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Starting Your Own Business - Inventor of Board Games

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Student loans are putting off teenagers studying at University.  In a series of articles/blogs, I explore what those wanting to be their own boss involves


The possibility of becoming self-employed is a dream for many people.  It brings with it the burdens of tax returns, paperwork and responsibility, but also freedom.  This articles touches upon the general points to consider about becoming self-employed as an inventor of board games.  Future articles will feature other specific areas/professions


Be Your Own Boss - Inventor of Board Games


There is no easy route to becoming your own boss as an inventor, but making a living as an inventor of board games is nearly impossible, so when you have an idea for a new board game sitting around the table at Christmas, be prepared for an uphill struggle.


Here are a few things to consider:



  • Copyright

  • Non-disclosure Agreements

  • Agents

  • Self-Manufacture

  • Territory

Copyright


There is no copyright in an idea, but there is in a working concept, so once you have your idea, look to produce a prototype that you can use/play at home.  This working model can then help you decide if you want to take it forward and – more importantly – test if it works. 


When you write your rule book, at the bottom add the following:


<> © Copyright <>


You should also take some pictures and “date-stamp” the pictures.


This proves you created the concept, but if you ever had to enforce it against a big name, it would be expensive and every little helps to prove ownership


Non-Disclosure Agreements


Before you send the concept of a game anywhere, ask the recipient to sign a short agreement agreeing not to disclose details of the idea anywhere.  This can be a short note and examples can be made on an Internet Search. 


If they will not sign, then do not send it


Agents


Most big board game manufacturers will not take ideas direct from the public.  If they do, they offer a very small return, e.g. 1.5% of their net profits.


Therefore, you need to find an agent or sell it yourself


There are various organisations out there who will offer to help you develop it and even some charge you to review your idea, as there are so many ideas and time wasters.  It helps if you know someone with contacts in the industry.  There is a professional organisation https://www.btha.co.uk/  that has a list, so the best advice is find someone local.


Self-Manufacture


You may decide to develop your own prototype.  There are companies out there who will build you one, but if you take this route, again make sure that they acknowledge that the idea is yours and all copyright in designs and the finished product is yours.


Once you have a prototype, you can try and sell it yourself, through facebook marketing or writing a blog and raising your profile, creating a mailing list or using your own contacts.  Small toy shops may allow you to put it on the shelf, Waterstones use an international company to source their toys and a department store like John Lewis will consider the idea, but then have to decide which product they already sell to remove


Selling on-line is hard, so it’s a matter of raising your games profile and hoping a major game manufacturer spots it.


Hasbro do have an online forum where you can submit ideas and it looks really fancy, all the way until you get to the small print, where they say if they like your idea they will take it through to production and then ask you to enter into a 20 year exclusive agreement in return for which they will give you 1.5% of net profits.  


Territory


If you ever get to sell more than a few games, the power of the internet is such that you must look to limiting where it can be sold. Try and keep ideas in the UK where English law will prevail, but once you start involving new territories, it suddenly becomes very competitive and complex.  Chinese manufacturers may be cheaper, but they do not always recognise the principles of design ownership, so be careful if you decide to manufacture there.


Conclusion


You need to be really committed to get to the prototype stage.  It’s a very difficult market and you have to have a really good idea to get the product manufactured.  It can take years from idea to the Christmas table of many families, but nothing is impossible.  Exercise caution at every turn on protecting your idea


Keith Cutler


Solicitor Advocate


Hibberts LLP