AIPPI 2013: IP and digital games, focus on Angry Birds


AIPPI 2013: IP and digital games, focus on Angry Birds

The difficulty of protecting digital games with IP was discussed at the International Association for the Protection of Intellectual Property meeting in Helsinki.

Lawyers and a representative from Rovio, the company that set up the popular Angry Birds game, have revealed some of the problems companies face when trying to protect their digital brands.

Peter Vesterbacka, who is in charge of business development at Finnish-based Rovio Mobile, said the Angry Birds model was increasingly targeted by people attempting to copy its brand, but conceded there was “little that could be done”.

“We have spent money on registering trademarks as they act as a guide to consumers as to how big a brand you are,” Vesterbacka said.

“But aside from the extra branding we have, you also need to adjust to what is going on on the digital side. 

“People often say to us, 'aren’t you concerned by fake copies?' But we realise this is a war you cannot win: you’re never going to be able to kill piracy. In a way it’s almost an honour that it's being copied as it means people like it.”

Angry Birds, which launched in 2009, has had around 1.7 billion downloads across all platforms and, according to Vesterbacka, has become the most distributed digital entertainment product worldwide.  

A recent Rovio survey indicated that 94 percent of people in China and 99 percent in the US were aware of the Angry Birds brand, Vesterbacka said.

While the company's merchandise is protected by IP, the game’s concept has been the subject of counterfeit attempts, most notably in China.

“If they (Rovio) have trademark and copyright that’s all very well, but unless they have a patent for the gaming method they can’t stop someone producing similar games,” said Richard Beem, of Beem Patent Law in Chicago.

“It’s difficult to keep up with all the cases coming up on patent eligibility, but US law says something needs to represent a technical effect. This is something very smart that Rovio has done, and it’s my contention that now is the time to change this ruling to get eligibility for a game such as this.”

Vesterbacka said: “We always look to see if we can patent some inventions; in the game itself I don’t think there is much in there. We are doing work around location based experiences and bringing that to our game.”

The service allows gamers to ‘tap into’ a country or zone and unlock special features relating to their location.

Vesterbacka said the area has proved to be a “minefield”, with the trend of non-practising entities going after successful companies, particularly on US shores.  

This article was first published on 07 September 2013 in World IP Review

Rovio, Angry Birds, patent, trademark, copyright, IP,

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