Seven (mostly) free legal resources for game developers [12.19.13]
- Zachary Strebeck
[Attorney Zachary Strebeck provides a list of industry-related legal resources, giving students a leg up on any potential legal issues they may encounter as game developers.]
Avoid the expense of simple preliminary legal tasks:
Hiring an attorney can be expensive, especially for routine tasks, such as searching for pre-existing trademarks. On the flip side, doing legal work by yourself can be dangerous and costly if incorrect. Familiarizing yourself with the simple legal issues faced by game developers and giving yourself the tools necessary to do some basic research can save you a lot of time and money. These (mostly) free legal resources for game developers are a great place to start.
1) The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office:
The USPTO is the home of all United States patent and trademark registrations. Before you put a ton of work into an invention, a brand, or some other product, it is imperative that you do a search of these two databases. Doing a quick knock-out search can avoid plenty of hassle down the road.
2) Jonathan Sparks' excellent "Save Point Law" blog:
The Save Point Law blog is a great starting point for game developers who don't have much knowledge about the legal issues that their new businesses may be facing. There are posts about business entities, contracts, and other legal issues that use easy-to-follow examples to illustrate their points.
Save Point Law blog (he also blogs here on Gamasutra)
3) The Securities and Exchange Commission:
Any developer looking to expand their business and raise capital will eventually have to deal with securities laws. This government resource for small businesses explains the various options in an easy-to-digest format (easier than reading the regulations, anyway).
SEC's Small Business Resource Center
4) The U.S. Copyright Office:
Similar to the USPTO linked to above, the website for the U.S. Copyright Office is a useful resource for searching copyright records. This can come in handy when licensing work from another party, in order to ensure that the party does indeed own the intellectual property rights that are being licensed.
U.S. Copyright Office