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Claims on game concepts

I've just been having a stimulating discussion with the designer of the
concept for one of the games in Debian - spellcast.  This was started with
the intention of trying to negotiate a licence change for spellcast, so it
can stay in main.

The issue was raised of the legal claim game designers have over
implementations of their game design - beyond any copyright (reproduction of
a description of game rules, for instance) trademarks (calling your game
'Monopoly') or patents on the game mechanics.

If there is a valid legal claim, Debian could find itself in some poop if
someone decided to come and claim ownership of some of the game concepts in
Debian, depending on how "argumentative" they wanted to get.

For the record, I can't think of any specific legal claim which could be
made, but I'm no lawyer.  Since the issue has been raised, I thought I'd
bring it to the 'mavens' of d-legal, for a "frank and open exchange of
viewpoints", and perhaps a palm-off onto SPI's legal beagles for a more
studied opinion on the matter, if it is deemed appropriate.

So, what does everyone think?  Is there any branch of law which could give
the person or company that thought up how to play a game a claim against a
separate, not-otherwise-infringing implementation of such a game?

- Matt

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