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Hasbro Sues Makers of Scrabble-Like Scrabulous 395

Posted by timothy
from the cryin'-shame-continues dept.
Dekortage writes "As today's lawsuit indicates, Hasbro has apparently had enough of Scrabulous, the online word game remarkably similar to Scrabble. Filed in New York, Hasbro's suit is against Rajat and Jayant Agarwalla, brothers from Kolkata, India, and asks the court to remove the Scrabulous application from Facebook, disable the Scrabulous.com web site, and grant damages and attorneys fees to Hasbro. Why did Hasbro tale so long to 'protect' its intellectual property rights in court? They waited 'in deference to the fans' until EA had launched the official Scrabble Facebook app earlier this month. EA's version has netted fewer than ten thousand players, versus Scrabulous' estimated 2.3 million. This was the next logical step for Hasbro after filing DMCA takedown notices against Scrabulous in January."
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Hasbro Sues Makers of Scrabble-Like Scrabulous

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  • My turn? (Score:5, Funny)

    by pbhj (607776) on Thursday July 24, 2008 @04:38PM (#24326085) Homepage Journal

    I R S F T T O P S Q

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 24, 2008 @04:38PM (#24326091)
    DESPERATION: When you rearrange the letters: A ROPE ENDS IT
  • by diskofish (1037768) on Thursday July 24, 2008 @04:39PM (#24326099)
    EA's version has netted fewer than ten thousand players, versus Scrabulous' estimated 2.3 million. This was the next logical step for Hasbro...

    Doesn't seem very logical to me. Why don't they just buy it?
    • by MBCook (132727) <foobarsoft@foobarsoft.com> on Thursday July 24, 2008 @04:42PM (#24326145) Homepage

      That would cost money. This way they get money.

      That would have also validated the use of their game rules / board design (which are copyrighted or whatever). That could cost them their registration. Plus it would only encourage others to do this kind of thing to get some quick cash.

      • by spun (1352) <loverevolutionar ... minus physicist> on Thursday July 24, 2008 @05:35PM (#24326839) Journal

        You can't copyright a game. [copyright.gov] Hasbro is suing them over the trademark. Scrabulous should have used a name that doesn't sound like Scrabble, then there would be nothing Hasbro could do. Perhaps Scrabulous could change their name to Crapple.

        • by lgw (121541) on Thursday July 24, 2008 @05:56PM (#24327137) Journal

          You can't copyright a game, but you *can* copyright a game board. Scrabulous used the Scabble game board (and that was a big part of why it was successful with existing Scrabble players), so they're probably doomed - it's a genuine old-school copyright violation, no DMCA required.

          • Game Patents (Score:5, Informative)

            by sjbe (173966) on Thursday July 24, 2008 @06:14PM (#24327359)

            You can't copyright a game, but you *can* copyright a game board.

            You also apparently can patent game mechanics [uspto.gov].

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by geekoid (135745)

              Wow, I don't think that would actually stand up if challenged. I mean it could cover some Poker games.
              Hell, I created a game call flaming Aces that involved each person bringing there own deck of cards to the table in 1978.

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by kenthorvath (225950)
              Well, I think Scrabble has been long enough for any patent to expire...
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            You can copyright a game. I remember a few years ago, Hasbro sued Kellogg for having a card matching game on their cereal boxes as part of a Finding Nemo promotion, saying it too closely resembled their Memory card game. Wizards of the Coast even has a patent for "games, published in the form of trading cards, in which a player selects a collection of tradeable elements and uses that set to compete with other players", so any collectible card game has to pay them royalties.
            • by cpt kangarooski (3773) on Thursday July 24, 2008 @07:10PM (#24328009) Homepage

              You can copyright a game.

              No, you can't. Remember, a game is essentially its rules. You can copyright a description of those rules (maybe, it depends) but you cannot copyright the underlying rules themselves. The rules are a method for playing the game, you see, and that's expressly non-copyrightable subject matter, per 17 USC 102(b). Art associated with the game (e.g. the picture on the box, the shape of the pieces, etc.) can be copyrightable, but again, not to the extent that they're dictated by the rules.

              Hasbro sued Kellogg for having a card matching game on their cereal boxes as part of a Finding Nemo promotion, saying it too closely resembled their Memory card game.

