Can I make my own Twister games on sheets and shirts without infringing on trademarks, copyrights or patents?
I am a home crafter that sells my items at craft shows and online. I have had inquiries for these items and have made a few for friends and fam. I'd like to make them and display them for sale with my other wares at the shows and online. I found a source that said the game rules are no longer covered by patents, but the game pattern is. It's been in the zeitgeist for so long though I'm hoping some kind of public domain rules qualify here.
Answered No, this would not be legal. TWISTER is a registered incontestible trademark for parlor games, first used 1966. TWISTER is one of the Milton Bradley blockbuster games now owned by HASBRO. You cannot use that word on parlor games.
That said, the game rules are certainly not protected after 46 years of public use. The game coloration distinct to twister is likely protected by both copyright and trademark, although a clearance search might show otherwise. Without doing the search, I cannot say for sure. I doubt the pattern of dots is protected any longer.
So, there is maneuvering room for you by changing the colors and not using the TWISTER name.
See an IP lawyer for such a clearance. I think there is sufficient room for you to do twister-style craft items if you see an IP lawyer and get proper guidance following a clearance search. Research into the availability or non-availability of license from Hasbro for TWISTER branded merchandise might be worth investigating if your volume is sufficient to be of interest to Hasbro.
So, this is risky enough you need legal assistance and even then, unless you can obtain a license, you will need to steer clear of the brand name and any proprietary coloration I would guess.
I am not your lawyer and you are not my client. Free advice here is without recourse and any reliance thereupon is... more
I am not your lawyer and you are not my client. Free advice here is without recourse and any reliance thereupon is at your sole risk. This is done without compensation as a free public service. I am licensed in IL, MO, TX and I am a Reg. Pat. Atty. so advice in any other jurisdiction is strictly general advice and should be confirmed with an attorney licensed in that jurisdiction.
Answered You need to either take it upon yourself to research the copyright protection status of the games you plan to use or hire an attorney to for this for you. This is not something you can get an answer for in general terms.
For the games which are still under active copyright protection, an IP attorney can advise you as to whether your use can be deemed fair use and whether your games are infringing (perhaps your games are different enough to not be infringing) and if all this fails, perhaps an attorney can negotiate favorable licensing terms for you.
As to patent infringement, I would be surprised if there are any patents related to the Twister games, I suspect you will not have to worry about that.
Finally, you will need to come up with different names for your games, you will not be able to sell them using existing trademarks not belonging to you.
Best of luck.
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Answered There are a lot of issues here that Attorney Burdick has done a nice of summarizing. All that I will add is you will not want to copy Twister exactly, nor will you want to start selling any number of units without getting skilled counsel to sell off on your approach.
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Answered With respect to my colleagues, I don't think you avoid problems merely by avoiding use of the name "Twister". Twister remains a popular game, and Hasbro is known to be aggressive in asserting its rights. You will be selling these items "at craft shows and online". Therefore, you are bound to get the attention of Hasbro, in which event I would guess that they would send you a cease and desist letter (assuming that they don't sue you first). If you only sell a few items you may not make it on Hasbro's radar screen---but that would not mean you are acting legally.
The only safe way to proceed here is to get permission from Hasbro---look on the bright side, if you ask for permission and/or a license, and if they say yes, Hasbro could become one of your best customers. And if Hasbro says no, then you have saved yourself the aggravation and expense of dealing with cease and desist letters and law suits.