What is IP ?
Intellectual property, more commonly abbreviated to IP, are the rights a person has over intellectual goods. The law surrounding intellectual property is different to that regarding physical property as IP is indivisible and cannot be fully depleted, for example thought it is prone to someone making a similar but not exact copy of a piece of literature and undercutting the originals selling price, taking funds away from the original creator and avoiding persecution as it is not too similar to the original.
Wikipedia sum this up very well with the following quote;
“ The law surrounding intellectual property is different to that regarding physical property as IP is indivisible and cannot be fully depleted, for example thought it is prone to someone making a similar but not exact copy and undercutting the original.”
A few terms that are thrown about within the industry that anyone developing a game should be aware of are;
- Copyright — This covers the protection if expression of ideas, in terms of the video game industry this may include; Source code, Storylines, Conceptual Art, Sound Design, etc.
- Trademark — These are important to any company wanting to stand out as a recognizable brand or with a instantly recognizable product. Trademarks are most commonly words, symbols or graphics, an example that would be widely known in the industry would be the “Xbox” Logo.
- Patents — Quite simply, a patented game ensures that competitors cannot sell or use your game to make their own, e.g. stealing code.
One major example of this would be with foods such as biscuits and cereal’s, such as Tesco selling Kellogs “Rice Krispies” but also selling their own brand “Rice Snaps” which for all intents and purposes is almost the same product with a different name and slightly different ingredients.
This however is not just a problem in the food industry but can also be seen in the creative industries with many major or successful titles having numerous copies and impressions. These can vary from successful games that have taken inspiration from others but went in a completely different direction, to those that are clearly cash-grabs aimed to replicate the original, at a lower price and lower quality.
Does IP stifle creativity?
This question has no clear-cut answer, as depending on who you ask and under what context, an argument can be made that IP can both help and hinder the industry.
The argument that it can hinder creative progress is a valid point as companies can be seriously over cautious and protective of their IP’s. As much as this is damaging it is also understandable as triple-A games companies have to invest millions of money, so protecting this investment is nothing if not logical. This behaviour however can generate a cycle of creating games of a limited scope.
Although this said, if an IP owner can successfully work with both games developers and publishers the result can be incredibly enjoyable and can enhance the IP more than damage it.