              Got a link? I'd be interested to see what it was about, specifically.

              Wizards of the Coast even has a patent

              You can patent games -- it's just another method, after all -- but it requires that the rules are patentable. That means that they have to be novel and nonobvious. For whatever reason, it doesn't seem to happen that often. Besides, since patents expire relatively quickly, it doesn't matter in this case.

            • by d34thm0nk3y (653414) on Thursday July 24, 2008 @07:27PM (#24328209)
              You can copyright a game. I remember a few years ago, Hasbro sued Kellogg for having a card matching game on their cereal boxes as part of a Finding Nemo promotion, saying it too closely resembled their Memory card game. Wizards of the Coast even has a patent for "games, published in the form of trading cards...

              No, you can't copyright a game. The Kelloggs thing was a trademark claim which was settled out of court so who knows how that would have went. Your other example is a patent issue. I guess it needs to be repeated, once more, that patents, trademarks and copyright are all different things. Kelloggs link [about.com]
            • by 1u3hr (530656) on Thursday July 24, 2008 @07:31PM (#24328237)
              You can copyright a game. I remember a few years ago, Hasbro sued Kellogg for having a card matching game on their cereal boxes as part of a Finding Nemo promotion, saying it too closely resembled their Memory card game. Wizards of the Coast even has a patent for "games, published in the form of trading cards, in which a player selects a collection of tradeable elements and uses that set to compete with other players", so any collectible card game has to pay them royalties.

              You start claiming "You can copyright a game", the you start talking about patents. Do you understand the (vast) difference?

          • by geekoid (135745)

            "but you *can* copyright a game board."
            I don't think so. It makes no sense in that context.

            Since their board has no text on it, what copyright could they be violating?

          • by 1u3hr (530656)
            You can't copyright a game, but you *can* copyright a game board.

            In general, no. Perhaps if it was full of original symbols artwork and design. Scrabble uses a simple grid and generic lettering, a few stars. If Scrabulous had half a brain they could copy it and make minor variations in colour and style that no one would notice, but would make it unique. Given that their version is digital, it can't be a duplicate of the real Scrabble game board anyway.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by terrymr (316118)

            You can't copyright the aspects of the board that are dictated by the rules ... artwork yes, basic layout no.

      • by aztektum (170569)

        Oh I suppose lawyers work for free now?

        It's not about money it's about control. Money isn't even about money, it's also about control. Golden rule and all that...

    • by negRo_slim (636783) <mils_oRgen@hotmail.com> on Thursday July 24, 2008 @04:43PM (#24326157)

      Why don't they just buy it?

      They'd rather let the world know you don't F with Hasbro.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by atari2600 (545988)

      From the article:

      Mr. Blecher said that EA had a âoea brief conversationâ with the Scrabulous creators about working together but that ultimately the company decided it wanted to control the game itself and develop it across various technology platforms.

      Too many variables here but one mention of EA and I am ready to judge the whole episode in favor of the Indian brothers. Maybe the Indians opposed the ads? :P

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by eln (21727)

      They probably don't want to appear as if they're rewarding people who they believe stole their intellectual property. That would just inspire others to create even more Scrabble clones in hope of getting bought by Hasbro.

    • Scrabble sees Scrabulous as a Risk to their Monopoly.
    • Buy it from Whom? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Nymz (905908) on Thursday July 24, 2008 @05:18PM (#24326615) Journal

      Doesn't seem very logical to me. Why don't they just buy it?

      1) Trademark your game name
      2) Just buy (it) your trademark from... those violating your trademark?
      3) Profit!!!

      With super-human logic skills like that, I imagine your post getting moderated up by others with an equally stuning level of logic. I also imagine the corollary to be true, as I haven't seen moderation points in years.

    • by ddrichardson (869910) on Thursday July 24, 2008 @05:30PM (#24326771) Homepage

      You know, there is a very odd attitude to copyright on Slashdot. We're not talking about patent trolling here, we are talking about a company which owns a trademark which is being infringed by another company. The infringement isn't even subtle, its a play on the very product they have adapted for online use. We aren't talking about a broad sue everyone who designs a word game attitude, we talking about defending a tradename - one which they are evidently in the process of cashing in on with EA.

