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Magic: The Gathering is a trading card game (TCG), also called a tradable card game, collectible card game (CCG) or customizable card game. It was the first of its kind, played using specially designed sets of cards.[1] While trading cards have been around for longer, Magic was the first game to combine the appeal of card collecting with strategic gameplay.[2]

Patented by Wizards of the Coast[]

On October 15, 1997, Wizards of the Coast announced that it had been granted the patent on the Trading Card Game Method of Play by the U.S. Patent Office.[3][4] Wizards of the Coast developed a licensing program to permit others to use the patent. President and Chief Executive Officer Peter Adkison remarked, "Certainly, the ability to be compensated by others who incorporate our patented method of play into their games is important. But at the same time, Wizards of the Coast fundamentally believes in the free flow of ideas and the continued growth of the game business. Adkison continued, "It is significant that an entire industry of trading card game publishers and manufacturers has grown out of the success of the Magic: The Gathering game, and we have no intention of stifling that. Therefore, we are endeavoring to create a fair and reasonable royalty structure." [3]

For example, Adkison explained that companies who enter into a license agreement prior to the end of the year will not be charged royalties for sales prior to January 1, 1998. Wizards of the Coast also offered a royalty discount for every company that came forward to license its trading card game products prior to that date.

The patent claims on U.S. Letters Patent 5,662,332 can be viewed here


Trading cards are a well-known method of disbursing and collecting information about public figures. A familiar type of trading card is the baseball card that has a photographic depiction of an athlete along with biographical and statistical information about the athlete. These baseball cards and other cards dealing with various sports figures are used by sports enthusiasts for gathering information about players and teams. Trading cards have also been developed in other areas, such as the entertainment industry, which depict music performers and television and movie personalities.

Trading cards are typically exchanged among enthusiasts to obtain cards that are needed to complete a set of related cards or to collect cards that are not readily available. Collectors buy and sell these cards for their economic and historic value. The cards themselves have varying monetary values, depending on the popularity of the individual depicted thereon and the availability of each card, some being more common than others. Such cards are typically sold through retail game stores and other specialty outlets.

Playing cards, on the other hand, especially the well-known fifty-two deck face cards, are easily and readily available. The cards themselves, individually and collectively, generally have no value other than for amusement. Many different games can be played with a single deck of playing cards, limited generally by the imagination of the players. Some card games require cards especially printed for that game, and these cards have little value outside the playing of that particular game.

Many games played with the more common face cards are games of chance. In other words, these games have rules that require either the random selection of cards or depend on the occurrence of events outside the control of the players. Other games that require some strategy usually limit the level of strategy with restrictive rules of play.

When Richard Garfield created Magic: The Gathering in 1993, there were no known earlier games that freely used tradable game elements or components, such as trading cards, and that enabled a player to form a unique combination of components that competed against the combinations of other players.

Other TCG's released by Wizards of the Coast[]