It's always an interesting debate when discussing whether or not one game is stepping on another's toes when it comes to the actual way that each game plays. After one game innovates and does something new, subsequent games that copy that are sometimes viewed as "clones" that offer very little in the way of original content. There haven't been many notable cases when it comes to game companies suing each other over supposed clone games, but now it seems that there's a reason for this: game mechanics can't actually be copyrighted.
This is the result of a court ruling in Texas wherein DaVinci Editrice – the creators of the popular Bang! card game – tried to sue Ziko Entertainment over its Legend of Three Kingdoms, a game that is essentially a Chinese history reskin of Bang!. The court ruling stated that the art and aesthetics weren't similar enough to warrant copyright infringement and that the game mechanics cannot be considered as being expressive. The ruling stated it like this:
In no case does copyright protection for an original work of authorship extend to any idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation, concept, principle, or discovery, regardless of the form in which it is described, explained, illustrated, or embodied in such work.
As for what this means for the game industry, effectively any game mechanics are fair play to be used in other games, so long as the final product looks different. There have certainly been many instances in the past of games conning ideas from others, but it's interesting to see now that it's technically legal, too.
What do you think? Is this a fair ruling? Do you think this might be abused more in the future? Share your thoughts in the comments below.