How does copyright (and/or patents) work for puzzles? Can puzzle formats (like type of code/cipher, scheme, or method of posing a question) be copyrighted, or does only the specific puzzle get protected?

For instance, if I was the first person to ever create a crossword puzzle, do I have copyright protection of the crossword puzzle, or only the specific puzzle I made?

  • $\begingroup$ Has a correct answer been given? If so, please don't forget to $\color{green}{\checkmark \small\text{Accept}}$ it. If not, some responses to the answerers to help steer them in the right direction would be helpful. $\endgroup$
    – Rubio
    Mar 7, 2023 at 23:09

1 Answer 1


Copyright only protects specific expressions and not ideas, so it would only protects a specific instance of a puzzle and not the type. However, you can patent a puzzle type (according to this law.se answer), or trademark the name.

  • $\begingroup$ Note that unlike copyright, patents in the US last for a maximum of 20 years. So even if the crossword puzzle were patented, the idea is very much in the public domain by now. $\endgroup$
    – dan04
    Feb 24, 2023 at 16:57

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