Growing up, board games were an integral part of my childhood and I particularly liked to play with my granddad because he’d always let me win! It is always fun to play a game of monopoly or scrabble with family or a group of friends, the losing and winning fights apart! Recently at work we were discussing games (among the many things discuss) and what we enjoy(ed) playing. It was while discussing this that I started thinking about intellectual property protection for board games.

Copyright & Design

A board game may be protected under copyright law as an artistic work. For instance, the pattern on the chess board or the depiction of property squares on the monopoly board may be an artistic work. The question here would be whether the artistic work was made with the intention of reproducing it as a drawing or whether it was to reproduce the work as a design. The copyright law also allows the creator to make reproductions of artistic work, however, if such a work can be registered as a design and is not, this right ceases after more than 50 products are made by an industrial process.

The drawings outlining the board game are artistic works, however, in most cases they are created with the intention of reproducing it by way of an industrial process and this is why designs of board games can be registered under the law of designs. If it is new/original and has not been previously published or used, it can be registered as a design.

In addition to protecting the board game itself, the written material (mainly the rules of the game) provided along with the board game can be protected under the laws of copyright as a literary work.

On conducting a basic search, I found that only 36 applications (there could be more if they have been filed with any keywords other than “board” or “game”) have been made for registering board games. Interestingly, most of the applications have been made by Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay. An internet search revealed that they have even sold these games to Funskool.


The Patent Act states that ‘a mere scheme or rule or method of playing a game’ cannot be protected as a patent. So if the creator of the board game has devised something which is more than just a rule or method of playing a game and the same is novel, involves an inventive step and is capable of industrial application (production of the board game in this case), it may be patentable as well! Some of the patent applications containing “board games” are as follows:


Excerpt – This invention relates to an active learning system and method and to board games and cards games employing active learning methodology. The invention is especially applicable to game-playing systems and methods of the kind which employ a game board and playing cards or question cards, whether physical or virtual/computer-based.

A strategy is in effect a method of playing a game (atleast at the outset) but the Patent Office thinks this one is patentable – MULTIPLE USER STRATGEY BOARD GAME (811/CHE/2007)

Excerpt – Disclosed herein is a system and method by which Multiple User Strategy Board Game can be played by multiple users by using the combination of Articles and of war skills thus making options for the player to enable and make decisions in playing the game.

This would have saved board game players a lot of time, but then again is this subject matter of patent? It has been published, so the Patent Office thinks so – A SYSTEM AND METHOD FOR GENERATING A RANDOM NUMBER FOR PLAYING IN VARIOUS BOARD GAMES (678/DEL/2008)

Excerpt – The present invention discloses a board game. More particularly, the present invention discloses a computing device embedded on the board game for generating random numbers in order to play the board games.

So if you’ve ever thought of designing a board game or already have one, you should go ahead and protect the board game under the most suitable form of intellectual property. In addition to all of these, filing a trademark application for the title of the board game would be imperative since that would be crucial to market the game and more importantly create a brand.

This article has been authored by Nikita, an IP Law practitioner.