As the days and weeks progress, the number of people under government issued “stay-at-home” orders continues to rise as a result of the coronavirus. Here in Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis officially issued a statewide “stay-at-home” order for Florida that went into effect yesterday at midnight.

As individuals begin to look for new ways to entertain and keep themselves occupied during this unprecedented time, an age-old classic is once again being sprawled across the kitchen table. Since it was first patented in 1935, the game of Monopoly has had friends and families dogging hotels and houses, exchanging money, and “striking shrewd bargains” game after game. [1] In fact, in the past three weeks, my girlfriend Amanda and I have played several games already, with many more planned in the near future.

Patent for Monopoly
Monopoly Patent

Monopoly, as we know it today, was first patented by Charles Darrow during the Great Depression. However, the game’s original concept likely has roots that trace back to The Landlord’s Game that was designed to illustrate Georgist concepts.

Patents, trademarks, and copyrights almost certainly protect and play a valuable role in many of the board games currently being played around the world today. Not only is a board game’s physical structure patent-eligible subject matter, but the method of playing the game may also enjoy similar protection as long as it is new, useful, and nonobvious. In addition, the design of the board, playing pieces, and any written instructions may also find valuable protection rooted in copyright law. Finally, as a board game begins to fly off the shelves and into the shopping carts of online shoppers, the games brand name itself may even be eligible for trademark protection to prevent others from registering a confusingly similar name.

No matter how you and your family decide to spend the foreseeable future at home, a board game is almost certainly close by. Next time you dust off the old Monopoly board or zip around the board in the game of Life, take a moment and play “I spy” with some of the telltale signs of intellectual property protection: U.S. Pat No., Patent Pending, ©, TM, ®, to name a few.

[1] U.S. Patent No. 2,026,082, col. 1, ln. 52 – 54.