Washington and Lee Law professor Christopher Seaman presented a new paper on the impact of intellectual property law in tabletop gaming. Seaman co-authored the work, “IP and Tabletop Games: A Case Study in Innovation,” with Thuan Tran, a third-year student also at W&L Law. He presented the paper virtually at the 18th Annual Works-in-Progress Intellectual Property Colloquium on February 12.
Seaman and Tran’s paper explores the role of IP law in promoting innovation in tabletop gaming, including board games, card games, and role-playing games. Despite a proliferation of changes in such games in recent decades, the authors note that there surprisingly little in the academic literature about IP’s role in facilitating this innovation.
“IP rights protect certain aspects of games, while leaving considerable flexibility for others to develop their own games and improve upon existing ones,” they write. “For example, copyright law protects creative aspects like the visual design and appearance of games, but not the underlying method of play. A game’s mechanics and components are potentially protectable under patent law, … [a]nd trademark law can protect a game from others who use the same or a confusingly similar name to market their own products.”
Christopher Seaman is Associate Professor of Law and Director of the Frances Lewis Law Center at W&L. His areas of research and teaching include intellectual property, patent law, election law and voting rights, and property law.