      IANAL but this is about how customers identify with a product and a tradename and in this case there is a strong possibility that a large proportion of this 2.3 million users aren't aware there is a distinction. There are cases where a trademark can enter the lexicon, such as Hoover in the UK (for vacuum cleaner), I wouldn't have said this was one.

  • by sampson7 (536545) on Thursday July 24, 2008 @04:42PM (#24326151)
    Is there any serious doubt that Scrabulous infringes on Hasbro's intellectual property? The "creators" of Scrabulous don't even make a token effort to add some new intellectual component to their game. So yeah, while I love Scrabulous, and will probably re-join the "Save Scrabulous" Facebook group, I don't think that they really have a leg to stand on.
    • by jesdynf (42915) on Thursday July 24, 2008 @04:59PM (#24326395) Homepage

      It's not as cut and dried as you say. You can't copyright the rules of a game, only your specific explanation of them.

      There's probably infringing content, and I suppose they are trading on Hasbro's mark, but no, Hasbro doesn't own the platonic ideal of That Specific Word-Tile Game. What Hasbro owns is their description and presentation of that game, and various marks associated with it.

      At least, as I understand things.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by lgw (121541)

        You Can't copyright the rules of a game, but you *can* copyright a game board (just like you can copyright any drawing). Scrabulous infringes on this copyright, which was a big mistake and will probably mean its end.

    • Yes, it's too old. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by IdahoEv (195056) on Thursday July 24, 2008 @05:02PM (#24326433) Homepage

      Is there any serious doubt that Scrabulous infringes on Hasbro's intellectual property?

      Hell yes there's doubt. Scrabble was designed and first marketed in 1938. By any reasonable definition of the "protected for a limited time" aspect of intellectual property principle, Scrabble should be in the public domain by now.

      Inventing or creating something should not give you, your heirs, and the people who bought it from you, and the people who bought it from them the right to make exclusive profit off it for the rest of time.

      The dude who invented Scrabble is long dead. Time to let others play.

      Can you imagine if we we still had to pay royalties to whatever company bought the rights to Shakespeare's estate every time a school drama club wanted to put on Hamlet?

      • by btempleton (149110) on Thursday July 24, 2008 @05:26PM (#24326697) Homepage

        Trademarks do not expire, nor is there a strong argument that they should, other than after a company stops selling the product.

        The test in trademark law is "likelihood of confusion." Which is to say, if you went up to a man in the street, and said, "We have a game where you spell words using tiles on a crossword like board, and get points for the letters, and it's called Scrabulous" is there a reasonable chance a person might confuse that with Scrabble, the trademarked Hasbro game?

        I have to say it sure sounds like yes. And if it's a yes (and depending on how good your lawyers are it doesn't have to be a very strong yes) then the case is pretty clear.

        Trademarks don't expire because aside from protecting the company, they are viewed as also protecting the public from being tricked into buying counterfeit goods. Of course, sometimes the public is better off with counterfeit goods, but the law does not take that view.

        • by cpt kangarooski (3773) on Thursday July 24, 2008 @07:24PM (#24328167) Homepage

          But trademarks do suffer from genericide. I think that this has happened in the case of SCRABBLE. Remember, the sine qua non of trademarks is that they denote that all so-marked goods or services share a common origin; they do not, however, denote the name or type of product which is marked. Hasbro knows this: if you look closely at what they do, you see that what they sell is the SCRABBLE-brand crossword game. That is, according to them, the name of the game is 'crossword game,' just as the product marked as LEVI'S are jeans, not "levi's."

          But even when the mark holder does everything right, the public can still wind up associating the trademark with the good itself. When a trademark can't denote the origin of goods, but merely describes the goods themselves, it has gone generic. TRAMPOLINE, ESCALATOR, and ELEVATOR are all good examples of this. THERMOS, KLEENEX, and XEROX are all perpetually on the knife's edge. SANKA was teetering for a while, but eventually people stopped calling all decaffeinated coffee "sanka," which revitalized the mark.

          I bet that if you conducted a survey of board game players, you'd find that they overwhelmingly think that the game in question is called "scrabble," not "crossword game." If that's so, then the trademark is generic, and everyone is allowed to call their version of that game by that name. And in fact, a carefully-designed and implemented survey is precisely the sort of evidence that you would go into court with.

