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Legal advice: what start-ups in games industry need to know


Julian Ward

Partner, Lee & Thompson LLP

There are new opportunities in the gaming industry. That’s exciting — but it comes with complex legal challenges, too.

Is the videogames sector a legal minefield?

Yes, it can be. In part because the space is constantly evolving, certainly compared with other entertainment media like film and TV. But that’s what keeps it interesting. Ultimately our job as lawyers is to de-mystify the legal side and offer practical solutions and legal advice.

Why bother with a lawyer?

Find a good lawyer and invest in a long-term relationship with them. Sometimes lawyers are seen as an unaffordable luxury in the early days. However, good legal and commercial advice is crucial in this sector.

Make sure your lawyer has games experience. Ultimately you need a business partner who can kick the tires on deals and provide you with legal support and counsel.

What’s your best piece of advice to anyone developing a game or setting up a development team?

  1. Protect your IP – whether that’s through registering your brand as a trade mark, registering your user interface designs. The more you can protect the better. It adds value to your company and it’s a lot easier to stop someone ripping off your hard work.
  2. Make sure you have an NDA in place before you disclose your proprietary tech – you only have to think about Fortnite and PUBG – ideas are notoriously difficult to protect.
  3. Make sure you have a contract in place where appropriate – its’ much better to document deals in a contract than rely upon an email or chat from x years ago. And for some IP like copyright this is only transferred over if in writing and signed by the parties.
  4. Get your lawyer involved at the early stage. Don’t leave it until the end when there’s no room to change deal terms or things have escalated to a dispute.
  5. If you’re licensing or distributing your game/IP, don’t give away too much. Do you really need to give away worldwide rights? Have you limited the license on a platform basis? What’s the difference between exclusive, non-exclusive and sole?

To find out more, please reach out to [email protected] +44 (0)20 3073 7600

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