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Copyright law is no game

For some New York families, winter brings special traditions, such as long hours playing board games. Although the popularity of board games has waned, many vintage games have new life in electronic versions and apps. Such is true for one of the most beloved and enduring board games, The Game of Life. The future of this game hangs in the balance now due to a recently filed lawsuit concerning copyright law.

In 1959, Milton Bradley toy company commissioned the creation of a new game to celebrate the company’s 100th anniversary. One man claims that he found an old game in the Milton Bradley archives and used that game as inspiration for The Game of Life. Unlike other board games of the time, The Game of Life’s board was a winding, three-dimensional track around which players moved a car-shaped game piece according to the numbers on a clicking wheel. The stopping places on the board marked various milestones in life.

Recently, the widow of the man supposedly hired to create the prototype of this new game filed a lawsuit, claiming that her husband had a much larger part in the creation of the game. She objects to the way her husband’s role in the development of The Game of Life has been downplayed, and she wants her husband’s share of royalties for the game, over $2 million. If she wins the lawsuit, she will also have control of any licensing agreements the game allows and the right to all royalties the game earns in the future.

This lawsuit is an example of why copyright law is important. Often, protecting one’s rights to marketing and merchandising can mean the difference between losing all profits or benefiting greatly from the success of an idea. Those in New York whose ownership of intellectual property is in question would do well to seek the representation of an experienced attorney for assistance.

Source: khou.com, “Who created Game of Life? Los Angeles court aims to find out“, Michelle R. Smith, Nov. 17, 2017