          So merely showing that people think that the game on Scrabulous' web site is called SCRABBLE isn't enough to sink them. If those people think that the game is called SCRABBLE, whoever sells or provides it, then that's what will sink Hasbro instead.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by houghi (78078)

        Can you imagine if we we still had to pay royalties to whatever company bought the rights to Shakespeare's estate every time a school drama club wanted to put on Hamlet?

        If that company would be named Disney, I unfortunatly could imagine that very well.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by rickb928 (945187)

        "Can you imagine if we we still had to pay royalties to whatever company bought the rights to Shakespeare's estate every time a school drama club wanted to put on Hamlet?"

        I wonder. Where do you go to get a script for Hamlet? Wikipedia? Oh, darn, it might, just MIGHT not be accurate.

        Or maybe the library. You'll need at least three copies of it, I suspect, to rehearse with. Off to the Xerox...

        Actually, the best example of not making a lot of sense to the quick-to-leap, but in the end making some good sens

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by cnaumann (466328)

      The only thing they copied was the rules. How are the rules protected? Copyright? Why should you be able to copyright the rules to a game? That is similar to copyrighting the plot to a movie?

      But what really makes me sad is that every 'official' software version of scrabble that I have played was terrible. I own an official Hasbro scrabble application for my PC. It is so resource intensive that I cannot play it on my laptop without as AC connection. It takes the whole screen. It takes forever to load. Not to

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by SirMeliot (864836)
        There was a neat version of Scrabble many years ago on the ZX Spectrum. (3.5 MHz Z80 CPU 48KB memory)
        You'd have to try really hard to make Scrabble taxing for a PC to run.
    • by Citizen of Earth (569446) on Thursday July 24, 2008 @05:08PM (#24326513)

      Is there any serious doubt that Scrabulous infringes on Hasbro's intellectual property?

      And what intellectual property would that be? The trademark is pretty much the only claim they can make, but I think that most reasonable adults would read "Scrabulous" as meaning "Scrabble(TM)-like, but not Scrabble(TM)". Copyrights would only apply to their artwork and specific wording of the rules. You can't trademark facts. And any patents would have expired decades ago.

    • by cfulmer (3166) on Thursday July 24, 2008 @05:09PM (#24326529) Homepage Journal

      Yes. There is a serious doubt, at least on one of their claims.

      They are raising two basic claims, under trademark law and copyright law. The trademark claim is basically that consumers will be confused into thinking this had something to do with Hasbro. The similarity of the names -- "Scrabble" v. "Scrabulous" doesn't help much. But, changing the name solves that problem.

      The harder case for Hasbro is the copyright claim -- games have "thin" copyrights. In general, the only elements that are protected are (a) the text of the instructions and (b) the graphical elements. So, if Scrabulous didn't copy the Scrabble instructions and didn't copy the graphical elements, they should be fine.

      Even on the graphical elements, if there are a small number of ways of expressing something, that expression is not protected either. So, for example, you need some way of putting both the point value and letter on each tile. With a small number of ways of doing so, I suspect that the tiles themselves are not protected. It's possible that Scrabulous might be dinged for copying Hasbro's choice of colors for the squares.

      I have not played Scrabulous, so I just have no idea how this plays out.

      Great blog post at http://www.thelegality.com/archives/11 [thelegality.com]

      • by DerekLyons (302214) <fairwater@gmFREEBSDail.com minus bsd> on Thursday July 24, 2008 @05:28PM (#24326739) Homepage

        So, if Scrabulous didn't copy the Scrabble instructions and didn't copy the graphical elements, they should be fine.

        And that's the problem - to some extent they do both, to the point where the game is recognizably Scrabble with the serial numbers badly filed off.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          No,
          To be recognized as a car, a soda, or a bottle of stomach acid reliever does not mean you have infringed on the copyright of Ford, Pepsi, or Pepto-Bismol.

          That it WORKS the same way is a patent question an long expired.

          On the other hand, if you have a trench-coat lined with cheap watches which you are trying to pass off as $2K Rolex timepieces, you have infringed.

          Did facebook players say ooh- that looks like a real cardboard scrabble board game by Hasbro - so I'll play it,

          Or did they say - gee that looks

    • Is there any serious doubt that Scrabulous infringes on Hasbro's intellectual property?

