Are there ways to protect intellectual property without getting a patent? 2 Answers as of April 15, 2011

I work for an after school program, with elementary age students. As such, I must plan various projects and activities which will both entertain and educate children. I recently designed a chemistry/science based board game, complete with question cards and a game board. Please understand - this is NOT a preexisting game which I modified - I designed and created an ORIGINAL playing board and personally thought up the 70+ questions on the game cards myself. It can be played with 2 to 6 players and is simple enough for a kindergartner to win, yet challenging enough to hold the attention and interest of a 5th grader (not an easy feat!). It has been several months since I first introduced the children to this game and they still ask to play it during free time at the program. Because it has been such a hit, I am considering possibly approaching some of the better known game making companies (Milton Bradley etc.) about buying it. Here is my question: How do I protect the design and concept from these big companies once I've presented it to them? Meaning, how can I keep them from stealing my idea and marketing it as their own? I am a single mother with very limited financial resources, thus the patent process (which is lengthy and expensive) really isn't an option for me. What other means can I use to protect my intellectual property?

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Handal & Morofsky LLC
Handal & Morofsky LLC | Anthony H. Handal
Once the game was published, for example given out, this may be considered to be making it public. This could result in loss of patent rights, although this is a very fact intensive analysis and depends on exactly what happened and when. Such an analysis requires professional assistance. In any case, if the provisional patent application is filed within one year of the earliest possible date of publication, rights will be preserved. The copyright is not adversely affected by publication.
Answer Applies to: New York
Replied: 4/15/2011
DANIEL NESBITT | Hasse & Nesbitt
Certainly. Other forms of intellectual property (IP) protection include copyright, trademark and trade dress. And don't give up yet on the patent protection. Do you have any evidence that this game is a tool for improving grades and learning? Perhaps, even in this economy, there may be funding for such tools. I do recommend that you contact a patent attorney(s) anyway.
Answer Applies to: Ohio
Replied: 4/14/2011
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