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Hasbro Sues Makers of Scrabble-Like Scrabulous

timothy posted more than 6 years ago | from the cryin'-shame-continues dept.

Businesses 395

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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My turn? (5, Funny)

pbhj (607776) | more than 6 years ago | (#24326085)

I R S F T T O P S Q

Re:My turn? (5, Funny)

felipekk (1007591) | more than 6 years ago | (#24326345)

They are mad because you get more points for making "Scrabulous" than for "Scrabble".

Re:My turn? (1)

pgillan (1043668) | more than 6 years ago | (#24326593)

They are mad because you get more points for making "Scrabulous" than for "Scrabble".

I don't think either is allowed because they're proper names.

Re:My turn? (5, Informative)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 6 years ago | (#24326907)

Scrabble is a noun and a verb as well as a proper noun, and so is allowed. Since it is eight letters long, you are most likely to use up all of your letters spelling it and so you get 50 extra points. Scrabulous is a proper noun and not a real word, so it is not allowed.

So in Scrabble-like terms... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24326091)

DESPERATION: When you rearrange the letters: A ROPE ENDS IT

Why don't they just buy it? (5, Insightful)

diskofish (1037768) | more than 6 years ago | (#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?

Re:Why don't they just buy it? (5, Insightful)

MBCook (132727) | more than 6 years ago | (#24326145)

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.

Re:Why don't they just buy it? (5, Insightful)

spun (1352) | more than 6 years ago | (#24326839)

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.

Re:Why don't they just buy it? (1)

aztektum (170569) | more than 6 years ago | (#24326859)

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...

Re:Why don't they just buy it? (4, Funny)

negRo_slim (636783) | more than 6 years ago | (#24326157)

Why don't they just buy it?

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

Re:Why don't they just buy it? (3, Funny)

Mordok-DestroyerOfWo (1000167) | more than 6 years ago | (#24326597)

Technically Q is worth way more than F

Re:Why don't they just buy it? (2, Informative)

atari2600 (545988) | more than 6 years ago | (#24326189)

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:Why don't they just buy it? (2, Insightful)

eln (21727) | more than 6 years ago | (#24326201)

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.

Re:Why don't they just buy it? (-1, Flamebait)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 6 years ago | (#24326317)

OMG: Indians have stolen the crossword puzzle?

What will they take next?

Can scalps be far behind?

Re:Why don't they just buy it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24326539)

Wrong kind of Indians, idiot. The brothers are from India, the sub-continent of Asia, not from America, the inhabitants of which your ancestor incorrectly labeled.

Re:Why don't they just buy it? (5, Funny)

Wandering Wombat (531833) | more than 6 years ago | (#24326503)

Scrabble sees Scrabulous as a Risk to their Monopoly.

Re:Why don't they just buy it? (1)

LostCluster (625375) | more than 6 years ago | (#24326635)

And for the record, Monopoly is expected to be next up from the Pogo.com team under the same Hasbro/EA deal that made them the official supplier of Scrabble.

Re:Why don't they just buy it? (5, Funny)

FuzzyFox (772046) | more than 6 years ago | (#24326695)

That could lead to Trouble. Sorry!

Re:Why don't they just buy it? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24326733)

So they could be taking a huge Risk?

Re:Why don't they just buy it? (1)

Bob The Cowboy (308954) | more than 6 years ago | (#24326887)

People on Slashdot need to get a Life.

Re:Why don't they just buy it? (2, Funny)

huckamania (533052) | more than 6 years ago | (#24326935)

Get a Clue... that's Life.

Re:Why don't they just buy it? (2, Funny)

Rib Feast (458942) | more than 6 years ago | (#24326741)

Scabble is obviously taking a Domineering approach to this, causing the two Indian guys to Craps themselves.

Re:Why don't they just buy it? (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 6 years ago | (#24326591)

Paying people other for your own intellectual property doesn;t seem all that logical. Especially considering suing is probably cheaper.

Buy it from Whom? (4, Insightful)

Nymz (905908) | more than 6 years ago | (#24326615)

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.

Litigation is a tool (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24326701)

If I were Hasbro, I'd be celebrating right now.

Their only real issue is with the time it took for them to sue. Because what Hasbro has done is let the company build up and attract a subscriber base (And by the way, do you think people believe that is because of "Scrabulous"? No, they are playing "The free version of Scrabble")

So Hasbro gets tons of benefits. For the person asking why Hasbro doesn't just buy the company, it is because litigation is a TOOL, and probably because it is more profitable to file a lawsuit.

Filing a lawsuit = Cash INFLOW
Buying a company = Cash OUTFLOW (temporary perhaps, but also more risky)

Also for the person asking why don't they just buy it... I'm curious how you would determine that Scrabulous is a good enough company to buy? How many classes have you had in buying a business?

Re:Why don't they just buy it? (5, Insightful)

ddrichardson (869910) | more than 6 years ago | (#24326771)

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.

Wow (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24326115)

That's Scrabulous news!

I love Scrabulous, but.... (4, Interesting)

sampson7 (536545) | more than 6 years ago | (#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.

Re:I love Scrabulous, but.... (1)

fireslack (1039158) | more than 6 years ago | (#24326229)

Hasbro hasn't exactly tried hard to defend their patent until now. That may not bode well for them.

Did you say patent? (2, Funny)

Spy der Mann (805235) | more than 6 years ago | (#24326279)

Hasbro hasn't exactly tried hard to defend their patent until now. That may not bode well for them.