      Looking at the history of Scrabble on Hasbro's website, all that Hasbro owns is the Trademark. Which leaves them, at best, complaining about a similar name for a similar product. So all the Srabulous people have to do is change the name to "the Game Formerly Known as S*********", and they're in like Flynn.

  • by peltedsoftware (1332353) on Thursday July 24, 2008 @04:43PM (#24326163) Homepage
    I wrote a couple of iPhone games that are clones of Yahtzee, and Battleship respectivly. One thing that worried me is getting sued like this. All I can do is hope to not rock their boat to much. I tried not to infringe on any trademarks, but who knows with these big ass companies.
  • Scrabble (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    What year was it invented? According to Wikipedia, more than 50 years ago. Sorry, but I do not feel any of the so-called intellectual property associated with this game should be in force except for the name. If they want to sue over trademark infringement over the name, fine. Anything else, no I do not believe my taxpayer dollars should be paying for a monopoly (another game that should be in the public domain by now) of 50+ years on this game.

    • Re:Scrabble (Score:4, Insightful)

      by sssssss27 (1117705) on Thursday July 24, 2008 @05:01PM (#24326411)
      It's my understanding that this is a trademark issue. Anyone can make a Scrabble style game, it can even have the same rules as Scrabble, it just can't be called Scrabble or anything similar enough to seem like it's Hasbro version of Scrabble.
    • I think pretty much anyone except the courts and big buisness would agree with you.

      But isn't it always nice when EA becomes the only one who gets to make a game? This way we'll be able to see scrabulous 2009, followed by scrabulous 2010, the difference being that even more ads are crammed in. Scrabulous 2011 will disable all words that are not product names of sponsors. Scrabulous 2012 will give you extra points for purchasing those products. Then the Mayan calendar predicts the end of the world, or so

    • Re:Scrabble (Score:5, Insightful)

      by vux984 (928602) on Thursday July 24, 2008 @05:10PM (#24326543)

      Sorry, but I do not feel any of the so-called intellectual property associated with this game should be in force except for the name.

      Why not? Copyrights are in force for longer than 50 years. This is being argued as a copyright and trademark violation. And why shouldn't copyright apply to a game? It applies to restaurant menus, email memos, blog posts, napkin doodles, finger paintings, and so on. Why can't it apply to a board game?

      Granted, the idea of a crossword game where you construct words from pieces shouldn't be copy protected. But the precise rules, layout of a particular board, etc should be.

      There are lots of scrabble-like games that should not be found infringing... but scrabulous?

      Scrabulous has double and tripple letter and word scores in the same places on a board that is the same size and shape, from a set of pieces with the same letter frequency, and the game follows exactly the same rules.

      It looks like scrabble. It plays like scrabble. Its even almost-but-not-quite called scrabble.

      How is that different from writing a novel entitled Lord of the Bracelets, you know the one? Its about the Dark Lord Soron who forged 9 bracelets for men, 7 for dwarfs (not dwarves), and 3 for elfs (not elves), and one master bracelet for himself, which was lost in a great war and then found by Seegul... from whom it was stolen by Billy and then passed on to his adopted nephew Frobo...who carried it to Riverdell with his friend Samsmart while being pursued by braceletwraiths... and from there a great journey was undertaken by the council to form the Fellowship of the Bracelets to carry the ring to Doom Mountain and destroy it...

      There's writing fantasy that was influenced and inspired by Tolkien... and then there is Lord of the Bracelets.

      Like my "Lord of the Bracelets" Scrabulous deserves to be found infringing and shut down.

      If they want to sue over trademark infringement over the name, fine.

      That's part of it too.

      • by stinerman (812158)

        Rules of games aren't copyrightable (well the actual text of the rules are, but not the rules themselves), but they are patentable. I believe Scrabble had been patented (like Monopoly) but the patent has long since expired.

        IANAL, and I don't use Scrabulous, so I can't say if they are infringing on board layout or some other copyrightable effect. They probably have a good case on trademark though, Scrabulous is pretty close to Scrabble. I don't think I can get away with a car company called Generalized Mo

  • by vigmeister (1112659) on Thursday July 24, 2008 @04:47PM (#24326213)

    Is probably to ignore damages (or settle out of court in a way that the brothers aren't pissed off). They ought to then have Scrabulous disabled and then work with the brothers and EA to migrate Scrabulous users over to the official Scrabble app.

