Legal Question in Intellectual Property in California

who wants to be a millionaire game


I am interested in making a trivia site with a format

similar to the ''Who wants to be a millionaire'' game show.

This site will be commercial in nature because in the future

I would like to charge people a set annual fee for attempting a new set of questions every day.

I will like to know how I can make the site in order to avoid legal action from the owners of the who wants to be a millionaire trademark.

I will be using my own questions, not ones from the show on ABC.

I would like to know what restrictions I will have on the name of my game and URL. Also will I have to make structural changes like 2 lifelines instead of 3 or 3 milestones instead of 2?

Any help you can give me will be greatly appreciated!


Asked on 5/29/02, 11:57 am

4 Answers from Attorneys

Re: who wants to be a millionaire game

Mr. Lambert and Ms. Ghosh are correct. Both trademark and copyright issues need to be addressed by an attorney.

Trademark and copyright are complex areas of law which turn on the specific names, artwork, text and logos being used, and no attorney can advise you based on the limited facts you have given.

Please note that copyright infringement is a strict liability offense, meaning that even UNINTENTIONAL copying may result in money damages. Therefore, you can avoid a huge potential problem down the line if you consult with an attorney now.

D. Alexander Floum is an experienced attorney and a law school professor.

The Schinner Law Group is a full-service law firm, providing outstanding assistance in business, corporate, tax, litigation, contracts, intellectual property and related areas of law.

NOTE: This communication is not intended as and should not be interpreted as legal advice. Rather, it is intended solely as a general discussion of legal principles. You should not rely on or take action based on this communication without first presenting ALL relevant details to a competent attorney in your jurisdiction and then receiving the attorney’s individualized advice for you. By reading the “Response” to your question or comment, you agree that the opinion expressed is not intended to, nor does it, create any attorney-client relationship, nor does it constitute legal advice to any person reviewing such information, nor will it be considered an attorney-client privileged communication. Pursuant to California Rules of Professional Conduct rule 1-400(d)(4), this communication is intended as a solicitation for legal services.

Read more
Answered on 5/30/02, 12:39 pm

Keith E. Cooper Keith E. Cooper, Esq.

Re: who wants to be a millionaire game

You say "a format similar to" the TV program, but one of the key questions is HOW similar. You would do well to invest in a consultation with a competent trademark/copyright attorney before you invest in building the web site.

Perhaps an even more important question is whether there is a market for a pay site for this game. ABC already has a web version of this game with changing sets of questions. And there are many, many, other free game sites. So, IP issues are not your only concern.

Read more
Answered on 6/01/02, 11:00 pm
Jeff Lambert Attorney at Law

Re: who wants to be a millionaire game

You really need to sit down with an attorney for this question. Most attorneys will provide you with a free consultation.

Essentially, your proposal is governed by two central areas of the law: Copyright and Trademark. Any website you prepare would be governed by Copyright law. The Copyright law permits you to freely use/copy another's ideas, but not the expression of those ideas. This is a very slippery line of demarcation, and you really can only get an accurate answer after sitting down with a qualified attorney and showing them exactly what you plan to do with your website and its design as compared to what the Millionaire site currently displays. Second, any use of trademarked terms belonging to Millionaire, e.g. the logo "who wants to be a Millionaire," possible trademark rights in the name "lifeline," etc. are all at issue. Trademark law grants temporary protection for the owner's use of source identifying logos, marks and product trade dress. Again a proper answer to your question/scenario really is dependant on knowing all the facts of your situation and how that compares to trademarks that belong to Millionaire.

I know you consulted this site in order to avoid formal consultation by an attorney, but if you are looking at making any kind of substantial investment (or just if you want to operate as free from legal risk as possible), you really need to sit down with a qualified attorney or discuss you facts over the phone.

If you are in the San Diego area, or Southern California, I'd be happy to speak with you or relay a qualified referral. If you are out of the area, I would suggest checking with your local county Bar Association for an Intellectual Property attorney.

Read more
Answered on 5/29/02, 2:02 pm
Amy Ghosh Law Offices of Amy Ghosh

Re: who wants to be a millionaire game

You need to consult an attorney before you invest more time and money developing your site. There are many IP issues you have to address regarding the site. Also, in the future, please refrain from divulging such specific ideas in a BBS...try to be more general.

Contact me directly, if you feel necessary. I am in LA area.

Read more
Answered on 5/29/02, 3:00 pm

Related Questions & Answers

More Intellectual Property questions and answers in California