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How can you patent a variation of a game?

Orlando, FL |

I've been doing a lot of Google searches on getting a patent on a significant variation of a game. But it is difficult to find much information that is right on point. How does one know if they meet the criteria to obtain a patent a variation on a game or not? Would it be a utility patent? What are some great examples of this being done in the past? Thank you.

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Best Answer

Legally speaking, the amount of variation has to be enough so that your invention is not obvious to one of ordinary skill in the art. Therefore, the more variations you have will better ensure that your patent application gets through the patent office and issues as a patent.

Yes, you would be applying for a utility patent.


The answer provided is only for general information purposes and does not constitute legal advice.


Need more information to answer your questions. Whether or not an invention is patentable subject matter is determined on a case-by-case basis. It can be a utility patent, perhaps a method or process for playing a game? Here is the patent for Monopoly:

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Like any invention to be patentable, your variation of the game should meet usefulness, novelty, and inventive step tests to be patentable. You may also want to do some searches on the USPTO website. If the variation relates to a functional aspect of the game, it is likely to be an utility patent. Design patents give protection only to the ornamental aspect of a product. Please contact a patent attorney in the gaming area to get more specific guidance.

The foregoing does not constitute legal advice. No attorney-client relationship exists between me and you. Please consult a qualified attorney before making any significant decision.


You have received some good guidance on the patent side. But you should also consider whether trademark (branding the game) and / or copyright (game cover artwork, instructions, etc.) might be a better, or at least additional, avenue for protecting your variation of the game.

Also, even if you get a patent on your variation, it only gives you the right to prevent others from practicing your invention. You still might be infringing any basic patent on the underlying game (the one your altered).

You should get your own intellectual property attorney and have a much more in-depth discussion of all of these issues.

Best of Luck!

Legal disclaimer: This answer is not legal advice, but is for informational purposes only. My answer to your question does not create an attorney-client relationship between us. Please contact a licensed attorney in your area for competent legal advice.


Q: "But it is difficult to find much information that is right on point. How does one know if they meet the criteria to obtain a patent a variation on a game or not?"

R: One must earn a baccalaureate degree in a hard science, then earn a law degree, then study patent law and pass the Patent Bar examination, then work on real-world patent matters under the tutelage of a senior patent attorney for some years and then, and only then, one may opine on whether Invention X is patentable over the prior art.

Or one can hire somebody else who's already done that heavy lifting and is qualified.

The above is general information ONLY and is not legal advice, does not form an attorney-client relationship, and should NOT be relied upon to take or refrain from taking any action. I am not your attorney. You should seek the advice of competent counsel before taking any action related to your inquiry.


When you talk about a "variation of a game," you don't say whether the game is played with conventional items like a deck of playing cards, or with a special item such as a particular game board or a new kind of ball and net (like badminton's shuttlecock). That could make a lot of difference.

There has been a lot of chaos recently in view of Supreme Court decisions on what kind of inventions are patent-eligible. The big one came in June 2010, when the Supreme Court decided the Bilski case, saying that

gotten several answers to your inquiry, but nobody has clearly addressed the question of whether a GAME is patentable.

This posting is intended for general education and isn't "legal advice." It doesn't create or evidence an attorney-client relationship. You are encouraged to engage an attorney in the pertinent jurisdiction for confidential legal advice on matters of any importance.

Gerry J. Elman

Gerry J. Elman


continuing ... the Bilski case, saying that a mere "abstract idea" is not eligible to be considered for a patent, no matter if it's used in a novel way and that it's not an obvious combination of what's been known before. And on March 20 this year, the Supreme Court issued a similar holding in Mayo Collab. Svcs. v Prometheus Labs, asserting that the claimed method was merely an implementation of a "law of nature." Until June 2010, the United States was the only patent-granting jurisdiction in the world that issued patents for methods of playing new and non-obvious casino games, e.g. Carribbean Poker and the like. If you search for the patents I helped prosecute for inventor Henry Lo, you'll see some other examples of such patents. But more recently, the patent examiners at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office have been issuing rejections of claims in patent applications for new and non-obvious casino games, on the basis that they are not eligible for patenting under section 101 of the patent statute. See the decision in Ex Parte Ward that I posted on the JD Supra site at