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I pretty much like the concept (and success) of the achievement/badge system in games and on SO and I'd like to use it in my programs (open or commercial) to reward, tailor and guide the user behavior. Are these names or concepts copyrighted in any way?

I fear if I use Achievement I get sued by MS. May I use it/them? What other synonyms are possible (which sound similarly cool)?

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6 Answers

Copyrights protect the expression of an idea, not the idea itself. It would be covered by patents. Here is the Microsoft patent application.

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I always forget there are subsections available in google, not just the main search. So bottom line, there is nonzero chance of me getting sued based on the link? –  kd304 Aug 11 '09 at 21:39
    
Well, it's only a patent application and it only covers games. I don't think you should worry. –  JP Alioto Aug 11 '09 at 21:41
    
I have an open-source game clone (from 1996) where I want to use it for example. I'll have to think about a nice name. –  kd304 Aug 11 '09 at 21:43
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I highly doubt the achievement or badge process is copyrighted (that doesn't even make sense) or patented (what you are probably thinking of).

Sony uses them as trophies on the PS3.

You can't really patent the idea of "rewarding users for achieving goals".

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...you underestimate the US Patent Office... –  Eric Aug 11 '09 at 21:37
    
...as JP pointed out: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/13829/… –  Eric Aug 11 '09 at 21:38
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Yes, do not underestimate the PTO ... google.com/patents/about?id=T2QKAAAAEBAJ&dq=6368227 (since cancelled, but actually granted) –  JP Alioto Aug 11 '09 at 21:42
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IANAL but I'm pretty sure MS will have a hard time taking you to court over their ownership of the word "Achievement", let alone the abstract concept of a reward for reaching a goal.

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IANAL, but I think you're okay, from a legal standpoint...but I'd still be careful. You don't want to emulate it too closely...there's a big difference between "being able to take you to court" and "being able to win a case". They could easily take you to court. They might not win, but that doesn't mean they couldn't hurt you badly in the process...most people don't have the money to spend on lawyer resources that MS has.

I'd make it different enough that it wouldn't be an issue. (I wouldn't call it "achievements" for instance.) Over-cautious? Perhaps. Still.

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I would use the Chewbacca defense, but anyway, thanks. –  kd304 Aug 11 '09 at 21:41
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There was a similar process on "GoldenEye" for the N64. Completing a certain level in a certain time would give you another cheat option. So it not exactly like the Achievements or Badges, but it was definitely in a similar vein.

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IANAL, but I've never seen a ™ next to the word Achievement on my XBox.

And Jeff and Joel would probably have gotten their @$$es sued off by now it someone else had "Badge" trademarked.

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-1 Trademark != copyright –  Jonathan Hobbs Dec 10 '13 at 6:18
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