Hello all. Thanks for having me. I am a designer with some questions about IP and about what one can and canít get away with in regards to dealing with a competitorís IP.
The good news is that there is a real world case-and-point that explains my questions with some specificity, and if you could illuminate some legal points pertaining to this case that would be extremely helpful. It is important to note that this is just a case-and-point, and none of this pertains to me personally. The legalities involved here pertain to my situation closely. Kind of a "how close is TOO close
" thing, from a design sense.
As many of you may be aware, there is a large community of gamers who assemble and paint wargames miniatures and then play strategy games with them using dice to determine outcomes. The most popular of these games is Games Workshop's "Warhammer 40 000" series. This is Company A.
A popular group of products that are made for these series of games are a range of sci-fi tanks, of a very specific size and all with very specific weapon combinations. Some of their designs are lacking and there is a good amount in which can be improved upon, so competitors have risen to fill this demand.... but when does a competitor stray TOO close?
Along comes Heavy Support, a small company from Germany, to fulfill this demand. They release a tank with a staggering similarity to GW. This is Company B.
Here is a picture comparison of the two tanks alongside each other. http://i972.photobucket.com/albums/ae202/supconcept/ip1.jpg
Now... these two tanks look VERY similar, yet they do not share any exact
detail. The size, silhouette and general aesthetic are certainly quite similar however.
As a layperson, I am very curious as to how similar or dis-similar a product must be when compared to what it was originally based upon? Are there any precautions one can take to make sure not to encroach on a competitors IP? Is there a way for the smaller company with their version of the same product to protect themselves?
Thanks for all your help in the matter. Any help is appreciated. Great forum BTW.