is that legal to create car using real car as "references" for my game?

I want to try make a car game (racing game) but the car is not fantasy, just like real life car style.
but the problem is…, hmm, lets say if I create a car using “Car A” as references, its not 100% same, but similar because I use that car as references, is that legal/fine? (I’m not use the car logo or brand, just using the shape as references)

I won’t in future the car company sue my game. “Hi, you car look similar with our car, you don’t have our permission to do that!!”

references in here I mean I create the model using car A as references, but not 100% same, I use it as basic shape. I do some modification, add this shape, remove that shape, or even combine them with car B model.

and some additional about car game. How about car sound(engine, brake-braking sound) if I recorded the sound using real car, should I need permission to the car company?

I won’t in future the car company sue my game. “Hi, you car sound, sound/audible similar with our car, you don’t have our permission to do that!!” (sorry my bad english)


Games do that type of thing all the time–like GTAV, the cars are very similar to real cars but they change a number of things about them to avoid copyright problems. As for sounds, that shouldn’t be an issue. It’d probably be very difficult/impossible to identify a car by the sound effect, and things use car sound recordings all the time.

GTA tends to mix 2 or 3 different cars together, which is probably the safest way to do it.

Unless you are recording the sounds with high end audio gear, your mic and recording equipment is going to flavor the sound enough to make it hard to distinguish from other cars, unless it was a fairly powerful and unique sounding car. You can always adjust the audio, change the levels, pitch, etc until it’s completely unique.

I remember the Furore and Lampadati, funny names :smiley:

One problem with games is that you potentially need to consider multiple jurisdictions, and different jurisdictions (i.e. US, UK, Europe, Japan,…) have slightly differing law on copyright and designs. Also companies may have rights in different spreads of territories. The upshot is that it’s quite hard to speak generally and categorically about IP infringement on games - though a lot of things are funnelled through the US (Steam/Apple Store servers, I’m guessing) and that is a particularly dangerous territory for litigation, so it’s worth paying particular attention there (as the largely US-based games industry tends to do by default - sometimes you’d be forgiven for thinking nowhere else in the world existed…).

So, starting with the US, I believe the current position is that a copy of a car in a game will not infringe a design patent (registered design) because what you are selling is not a car but a game which happens to have a car in it. This case law is not fully developed and may change, so I would not rely on that necessarily. Copyright may be another issue - in the UK for example you could potentially infringe the copyright in a design drawing by creating a three-dimensional recreation of it. And then there’s branding - if you reproduce the name of a brand you could potentially infringe a trade mark (if nothing else, via the doctrine of trade mark dilution). I understand that the current situation in the US is that you are generally protected from trade mark infringement by the first amendment because your game is an ‘artistic expression’ (this is relied upon by EA when they stopped paying licences to use gun brand names) - but other countries have similar trade mark laws but no such concept as first amendment rights, so who knows?

In short, you’re actually generally in the clear (probably) but it’s hard to be absolutely sure.

HOWEVER the bigger consideration is that if there’s a half-decent case, companies with deep pockets (which car companies tend to be) can bully you out of existence via the US court system pretty much regardless of the strength of their claim. So people tend to play safe and (a) avoid using actual brand names (trade marks) without paying for a licence, and (b) not reproducing designs exactly but introducing at least small differences. How different? Ask ten IP lawyers and you’ll get ten different answers (and ten large bills). As noted, see how other games like GTA do it and make it at least that much different. Or you may not want to play it so safe - in which case you’ll probably be ok unless or until your game is successful enough to get noticed.

Regarding sounds, there is a copyright in music (not applicable to car engine sounds by any reasonable stretch of the imagination) and also in sound recordings. If you’re making the sound recordings yourself, you’re absolutely in the clear, and you own the copyright in those.

Hope that helps!

(source: I am a European patent attorney. I may have got some of the US stuff wrong…)

and how about game that include real cars : BMW, Ferrari, Lamborghini … etc :stuck_out_tongue:


I appreciate your post. I am from Europe too and how is it legal to use for example weapons. Is it similar to cars? We can see almost in every FPS game guns like AK 47 or AR 15, these doesn’t have changed names or anything like that, moreover - game developers are trying to make them as much realistic as possible. Aren’t they infracting any copyrights?

Lol, I’ve never given a thought to the fact that using real world cars for reference could get you into trouble. Seems there’s lots of stuff that can get you into trouble :stuck_out_tongue:

If you want to use a real car brand you have to pay them for licensing. For example, the big games like Forza and Gran Turismo have to do that for all of the cars they include.

CarX Drifting Racing, its a mobile car game that use exactly or very close to real cars models, but with fantasy names.
I think you are good if not use their brand names and model names.