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To what extent is a "Pokeball" copyrighted?

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  #1    
Old March 18th, 2018 (7:17 PM). Edited March 19th, 2018 by Silversea.
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Silversea Silversea is offline
     
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    I know this may not be the best place to discuss legal stuff, but I'm interested in what everyone thinks. Some of you may adapt your fan games to original concepts, so this may be an interesting topic to work out. The topic is not meant for just pokeballs specifically, but any specific object, with a specific gameplay mechanic.

    This is a fictional example:

    Say I published a commercial project capturing monsters, that used a completely recoloured pokeball. The pokeball doesn't have two opening halves like the popular design, but it is still spherical, and still has a little ring on the front face. It also serves the same purpose as the "Pokeball" in a certain popular franchise. Would Nintendo have grounds to challenge copyright infringement?

    Discussion:
    To discuss, we have to work out which components of the pokeball are copyrighted, individually:
    A. the spherical design
    B. gameplay use of catching creatures
    C. the function of the pokeball opening in half to capture/release a creature in energy form
    D. all of the above?
    E. all of the above in combination?

    A. In the US at least designs are only protected if they are considered "original". Simple designs do not qualify as original. The pokeball is a sphere with a ring around it, and a circular button. Is that complex enough to have the design count as "original" under law?

    B. It seems gameplay mechanics cannot be copyrighted.

    C. This is a specific design and function so this may well be subject to copyright.

    E. Perhaps none of these are risky on their own, only when all combined together?
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      #2    
    Old March 20th, 2018 (8:25 PM). Edited March 20th, 2018 by Panamanian.
    Panamanian Panamanian is offline
       
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      There's so many monster capturing devices. In digimon, they use digi-devices. In yugioh, the monsters are trapped in cards.

      As long as it is different enough, then you can't be challenged.

      I think if you have any "ball-like" device that you throw to capture a creature that resembles or reminds people of pokemon then you might be in trouble.

      Just make it different enough.

      Copyright law is vague by the way.

      What kind of game did you have in mind?
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        #3    
      Old March 22nd, 2018 (2:35 PM).
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      Venia Silente Venia Silente is offline
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        A. There are Unicode characters that are "a circle with a band across it", so that rules out copyrighting the basest elements of a Pokéball design.
        Pokéball go! (╯°□°)╯︵◓

        More seriously, it shouldn't be too hard to find a number of memorabilia, crafts and arts that were made in the 1700s and are similar to a Pokeball. Up to and including the button in the middle, for stuff like lamps. Would laugh in the face of any lawyer trying to defend GF's idea of uniqueness on the subject.


        B. A process is not copyrightable. Even if it was: videogames about catching creatures have aired about at least since 1995 (four years before Pokémon) and board games ("not-on-a-console") about catching monsters since probably the late 1960s. I wouldn't worry.

        C. A process is not copyrightable. Even if it was: the concept of capturing a creature as energy inside a containment device has been present in science fiction since at least late 1970s, and IIRC even Star Trek has a slight variant on the subject (pointing an energy beam to someone to transport them into a containment device). Wouldn't worry.

        Now, E, "all of the above in combination", is the one that is likely to be copyrighted in a value that actually has legal weight, since it requires a particular combination of factors and the combination of those factors is present in a way that makes association with the specific franchise stronger and more unique (such as stylized Pokéballs being part of various in-universe logos, and Trainers having "Pokéball toss" poses). Only at this point I would begin worrying.

        But at this point you can just make it square (well, cubic), even make the particular shape into a plot point, and at most you would only be able to be accused of undue satire, if that is even a thing.
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          #4    
        Old March 24th, 2018 (8:12 AM).
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        Silversea Silversea is offline
           
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          Quote:
          Originally Posted by Panamanian View Post
          What kind of game did you have in mind?
          Nothing in mind that affects me right now, but I was just curious how close one could go.
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            #5    
          Old June 13th, 2018 (4:43 PM). Edited June 13th, 2018 by olderpokemonfan.
          olderpokemonfan olderpokemonfan is offline
             
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            I think maybe they would be looking at function as well as form. If your capture device is different, someone still might be able to challenge you on it if the game is too Pokemon-like, but Pokemon isn't the only game / TV show about catching monsters in items, so if the concept is dissimilar enough , then it shouldn't hurt.

            For example, if you make a game about traveling around and capturing monsters in objects to be studied by some fictional professor, then you might be accused of copying Pokemon. If there are enough differences, though, you can't be cited for copyright infringement.

            Plus, a good RPG is all about the story anyway. A Pokemon game without a good plot and a lot of areas to explore and items to find wouldn't be that much fun anyway, but a game that contained those elements, even without the collectible creatures, would be very fun.

            Here are some ideas for you:

            Make a monster collecting game, but base the monsters off of other concepts, like make the monsters themselves like pets that the player has to take care of, feed, wash, play with, etc., for them to level up. I think maybe this was something they did with Digimon once upon a time. If I'm correct, the player leveled up the Digimon and then challenged other players who also had Digimon. I'm not sure why the concept never caught on. Maybe people didn't like taking care of digital pets?

            Pokemon had really good marketing, though, and the anime made up for almost everything the games lacked.

            Don't make a monster collecting game, but give the players turn based fighting styles, like in Pokemon and Paper Mario. Allow them to collect items that give them powers that are similar to Pokemon attacks.

            Make a game that involves monsters, but make those monsters something the players themselves can edit.

            Make a game where the player has to catch monsters, but it's because the monsters are harming the environment, and base the monsters on actual invasive species.

            There are a lot of ways you could probably come up with something original that is similar to Pokemon.

            I personally loved the Tamogachi pets; they weren't Pokemon, but they were fun. You had to feed, water, and care for your little digital pet, and if you didn't, it would die and you would have to reset the game. Add some challenges, trading, and special abilities your pets could gain by leveling up, and that's something that could have rivaled Pokemon. I wonder why they dropped the concept. Again, maybe people just don't like caring for digital pets?
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              #6    
            Old June 13th, 2018 (9:01 PM).
            olderpokemonfan olderpokemonfan is offline
               
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              Yo Kai Watch is a lot like Pokemon, but it has its own special themes and plot that make it actually pretty different and really entertaining. It reminds me of the Pokemon manga if someone decided to animate it.
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