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ASSOCHAM initiates discussions on Stronger IP Laws for India's Gaming Industry on World IP Day

ASSOCHAM initiates discussions on Stronger IP Laws for India's Gaming Industry on World IP Day

NEW DELHI, 26th April 2024: Recognising the substantial growth of the Indian gaming industry, now valued at $3.49 billion, the discussion aimed to tackle the challenges game developers and stakeholders face in safeguarding their original creations. In response to the escalating demand, the industry has witnessed the emergence of numerous startups and game developers, including over 900 MSMEs, investing significant resources, time, and effort into crafting new and unique interactive electronic games. Noteworthy is the fact that 41% of gamers in India are women, underscoring the diverse audience for interactive electronic games.

The Associated Chambers of Commerce & Industry of India (ASSOCHAM) hosted a Round Table on Intellectual Property concerning Interactive Electronic Games on World IP Day. The event was graced by Hon’ble Justice Mrs. Prathiba M. Singh, Judge of the Delhi High Court, as the Chief Guest, alongside esteemed guests including Mr. Amit Sibal, Senior Advocate, Mr. Dev Robinson, Partner and National Practice Head – IPR, Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas & Co., and Mr. Saikrishna Rajagopal, Managing Partner, Saikrishna & Associates. The event also saw participation from Mr. Rajshekhar Rao Senior Advocate, Mr. Harish Vaidyanathan Shankar, Central Government Standing Counsel, Prof. Dr. Alka Chawla, Dr. Ajai Garg & Rakesh Maheshwari, ex-MeitY, and reputed officials from the concerned Ministries, government departments, DPIIT, IPO, numerous pre-eminent members of the intellectual property law (IP) bar and fraternity, members of the electronic, digital interactive games industry and representatives of other concerned stakeholders.

Despite India having one of the largest consumer bases for such interactive electronic online games and the consequential rise in the number of such games and gamers, it has become increasingly evident that India lags behind various countries such as the United States, China, France, etc., in terms of protection for new and original elements of such interactive electronic online games. A common theme behind this glaring lack of protection, and a constant pain point for industry stakeholders, has been fighting the perception battle where skill-based Interactive Electronic Games are clubbed with online gambling or betting games.

The discussions delved into various legal aspects, all geared towards one common goal: aligning on and mapping the ideal way forward to ensure that original electronic, digital interactive games are protected. While there is little room to dispute that the rules of a game are incapable of protection, a repeated point of emphasis during this discussion was the dire need to protect unique elements and previously unexplored manner or expression of interactive games, which go beyond these fundamental game rules.

Consensus was achieved on the importance of realigning ideas regarding interactive electronic games and protecting its creative characteristics. Panellists and attendees debated how such protection might be implemented. Some contended that existing intellectual property rules already give options for such protection. For example, it was claimed that online interactive games should be protected as 'computer programmes' under the Copyright Act of 1957. It was also recommended that aspects other than game play can be covered under the Patents Act of 1970. Legal precedents were used to establish the distinction between protectable expressions and elements of online interactive games and un-protectable game regulations.

The discussion emphasised that chance-based games are impermissible, and only skill-based games are allowed by law. It was noted that the Online Gaming Rules released by the Ministry of IT offer much-needed legislative clarity regarding permissible games. Implementing these rules is seen as essential to providing a framework for skill-based games and protecting users from the risks associated with online gaming, particularly from illegal gaming platforms.

This discussion marks the beginning of a necessary discourse and underscores the industry's overwhelming need for the protection of innovative and original online, electronic interactive games. While ongoing technological advancements may necessitate new legislation addressing the challenges faced by game developers in India, there is a prevailing consensus that judicial recognition and protection must be prioritised. The key take away from this engaging discussion is the importance of striking a balance, achieved through concerted efforts by the judiciary and legislature, between public dissemination of material and incentivising its creation. Ultimately, what is worth copying is worth protecting!

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