How closely can a game resemble another game without legal problems

The majority of games build on successes of other games and many are downright clones. So where is the limit of emulating before legal issues come into play? Is it down to literary or graphic work like characters and storyline that cause legal problems, or can someone actually claim to own gameplay mechanics?
There are so many similar clone games out there that the rules are probably very slack or nonexistent, but I'd like to hear the views of more experienced developers / designers.

I am not a lawyer and this is not legal advice. These are things I've heard many times over and have no reason to doubt.
Game mechanics cannot be copyrighted or protected in any fashion.
I could make a game called "Crystallized" that was Bejeweled, in every imaginable way, and as long as I didn't copy the art from Bejeweled (either directly, or by drawing new art that just happens to be nigh-identical) I'd be totally fine.
Game mechanics have been copied often enough that, if this weren't the case, I have no doubt we'd have heard about it by now. Game design is pretty much one giant incestuous ball of borrowing, and, honestly, is better for it.
Keep in mind that you can be sued for anything, even if you're not breaking any contracts or laws, and they might win. But I've never heard of that happening with regards to game design.


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HI i am mohammed  a Embedded Software Developer ,SEO specialist,Electronic engineer   Read more