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This once ridiculed, laughed at industry, previously thought to be reserved to middle aged men in their parent’s basement, or lazy teenagers with no ambition, has developed into a global industry to be reckoned with. The video games industry now brings in more revenue than both the film and music industry combined– and there’s a lot of new companies which could use the expert advice of law firms.

As of June 2018, there were 2261 active games companies in the UK with an estimated $180.01 billion global revenue estimated by the end of 2021. With the UK being the 6th largest video game market internationally and approximately 37.3M people admitting to owning and playing games in the UK, there’s a huge market to capitalise on for forwarding thinking and modern law firms.

With 62% of games companies in the UK becoming registered after 2010, there’s a lot of fresh ideas and a clashing of creative minds working in competition to create the next big hit. This relatively new push on the market creates a gap where some of the more pragmatic firms can and should capitalise by offering their services to protect this precious intellectual property.

But where would a law firm fit into place for this industry?

From major international publishers to small ‘indie-game’ creators, games companies will seek the advice of law firms on general legal issues surrounding intellectual property, development and publishing agreements, financing, exploitation, restructuring and of course, trademark filings and oppositions.

If we use the example of the well-known powerhouse DLA Piper (#1 on The Legal 200). They have set up a ‘Video Games and Interactive Entertainment Law’ branch of the firm which ‘advises clients involved in all aspects of video game development, publishing and distribution’ and specialises in; ownership of virtual property in video games, legislation regarding the sale of mature and adults only games and development agreements on next-gen consoles. 

A common mistake which video game developers were making in the beginning of the 21st century, was waiting too long or failing entirely to trademark their games. Platforms such as Steam, The App Store and Google Play have made it increasingly easy for smaller companies or single developers to mimic and copy the intellectual property of creators, which sees their profit decrease and their creative vision compromised.

There is of course, always the option for some major lawsuits from the litigation side of the legal market. Looking at a particularly famous case study between Bethesda VS Warner Bros Interactive 2015, we saw a very strongly worded lawsuit put forward by Bethesda for the ‘blatant rip off’ of its mobile version of Fallout 4, with the release of a very similar Westworld themed game. Although this was conducted by both companies in-house legal teams. Similar disputes on a smaller scale could see representation by private practice firms with a well-established IP team.

But if we look at the original question from the blog, should law firms capitalise on the growing industry? The answer, in my opinion, is absolutely. I think failure to identify such a significant economic resource based on out-dated ideals shows a wider failure of a firm to stay up to date with the market and industry trends. Whereas on the other hand, acknowledging the latest industry trends and keeping up to date with the market shows that both your firm and lawyers are prepared to react to change.

Do you think this is a new and lucrative market to explore? We here at JMC are happy to pick up a controller and keep on gaming whilst the action unfolds.

Written by Senior Consultant Danny Wiseman (M4 Corridor)