    Free publicity+userbase >> damages

    Cheers!

  • by feedayeen (1322473) on Thursday July 24, 2008 @04:47PM (#24326217)
    Every time I hear the name Hasbro, it is suing someone for infringing upon some old game that they either made or bought decades ago.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by LostCluster (625375) *
      They seem to need to find a better distribution system. Their product is sold at toy stores, but that'll set off the adult-without-kids alarm if any Slashdot reader were to try to buy them that way.
  • Could they still sue then?

    I think they would cross the line then if they did.

  • Still alternatives (Score:5, Interesting)

    by uberphear (984901) on Thursday July 24, 2008 @04:52PM (#24326283)
    Unfortunately, Hasbro will most likely come out on top because the Scrabble board layout itself is copyrighted and trademarked.

    The lawsuit wouldn't be quite so egregious if Hasbro offered their own online Scrabble game which wasn't extortionately priced, offered the same level of interactivity and community, and didn't suck all manner of ass.

    Will they unsheathe the "lost sales" gun too, I wonder? If anything, Scrabulous made me more interested in Scrabble than any number of adverts or publicity by Hasbro ever has. Let's all go play on the Internet Scrabble Club [www.isc.ro] instead.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Rutulian (171771)

      So, what exactly is the precedent here? I didn't think you could copyright the layout of a board game. You could copyright the rule book and trademark the name, but that's about it. I know there are tons of clones of popular games out there (Risk, Monopoly, etc), and they aren't getting sued. So I don't see how Scrabulous is any different....

  • Counter Sue (Score:5, Interesting)

    by AmericanInKiev (453362) on Thursday July 24, 2008 @04:56PM (#24326331) Homepage

    Here's an interesting argument.

    If the court concludes that the differences between a cardboard-n-wood game, and an electronic - internet power game having similar look and feel IS a diminuative difference - then this decision could be cited in every X-on-the-Internet patent as equally dissmissing the key feature of "Novelty".

    In this country, the USPTO has granted endless claims for invention which are simply some traditional application - but rewired to work on the Internet. Mail (by Internet), Mail (by wireless ala Blackberry) Voice (over IP), shopping carts(on the internet), From buttons to telecommunications, shopping to sex, every aspect of our society has been "virtualized" and in every case won the argument that the virtualized version was novel and distinct from the real world counter-part.

    Patents are only good for 15 years or so. so the workings of Scrabble are public domain (ie the addition and multiplication of points, placements etc... Only the name and logo are protect-able at this point. The broad net that would capture Scrabulous and scrabble would ensnare Pepsi-Cola and Coca-Cola, ABC and NBC.

    If I were Scrabulous, I would counter sue for infringement on the new EA Scrabble version, on the grounds that the similarities between EA Scrabble and Scrabulous are greater than the similarities between Scrabble-the-Board-Game, and Scrabulous. In short, the addition of internet connectivity and facebook integration is a novel game which serves a customer base which is completely unavailble to a Boardgame due to distance - while the duplicate EA version serves exactly the same customer in exactly the same way.

    AIK

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Sigma 7 (266129)

      Patents are only good for 15 years or so. so the workings of Scrabble are public domain (ie the addition and multiplication of points, placements etc... Only the name and logo are protect-able at this point.

      Scrabble isn't protected by patent - it's protected by copyright.

      Anyone can create a 15x15 grid with various points to multiply a score. However, copyright law protects the decoration of the board in certain patterns.

      If I were Scrabulous, I would counter sue for infringement on the new EA Scrabble version, on the grounds that the similarities between EA Scrabble and Scrabulous are greater than the similarities between Scrabble-the-Board-Game, and Scrabulous. In short, the addition of internet connectivity and facebook integration is a novel game which serves a customer base which is completely unavailble to a Boardgame due to distance - while the duplicate EA version serves exactly the same customer in exactly the same way.

