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Ouija board

Posted: Sat Nov 09, 2019 10:16 pm
by mp1984
Hi, there's a standard version of the ouija board that everyone knows, here's the pic of it.. https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/h ... s-name.amp
I see its registered to Parker brothers, which has since been bought by hasbro, but I'm confused, this design is all over online market places on everything from handbags to underwear, and not to mention ouija boards from different sellers.
I was hoping to use parts of the design on a t shirt but I can't decide if, in spite of everyone using it, it is actually copyrighted material? Thanks so much for any help.

Re: Ouija board

Posted: Sun Nov 10, 2019 9:21 am
by AndyJ
Hi mp1984,

The bottom of the article you linked to concerns the 1891 US patent application for the board 'game'. Patents are territorial in nature so a US patent, if it was granted, would only have applied within the USA. In any case, a patent only lasts for 20 years, so we can dismiss any patent protection remaining today.

The text on the illustration claims that "ouija" 'William Fuld" and "Mystifying Oracle' and the distinctive design of the package are trade marks of the talking board set of Parker Brothers, Inc, Salem, Mass, USA . Again, registered trade marks are territorial in their application and also need to be used continuously in the course of trade to remain valid. A gap of 5 years when a trade mark is not used on the product in the registered categories, would invalidate the trade mark. As far as I can tell only the word 'Ouija' is currently registered in the UK and EU as a trade mark (by Hasbro) for use in connection with toys, games, playthings and entertainment services. The trade mark for 'Mystifying Oracle' lapsed in 2001 and 'William Fuld' doesn't appear to have even been registered. Since you have not mentioned using the word 'ouija' on your tee shirts I don't think you need worry about trade mark infringement, especially as the mark is not registered in respect of clothing.

The two other intellectual property rights which may apply are copyright in the artistic work, and design right in the design of the game. We can dismiss design right because that refers to the physical attributes of the game and its components, ie its shape and contours which you would not be reproducing on the tee shirt artwork. According to Wikipedia the original design of the board was made in 1894, and since this was in the USA, it would have needed to be registered there to gain copyright protection. I don't know if that occurred, but even if it did, copyright at that time only lasted for a total (assuming the registration was renewed) of 56 years, and so copyright in the artwork lapsed in the USA no later than 1951 and is now in the public domain. UK copyright law will not apply a term of protection which is longer than would apply in the country of origin, and so the design is not protected by copyright here either.

Long answer to say, you need have no worries about using the graphic on your tee shirts.

Re: Ouija board

Posted: Sun Nov 10, 2019 11:43 am
by mp1984
Andy, thanks so much for your kind and helpful reply, I really appreciate it!