Jumping straight in, one of the main rights that normally will be present in such aspects of a video game is copyright. Whether this be literary types of copyright in the underlying code that is used to create the video game, or more visual types of copyright protecting aspects of the video game as they appear on a screen, such copyrights can be extremely valuable in safeguarding against would-be copycats.
Critically however, and not widely appreciated, registered designs can also be used to provide more comprehensive protection for the visual aspects of a video game. Unlike with the enforcement of copyright where it is necessary to show that a competitor ‘copied’ the given aspect of a video game, enforcing a registered design requires no such demonstration of copying.
Typical uses of registered designs in the context of video games including protecting things like the appearance of main protagonists in the game, GUIs and HUDs that appear on the screen during gameplay, in-game items and power-ups, and typefaces as used in the game.
At least in many parts of Europe, such as the EU; UK; and Germany, registered designs, unlike copyright, must be applied for at a design registry. However in many of these European territories, registration can be extremely quick (in a matter of days) and represent excellent value for money. Furthermore, once registered, the resultant design registration can last for a maximum period of 25 years, which should be ample time to cover the lifecycle of most game franchises.
So what's the take home message when devising a new video game?
Think about registered designs for best protecting the visual aspects of the game, noting they can be an incredibly valuable and cost effective tool at dealing with any potential copycats.