Basic Training: W is for When Did Drinking Games Go Online?

Posted on August 21, 2014 in IP & Social Media

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OK, so maybe my age is showing (it hasn’t been that many years since college, has it?), but I thought that drinking games were idiot party tricks made up on the spot by frat boys sitting around a keg of watered-down beer trying to get into the panties of the coeds. Apparently, it’s now a lucrative business opportunity. . . ?

Q.: I want to make and sell a drinking game. What are the legal issues involved in selling them online? I have spoken with a patent lawyer–I don’t have the money for a patent right now but am keeping all my documents showing my initial designs and such.

A.: You have a number of issues you’ll be facing–some legal, some financial, and many of which depend on where you’re located because state laws can vary. The most important question, though, is whether you have put together a business plan. You mentioned that you didn’t have the money for a patent . . . but starting a business takes money. Have you thought about how you will attract customers? What you will charge for the game (and why would people pay for the game when they can find drinking games on the internet for free)? What will it cost to manufacture the game (if it’s a tangible product) . . . or create the website (if online)? When you can expect to earn money from it? What will your profit margins be? How will you sell/distribute it? You’ll want to give these issues a lot of thought; otherwise, you could be throwing hard-earned cash out the window without seeing a return. As to your legal issues, you’ll want to consider:

  • Forming a proper business entity so that your personal assets are protected
  • Consulting with legal counsel that specializes in liquor issues to address whether there are any special licenses or disclaimers you should include in the game
  • Confidentiality and non-disclosure agreements with the game manufacturers or anyone creating the intellectual property for you
  • Trademark or copyright protection for your intellectual property (you already know that patents may be involved)
  • Sales terms (and return policies) for customers

I would strongly suggest that you consult with your local Small Business Development Center.You can find a list of centers near you at http://www.sba.gov/aboutsba/sbaprograms/sbdc/sbdclocator/SBDC_LOCATOR.html. It should be able to give you all of the basic information you need to get started and will have many programs available for free. The most important part of your plan is working through the financial projections to make sure that you know: 1. How much the venture will cost you to get started, 2. When you can expect to make a profit (and take money out of the business) and 3. How long you can afford to keep pursuing the business (in other words, when it’s time to close up shop and work for someone else).

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