INTA 2024: IP in video games as brands expand presence

19 May 2024

INTA 2024: IP in video games as brands expand presence

More and more brands are looking into expanding their presence in the video game market to establish and advertise their brands in this rapidly growing industry, raising increasing questions about intellectual property rights.

Panellists at the International Trademark Association (INTA) 2024 Annual Meeting session, “Level Up Your Brand: Harnessing the Power of Video Games for Interactive Marketing and Consumer Engagement,” anticipate continued growth in the video game industry and more collaborations from brands and game studios.

Currently, the industry exceeds other creative sectors, such as film and music, in terms of revenue and consumer demand.

Rozita Tolouey, head of business development and partnerships, North America, Tencent Games (USA), said the video games business today surpassed US$108 billion in revenue in 2023.

“And just to put things into perspective, that was three times the revenue generated by the film and music industry,” she told the panel at the INTA 2024 session in Atlanta.

“By 2026, that number is supposed to go up to US$205 billion. So, it’s really important for brands to have a presence within video games. There’s a lot of overlap; a lot of people spend a lot of time within that digital space, and we just want to make sure that we have a presence there,” Tolouey added.

When considering potential partnerships, the Tencent Games executive emphasized the importance of relevance in seamlessly integrating the brand with the game.

“It really comes down to how relevant it is. There’s an authenticity aspect to it, and we just want to make sure that it makes sense and fits within our player demographic,” Tolouey said. 

Holly Upgren, senior associate marketing manager, corporate partnerships, Polaris (USA), told the panel that 43%-48% of the global population consider themselves casual or active gamers. 

“So, for us as a brand, it makes total sense to try to engage such a wide audience,” she said. “We recognize that anyone can be considered a gamer, so [we want to] promote our brand to new audiences, especially where it makes sense.”

James Wu, game operations manager of Tencent Games (USA), also highlighted the significance of seamless integration between brands and games beyond simply advertising and creating enough engagement to enable users to interact fully with the content.

“From the production side, the most important part is how it organically ties into what players care about the most,” Wu said.

Tolouey noted that the company wants to create an “aspiration point to the gameplay.”

As brands increase their presence in video games, Alexandre Rudoni, an IP and litigation partner and head of the France trademark, copyright and video games practices at A&O Shearman in Paris, said there is also growing attention on IP and trademarks. 

“The legal framework is exciting when you talk about video games because at the centre of the games are key IP rights and copyrights, potentially trademarks, and potentially design rights. So video games are really at the centre of IP. So whenever you’re talking about a collaboration that involves some content in a game, you necessarily trigger some IP questions.”

Rudoni noted that this would be easier if partners defined everything in the collaboration agreement. 

“So you need to define in an agreement how this content is going to be licensed for use in a game," he said.

Rudoni pointed out that the biggest IP challenge is the question of licensing.

“When do you need a license? Because there are certain circumstances where some of the courts have found that game studios could use some content without requiring a license,” he said.

Rudoni noted that since video games are also released globally, this creates “quite a challenge” regarding IP and trademarks, with different laws in different jurisdictions.

“It’s nearly impossible for all lawyers to clear all content. On top of that, the laws and regulations regarding IP and IP infringement are different depending on the jurisdiction.”

“So the general rule when we talk about a collaboration like this – where it’s nearly a co-branding exercise, there is no question that everything is duly licensed, and there’s a clear agreement defining all the terms,” he said.

Looking ahead, the panellists agreed that the video game industry is set for further growth – with the kind of play driven by newer technology such as artificial intelligence (AI) and more personalized, experiential play.

“The gaming industry is no stranger to innovation. AI is something that we will see more and more of,” Tolouey said. “Personalization is the future. We are not asking for traditional media; we’re looking at more experiential play.”

Upgren said that besides AI, Polaris is also looking at the metaverse.

“New technology such as AI and personal experience is really what we’re going to see. AI and metaverse are on our radar,” she added.

Wu, for his part, noted that in terms of production, players being able to make their own content will be the future of video games.

“Players will be able to create their own worlds and maps,” he said. “They will be able to create ways to play however they want.”

Roduni said that on the flip side, as video games become more successful, regulations will become tighter.

“As the games became very successful in the last ten years, it also got regulator attracted, so we see these increasing regulations to continue to grow.”

– Charlee C. Delavin, reporting from Atlanta

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