Now bear with me for this post because this is an issue that many people don't understand or take for granted: Intellectual Property Law (IPL).
I am not a lawyer and frankly in an ideal world we wouldn't need IPL to protect our ideas. However, this is not a perfect world and we need IPL to protect ideas. I would like to direct this post to my fellow game designers who may be new; even though you are my competition I will say this: Please protect your games.
I cannot stress this enough. I know several of you are tight on your budget because you are new developers and you are trying to save money. I understand that and am going through the same thing as you guys. But it is worth the cost to protect yourself and as the phrase goes: 'Trust but verify'.
Now serval of you are thinking "who is this guy to tell us?" and to you I will say "your competition". Now for a minute think of the law as the rules to a game. Now imagine that one player in your group who is a Rules-Lawyer and that they will debate the exact meaning of a rule in its nuances and try to leverage that to their advantage. Now recognize that people will do that in the real world and if given a chance will take a good unprotected idea and file the paperwork to make it theirs or even just print it themselves. Now that is money that you've lost and will keep losing as they make money off of your idea and you have to now hire a lawyer and try to prove that it was yours to begin with. Is it impossible to do? No but it will cost a lot of money and time you could be spending making new exciting games.
Now some of that scenario is theoretical but ask yourself: is it worth the risk?
If you have legal counsel that is great! Talk with them about what you can and should do. If you do not have counsel: fear not! There are several sites and services to look at including avvo.com.
Also your local game design group (such as Playtest Northwest or The Indie Game Alliance) may have either sage advice or legal groups you can talk to.
So talk to a lawyer, make sure you have contracts protecting your ideas, and make sure you have your copyrights and trademarks filed.
Designer for Blue Heron Entertainment LLC