Intellectual Property Law Targets the Term ‘Meeple’

June 24, 2024
Intellectual Property Law targets Meeple

The term “Meeple,” a staple in the board gaming community, has recently come under the scrutiny of intellectual property law. As board games continue to surge in popularity, the legal landscape surrounding the terminology and elements used within the industry is evolving.


The Origin and Significance of ‘Meeple’

“Meeple” is a portmanteau of “my” and “people,” coined by Alison Hansel during a game of Carcassonne in 2000. It refers to the small, human-shaped tokens used by players to represent their presence on the board. Over the years, Meeple has become a beloved and ubiquitous term within the board gaming community, symbolizing the essence of modern tabletop gaming.


The Legal Challenge

Recently, the term “Meeple” has faced legal challenges regarding its use and ownership. A company, claiming to have trademark rights over the term, has started to enforce these rights, causing a stir within the gaming community. This move has significant implications for game developers who have been using Meeple freely in their games and marketing materials.


Implications for Game Developers

The enforcement of trademark rights on “Meeple” means that game developers may need to obtain permission or pay licensing fees to use the term in their products. This could lead to increased costs and logistical challenges, particularly for small or independent developers. The need to navigate the complexities of intellectual property law might also stifle creativity and innovation within the industry.


Community Reaction

The board gaming community has reacted strongly to the news. Many enthusiasts view Meeple as a communal term, one that belongs to the collective culture of board gamers rather than any single entity. The push to trademark and enforce rights over the term has been met with resistance, with some community members calling for boycotts of products from the enforcing company.


Broader Implications for the Industry

This development is a reminder of the growing intersection between intellectual property law and the gaming industry. As board games become more commercially successful, the desire to protect and monetize elements of these games is increasing. This trend raises questions about the balance between protecting intellectual property and fostering an open, creative environment where new ideas can flourish.


The Path Forward

For game developers and publishers, the key is to stay informed about intellectual property laws and seek legal advice when necessary. Understanding the potential legal ramifications of using certain terms or designs can help avoid costly disputes. Additionally, the community might benefit from a collective dialogue on how to preserve the shared cultural elements of gaming while respecting intellectual property rights.


The trademarking of “Meeple” marks a significant moment in the intersection of intellectual property law and the board gaming industry. As legal battles unfold, the outcome will likely shape the future use of common gaming terms and elements. For now, game developers, publishers, and the broader gaming community must navigate this evolving landscape carefully, balancing the need for legal protection with the desire to maintain the collaborative spirit that defines the world of board games.

Leave a Comment