My friend wants to make a 'risk table', which would have the risk board carved into it, as part of a larger game board challenge. He would be making all the pieces and the board himself.

I'm wondering if he can do this legally, assuming he stops using the word Risk? The game mechanics can not be patented, so in that regard he is safe. He would, however, be remaking the board itself which I assume is copyrighted. Since the board is just the world map divided into specific countries I don't know if this counts as 'recreating' the board?

Is the fact that he is using the same countries that the original risk board used enough to count as recreating the board/game?


The board is more complicated than you describe. It is a somewhat stylized world map, broken up into regions that do not necessarily correspond to countries. They have names that don't necessarily express what the region is geographically (particularly Ukraine, which extends far to the north of real-world Ukraine). There are defined water routes between certain regions that do not touch. Someone else starting from a world map would be very unlikely to duplicate the Risk board. I believe your friend's board would count as a derivative work.

Now, the copyright holder is highly unlikely to come after your friend. I've seen stories of people who made their own X boards, publicized them, and the game company did nothing about it. The company (Hasbro? they own most of those games) would likely consider it as an extra bit of publicity.

  • Whether the company considers a particular use to be publicity or not is irrelevant to copyright law. A more likely and rational reason for the rights holder not to pursue a legal remedy in this case is the risk of bad publicity or the risk of losing (e.g. the defendent has a valid fair use defense). – Brandin Nov 17 '18 at 11:21
  • To put an example already done, you can see the "Classic" map at this commercial site. While the map is different, each node in this map is equivalent to country in Hasbro's map (e.g. they can attack equivalent nodes/countries). I did also see a conversion with the world converted to a museum, each continent to a wing and each country to a room. And of course, it would be better to avoid using a copyrighted picture as the basis for your map. – SJuan76 Nov 17 '18 at 13:45
  • While it would be impossible now to get a patent on board game mechanics, scores were issued before the the Supreme Court went overboard (in my opinion) on abstractness; without defining it. One example is patents.google.com/patent/US5121928A – George White Nov 22 '18 at 0:24

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