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Which famous board games such as monopoly are unlicensed? Which games could you recreate and sell without having to pay royalties?

Is there a list somewhere of all board games and their license, or how would you go about finding out which games are unlicensed?

My google skills seem to be failing me.

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Related question: boardgames.stackexchange.com/questions/4297/…. –  Dave DuPlantis Sep 6 '11 at 17:30
    
chess and checkers come to mind ;) –  warren Sep 12 '11 at 23:07
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1 Answer

up vote 10 down vote accepted

No singular registry exists. Nor, particularly, is it needed. Copyright expires after some 20-90 years, depending upon country and current laws.

So, anything older than 1920 or so is fair game. (Pun intentional.) But note also, if you simply reprint a work with an expired copyright, you can't copyright it in most jurisdictions.

The name, however, is another matter. Those are trademarks. US and UK Trademarks don't have a duration. Monopoly is, in fact, still a defended trademark, even tho' the rules have been in the public domain for years. Trademark laws vary widely; consult a lawyer for details of yours.

Trademarks are readily searched using various search engines by country.

There is compelling legal theory (and a little US caselaw) that says you can duplicate the mechanics of a game without license, provided you reword it. You cannot, however, use the trademarks nor original text/wording, original art, nor overly close art. In any case, the line s fuzzy, and varies by country.

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When I looked into this a while back one of the things I specifically remember is that you cannot copyright game mechanics (like aramis said). That is why you'll find versions of Yahtzee, for example, with names like "Yacht" with the exact same rules but different wording for the instructions and different artwork, etc. I think what I read only applied to the U.S. (that is all I cared about). –  Jason Dean Sep 7 '11 at 2:54
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