MASTERMIND game patents, designs and trademarks
MASTERMIND is based on an ancient game called Bulls and Cows. During the early 1970s, Invicta Plastics Ltd developed a few versions of the game, before arriving at the version we know and love today:
To keep competitors at bay, Invicta relied on a combination of patents, designs and trademarks:
Invicta developed a multi‐player version of MASTERMIND and various 2‐player versions – the last being the blockbuster:
US4241923 "Board game" (multi‐player version) protected "A game comprising:
- code playing pieces of contrasted characteristics for forming a target code and comprising: (i) a first set of code playing pieces; and (ii) a second set of code playing pieces;
- boards, one for each player, each of the boards having a reserved area for receiving a pair of the code playing pieces chosen by a respective player and comprising one of each of the first set of code playing pieces and the second set of code playing pieces, wherein the chosen code playing piece of the first set by each of several players together form the target code and each chosen code playing piece of the second set determined the relative position in the target code of the code playing piece paired therewith;
- test playing pieces conforming to the first set of code playing pieces and mountable in preselectable patterns on each of the boards in successive groups for simulating the target code; and
- marker elements, each of which is mountable on any one of the boards for signalling the correctness in relation to the code playing pieces mounted on the selected one of the boards of the characteristics and relative positioning of the test playing pieces of a test group selected by a player."
Basically, describing each game element and detailing its function.
GB1530281 "Board game" (2‐player version) protected "A board game comprising:
- a board;
- composite key playing pieces, each having two characteristics, one of which is a shape from a series of shapes and the second of which is a colour from a series of colours, the playing pieces being mounted in play on a defined area of the board in a pattern chosen at will be a player to serve as a target code, so that the chosen target code of playing pieces is concealed from one or more other players when so mounted,
- first test playing pieces, each having a shape from the series of shapes,
- second test playing pieces, each having a colour from the series of colours,
- each of the test playing pieces being mountable in one of two designated areas on the board in successive groups with the object of simulating the respective shape and colour of the key playing pieces in the code pattern and marker elements for mounting on the board to signal the correctness of the characteristics and relative positions of the test playing pieces in each successive group."
Basically, also merely describing each game element and detailing its function.
GB1553957 "Board game" (2‐player version) protects "A board game comprising:
- a board;
- key playing pieces;
- a defined area of the board provided to receive a number of the key playing pieces in a pattern chosen at will by a player to serve as a target code;
- means for partially concealing the code of playing pieces;
- marker elements to signal the correctness of a further player's attempts to solve the code,
- the key playing pieces are of one of two types: (i) a first type of which has a characteristic from a first series of contrasted characteristics; and (ii) a second type of which has a characteristic from a second series of characteristics; and
- there are provided: (i) first test playing pieces conforming with the first type of key playing pieces in respect of the first of the series of characteristics; and (ii) second test playing pieces conforming with the second type of key playing pieces in respect of the second of the series of characteristics;
- selected ones of each of test playing pieces being mountable in designated areas on the board in successive groups with the object of simulating the respective characteristics of the key playing pieces in the code pattern."
Basically, only describing each game element.
This is the patent that covers the version of MASTERMIND we all know, albeit that the shape of the game continued to evolve somewhat.
To protect the shape of the 2‐player versions of the MASTERMIND game, Invicta filed a series of design registrations:
Sample French designs showing the patented versions:
A sample Spanish design ES233297 "Un juego d e tablero para dos jugadores" showing a 2‐player word version of the game, which never really took off:
And, sample Spanish design ES233560 "Un juego de mesa", which best illustrates the current version of the MASTERMIND game:
Today, the only surviving intellectual property rights protecting the MASTERMIND game are trademarks, filed in classes 9 and 28.
Like most games manufacturers, Invicta ended up being gobbled‐up by Hasbro, Inc. and Hasbro keeps competitors at bay by wielding the trademarks alone.
When it comes to games: patents keep direct competitors at bay during the early phase; designs ensure that customers can identify a "knock‐off"; and trademarks secure your market after a reputation has been established.