There has been a lot of talk within the game industry regarding IP rights and if it is ok to directly copy a game's gameplay mechanics. Currently it is a moral dilemma versus legal. A company is that directly copies a game without innovating on it is considered evil. This year at the Game Developers Conference, famed game developer Ian Bogost was handing out "Don't copy my indie game bro" ribbons.
As seen with the latest debacle, Tiny Towers vs Dream Heights, a games mechanics can be copied without concern of lawsuit. Currently, the rules are that a developer can take another games mechanics as long as they do not directly copy any of the assets within the game. The assets have to be original. What other IP rights are there? Take the jump to find some great lessons on IP Law, starting from the beginning.
Starting with an introduction to IP, I give you "Intellectual Property Law 101". This video takes a great approach at understanding the very basics of how to protect your business. For example, "when should I trademark the company name and product names?" They do talk about pharmaceutical products as their main example but the information is transferable. The video does have a little lag built into it but for the most part some great information.
At the end of the day when you are making a company, it is important for you to register and trademark all of your properties for your company. Even if you are an indie video game company, due the due diligence, get a lawyer, and protect your assets as much as possible. This is something that my lawyer has been very adamant about and after watching all of these videos, I finally see why after watching them.
Know that if your game is copied and improved upon, that this is a form of flattery but if it is directly copied with no innovation, that company is evil.