Can one patent a new game? The answer to that question is it depends on what part of the game you’re trying to patent.
Under Canadian patent law, a method of playing a game (i.e. the game rules) is often considered non-statutory subject matter and/or obvious – i.e. non-patentable. For example, in the case of Progressive Games v. Commissioner of Patents  9 C.P.R. (4th) 479 (F.C.A.) at 479, aff’g  3 C.P.R. (4th) 517 (F.C.T.D.), it was held that a new way of playing poker did not involve a new use for a deck of playing cards. Because a deck of traditional playing cards is being used for a known use (i.e. for playing card games). Thus, new poker rules were held not patentable. See also the case of Re Application 040,799 of Cowan (1971) C.D. 79 where it was held that “[i]t is well established that rules of play may not be used to substantiate invention”.
Fortunately, patent protection for the physical components of a new game may be available in Canada. One example of a Canadian patent that have issued for game components is patent no. 2,357,952 for a Multi-Functional Game Board with Rotating Mechanism, issued on March 15, 2005. See also as patent no. 362,124 for a Board Game Apparatus issued to Charles Darrow back in 1936 for the Monopoly board game.
Generally physical game pieces are only patentable when they are new and non-obvious. Likewise, a new arrangement of printed or design matter on a game board may form the subject matter of a patent, if that design performs a mechanical function or purpose in consequence of use. The new arrangement of printed matter must have some functional limitation in a combination so as to produce a unitary result, which is useful in some practical way, as opposed to solely artistic connotations. This can occur if the board or cards bear a new arrangement or design that provides some inventive functional use in relation to game play.
Note that other types of intellectual property protection may be more easily obtainable with respect to a new game. A Canadian trademark may be registered in relation to the game’s name. Copyrights may exist in the artwork and graphics of the game. An industrial design may also be obtainable with respect to game pieces.
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