Links: Resources for Game Inventors and Designers
The Game Crafter will manufacture your cards and other game components to order. Their service is ideal for prototyping and small quantities - even down to just one copy. The game they produce for you can also be sold online through their web site.
BoardGamesMaker is a Hong Kong based printing company that will make custom playing-cards and other board game components to order. At their website you can submit your designs online by dragging and dropping them onto the components you need.
Artscow is a Hong Kong based printing company that will print custom playing-cards to order.
TM Playing Cards specialise in producing custom playing-cards to order. The customer can specify the face and back designs, the card size and materials, and the number of cards in the pack.
LongPack Games is a Shanghai based company that will mass produce cards and board game components to order.
Admagic.com suppies custom playing cards to order. You submit your own design for the backs and faces.
Ivory Graphics is a UK supplier of custom playing-cards with personalised backs and/or faces.
PFI Playing-cards, also known as Card-Press, is a US-based firm specialising in producing custom playing-cards (custom faces, backs and shapes).
MakePlayingCards.com is a Hong Kong based company supplying playing-cards with custom backs or faces and backs worldwide.
Printer's Studio supply playing-cards which can be customised by uploading your own images for the faces and backs. Orders for small quantities are acceptable.
The Canadian firm Palaimon Playing-Cards produces playing-cards to your specification with custom backs and/or faces.
Protecting game rules and ideas: patents, copyrights and trademarks
Some game inventors are content to enjoy playing the game they have invented, and to teach it to others or publish the rules (for example in the Invented Games section of pagat.com) so that other people can enjoy it too. Others hope to exploit their invention commercially by manufacturing and selling their game or by selling or licensing the idea to a games manufacturer or maybe a casino operator.
Those who choose the commercial route and wish to protect their original game idea from copying by others may wish to patent their game method (and apparatus if new apparatus is involved). Comprehensive information on the patent process in the USA is available on the US Patent and Trademark Office web site, where you can also search for existing patents. Google also provides a patent search facility.
Inventors often ask about copyright. If you write a document introducing and explaining your game, copyright can protect the text of this document (whether printed or published on line), as well as any artwork associated with the game. However, it does not prevent anyone else from publishing a functionally equivalent game of their own, provided that they describe it in their own words and produce their own artwork. Wikipedia has some useful information on copyright.
A trademark protects only the name of your game. This could protect you against someone subsequently promoting another game with the same name as yours. However, it does not prevent anyone from publishing essentially the same game as yours under a different name.
Inventors intending to patent their game should be aware that time limits apply. For example if you have an idea for a game but do nothing with it, and a few years later you find that someone else has published the same game, you will not be able to patent your idea retrospectively, even if you can prove that you had the idea first. If you publish your game or a description of it and wish to protect it by patent, you should file the patent as soon as possible, and in any case within one year of publication.
For those who would like more details of USA laws on these topics, the Patents, Trademarks and Copyrights page of the National Paralegal College has a useful collection of information.
Aizman Law provides a useful summary of the differences between copyrights and trademarks.