Video Game Law Blog

May 21, 1992

(This is an archived case summary)

Nintendo appealed a District Court ruling that the Game Genie does not violate any Nintendo copyrights. The Game Genie is a device that is placed between the game and the Nintendo game console that allows a user to input codes to change game characteristics such as character strength, lives and speed. The Game Genie functions by changing the value of a single byte of data that is sent out by the game cartridge.

The Court of Appeal upheld the District Court's finding and denied Nintendo an injunction. The Court held that the way the Game Genie operated did not constitute or create a “derivative work' under the Copyright Act. The District Court held, "[h]aving paid Nintendo a fair return, the consumer may experiment with the product and create new variations of play, for personal enjoyment, without creating a derivative work." The court also held that even if the Game Genie produced derivative works, such works would not be infringing under the doctrine of fair use.

The judge also noted that “while board games may never die, good video games are mortal” in reply to Nintendo's assertion that it may re-release some games. The judge stated that this assertion was not supported by claims Nintendo had made in other anti-trust cases where it argued that the video game industry is fast paced and unstable.

Lewis Galoob Toys, Inc. v. Nintendo of America, Inc.
May 21, 1992
US Ct. of Appeal, 9th Cir. 964 F. 2d 965
Keywords: Game Genie – copyright infringement – injunction – modification of games
Summar by: Byron Yep