Top 5 Ways to Protect your Intellectual Property
If you’ve ever worked in the gaming industry, you’ll have likely heard this story more than once: A games publisher working with a developer on their game, only to turn around and create a near identical copy of the game to publish on their own.
Unfortunately, it’s a dark truth of the gaming industry that can leave many developers feeling uneasy about pitching their games, even to the most reputable of publishing companies. So as a developer, how exactly can you protect yourself from this type of situation? In this article we’ll dive into the tell-tale signs of a dishonest publisher and how you can take steps to ensure protection of your IP in the short and long-term.
Top 5 Ways to Protect Your Intellectual Property
1. Sign an Non-disclosure or Confidentiality Agreement
One of the most important preliminary legal contracts you can sign with a publisher before delving into an actual publishing contract is to have the publisher sign a non-disclosure agreement or an NDA. A non-disclosure agreement details information that a publisher cannot disclose to third parties and is an effective way to ensure that your intellectual property (your game concept) is not stolen by them or any other parties.
2. Discuss NDA over emails for legal proof
We also suggest all communication to be written online via email and avoid long conversations over social media platforms like Twitter, Skype or Instagram in the early days of your professional partnership. For first time encounters it’s okay, but if you are interested in testing with the publisher, it’s vital from a legal perspective to ensure you have a record of all conversations had with the publisher, should there be any legal conflicts later.
3. Have a sample of the contract before testing the game
Before testing the game, we recommend asking for a sample of the publisher’s contract in order to understand all clauses of the publishing agreement. In doing this, you can be fully aware of the publisher’s revenue model and the rights you’ll have over your IP should you enter into a full contract. Be wary though of publishers that may refuse to give away any sample of contract information, as this can be a small red flag indicating the company’s overall transparency later on.
4. Ensure you have access to analytics and revenues
To ensure there is full transparency in your working partnership, ensure that you have full access when it comes to the analytics and revenues from your game. Whilst it may seem like an obvious aspect, not all publishers offer this transparent approach and it can leave many developers in the dark about the operations of their game and unclaimed revenue. If you do decide to proceed with a publisher who does not give you full access to these two areas, proceed with caution.
5. Do your research.
One of the most powerful forms of reputation building in any business can be through word of mouth. Before reaching out to a publisher, do prior research online for ‘Top Publishers’ and ask friends or fellow developers in forums or online communities and see what people are saying. Generally speaking, where there’s smoke, there’s fire, so if you see constant negative reports on a particular publisher, then more often than not it’s because the theft instances have happened.
For us at Homa Games, one of our core values is based upon full transparency – that means full transparency with game analytics, revenue and the guarantee that we’ll never copy your game. Since we do not have in-house game developers, we can’t physically copy games, but more often than not we propose brainstormed ideas to see if external developers can conceptualise the idea.
Unfortunately there’s no 100% guarantee in this industry that your game will not be copied by another developer, studio or publisher once live on the App Store. It’s unfortunately the small risk developers will need to take until stronger intellectual property laws come into play on the global App Stores. However, by following the above steps, you will equip yourself with the best measure possible to ensure the risk is as low as possible.
Have you got any tips of how to avoid intellectual property theft in mobile gaming? Comment below!