketing a game. Once a game has been made available to the public, the copyright law cannot be used to prevent others from developing another game based on similar principles. Copyright protects only the particular expression that appears in the literary or artistic elements that the work may contain. See 17 U.S.C. § 102 (B); 37 C.F.R. § 202.1.
If the game consists of separately fixed elements and works that were physically bundled together by the claimant for distribution to the public in the same integrated unit, it may be possible to register them with one application and one filing fee if all the works were first published in that integrated unit and if the claimant owns the copyright in those works. For information concerning the unit of publication option, see Chapter 1100, Section1103.
For a discussion of the practices and procedures for registering videogames, see Chapter 800, Section 807.7 (A). For a discussion of the practices and procedures for registering board games, see Chapter 900, Section 910.