      The only similarity between EA's Scrabble and Scrabulous that is not covered under the board game is the addition of Internet connectivity - which was already handled by EA's wide variety of games released many years before Scrabulous. Any other similarities between EA Scrabble and Scrabulous

  • by DangerJones (1125935) on Thursday July 24, 2008 @05:01PM (#24326415)
    How about Hasbro makes an application that isn't only available in America and Canada before they spoil our fun?
  • As far as I know you can't copywrite game rules, and I am not familiar with this app, so I'm guessing it is so similar they are suing based on trademark.

    • by stinerman (812158)

      If you'd have RTFA, you'd have noticed they are suing for copyright and trademark infringement.

      Apparently, Scrabulous is infringing on something copyrightable such as a board design.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 24, 2008 @05:07PM (#24326499)

    If they hadn't used the word "Scrabble" in the URL for the single player - aka, practice - version of the game up until Hasbro started making noise; for all I know, they may have used Scrabble elsewhere on their site or in their meta tags. That alone should merit trademark infringement.

    Sorry, I'm very much for things like abolition of software patents and shortening of copyright terms - and I'm aware that game play cannot be patented - however these guys were obviously trying to benefit from the image of Scrabble. They went so far as to use the term to refer to their game, nevermind trying to actively dissuade people from confusing. The makers of Scrabulous acted unethically and I believe illegally.

  • FreeCiv (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Chiasmus_ (171285) <ayatollah_hyperbole.yahoo@com> on Thursday July 24, 2008 @05:12PM (#24326557) Journal
    So, I've been playing with FreeCiv and FreeCol, and I thought their commentary was interesting.

    The question was posed: isn't this blatant copyright infringement?

    And their answer was - maybe not. Although it's clear that you can copyright graphics and sounds, and you can copyright a story and a plot, and you can copyright code, and you can copyright maps - it isn't clear whether you can copyright a ruleset.

    It isn't clear, for example, whether you can copyright the concept of turning a card sideways to increase a number used to play other cards. It isn't clear whether the concept of a 2-D character jumping from one platform to another, and losing a life if he doesn't make it, could have been copyrighted.

    Maybe this will clear some things up. Scrabble, after all, has no real proprietary art beyond their logo maybe the font used on the tiles. It's just rules, and nothing more. Can you copyright a concept? (Actually, that sounds more like something you'd use a patent for).
  • When the RIAA sued Napster, I decided they'd never see another dime from me - and, true to my word, I haven't bought another RIAA-member album since. Haven't pirated many, either. Turns out independent music is actually pretty good.

    Well, guess what. Now I'm done with Hasbro. I'm uninstalling M:TGO; I won't be replacing Cranium, Axis & Allies, Risk, or Monopoly when they inevitably wear out; I won't be buying any video game based on Dungeons & Dragons, Star Wars, G.I. Joe, etc.

    Fuck companie
  • by MattW (97290) <matt@ender.com> on Thursday July 24, 2008 @05:29PM (#24326765) Homepage

    I own and like Scrabble. Online, I tend to play Yahoo's "Literati" game. I've got my iphone dev kit, and this made me wonder - what sort of IP would it infringe?

    You can certainly copyright rules and such for a board game, but if they're rewritten, that's taken care of. I figure you can probably copyright a board design, but the look and feel can be reworked without changing gameplay.

    You can trademark the name - and maybe they think "Scrabulous" is infringing.

    Lastly, there's gameplay patents. Scrabble apparently had no patents aside from a patent on an indicator in the corners of tiles so you could tell how they had been played after the fact without lifting the tile. And it was 1956 and expired in the 70s.

    So, I guess what I want to know is: what are they infringing? My guess is the name (trademark) or the board design (copyright), but who knows?

  • by FlipSide5 (1332429) on Thursday July 24, 2008 @07:49PM (#24328453)
    I wrote a Connect4 game for the iPhone called Touch4 (http://phobos.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewSoftware?id=283490535). I did some research on this and the name can be trademarked which is what MAY be the issue here. Like scrabble, the game play for connect four is centuries old and there cannot be infringement on that. My guess is that this is a negotiation tactic my Hasbro. I am watching this one closely. I wanted to name our pong game with Pong in the name but decided not to take the legal risk which is why it's called Touch Tennis (http://phobos.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewSoftware?id=284442084). I think the other games with Pong in the name are at legal risk. Some of them aren't even pong, but just using "Pong" to get hits.

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