If you're right and the problem in question is a patents one, I think the best for EA right now would be to apply some dilatory tactics until software patents are abolished, then give the letters "F" and "U" to Hasbro.

Re:Did you say patent? (1)

sampson7 (536545) | more than 6 years ago | (#24326307)

No, actually, I didn't say "patent." Try looking to trademark law -- entirely different kettle of fish.

Bad threading? Re:Did you say patent? (1)

Sancho (17056) | more than 6 years ago | (#24326583)

The person to whom Spy der Mann replied did, in fact, use the word patent. Is this another example of screwy threading on Slashdot?

On my screen, the tree looks like this:

#24326151 by sampson7
      |
#24326220 by fireslack (uses the word 'patent')
      |
#24326279 by Spy der Man (accuses use of the word)
      |
#24326307 by sampson7 (denying use of the word)

Odd behavior.

Re:I love Scrabulous, but.... (4, Funny)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 6 years ago | (#24326337)

This game is older than I am. How can there still be a patent on it?

Trademark issues abound for sure...

But Patents? Puleeeze...

It's like they think they have some sort of... Monopoly.

Re:I love Scrabulous, but.... (5, Interesting)

jesdynf (42915) | more than 6 years ago | (#24326395)

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.

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

IdahoEv (195056) | more than 6 years ago | (#24326433)

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?

Re:Yes, it's too old. (1)

fishbowl (7759) | more than 6 years ago | (#24326507)

>The dude who invented Scrabble is long dead.

How long, exactly, to the day, please?

Re:Yes, it's too old. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24326569)

Alfred Mosher Butts died April 4th 1993 according to Wikipedia

Re:Yes, it's too old. (2, Informative)

cdrudge (68377) | more than 6 years ago | (#24326589)

Not counting today (July 24th), 5590 days or 15 years, 3 months, 20 days.

Re:Yes, it's too old. (3, Insightful)

fishbowl (7759) | more than 6 years ago | (#24326899)

Thank you. It will be a while before the rights of his estate are rescinded and his copyrights enter the public domain.
Agree or disagree with copyright duration, this is the issue.

Re:Yes, it's too old. (1)

zach_d (782013) | more than 6 years ago | (#24326629)

5499 days. :)

Mr Butts [wikipedia.org]

Re:Yes, it's too old. (1)

zach_d (782013) | more than 6 years ago | (#24326797)

and, I'm wrong... that's true if today is april 24...

Re:Yes, it's too old. (1)

Bemopolis (698691) | more than 6 years ago | (#24326937)

How long, exactly, to the day, please?

5590 days. I think that should be plenty, copyright-wise — especially as it was first sold in its final form in 1948.

Re:Yes, it's too old. (5, Informative)

btempleton (149110) | more than 6 years ago | (#24326697)

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.

Re:Yes, it's too old. (1)

winomonkey (983062) | more than 6 years ago | (#24326915)

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?

Yeah ... wouldn't it be great? Think of the hours of pain and suffering that parents the world around might be able to avoid!

Re:Yes, it's too old. (2, Insightful)

houghi (78078) | more than 6 years ago | (#24326917)

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:I love Scrabulous, but.... (2, Interesting)

cnaumann (466328) | more than 6 years ago | (#24326461)

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 mention that the disk had to be in the drive in order to play. I have also had an official handheld scrabble game. It was a small board, it had a weird dictionary, and too many 'Qs' and 'Zs'.

It is sad when the official owners of an IP cannot produce a usable implementation of that IP.

Re:I love Scrabulous, but.... (5, Insightful)

Citizen of Earth (569446) | more than 6 years ago | (#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.

Re:I love Scrabulous, but.... (5, Informative)

cfulmer (3166) | more than 6 years ago | (#24326529)

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]

Re:I love Scrabulous, but.... (3, Insightful)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 6 years ago | (#24326739)

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:I love Scrabulous, but.... (1)

dontmakemethink (1186169) | more than 6 years ago | (#24326923)

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.

I think they did, and I expect either those will be changed, or Hasbro will be successful in shutting them down.

But here's the kicker: the game makers are citizens and residents of India, while the legal jurisdiction is the US. They can just sit back and let the money roll in until the tap gets turned off without any fear of losing anything. From the original article [cnet.com] :

...the defendants could simply ignore it if they [have] no U.S. assets to seize, and aren't worried about Indian courts enforcing a default judgment.

Re:I love Scrabulous, but.... (1)

GumphMaster (772693) | more than 6 years ago | (#24326939)

The trademark claim is basically that consumers will be confused into thinking this had something to do with Hasbro.

I strongly suspect that while Average Joe will instantly recognise that letter tile game is not typically called Scrabulous, he could not tell you who claims that word tile game and is, therefore, exceptionally unlikely to associate Scrabulous with Hasbro, Parker Bros,. or Krusty the Clown.

Just change the trade dress and release the code (1)

davidwr (791652) | more than 6 years ago | (#24326645)

Change enough to be legal. Change the name. Change the colors. Multiply all point values by 3. In other words, strip it of anything trademark-like.

Then release the underlying code so even if you do get sued into oblivion someone else can start their own.

Re:I love Scrabulous, but.... (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 6 years ago | (#24326691)

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.

This is what I am worried about.. (4, Interesting)

peltedsoftware (1332353) | more than 6 years ago | (#24326163)

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.

Re:This is what I am worried about.. (1, Insightful)

elemnt14 (1319289) | more than 6 years ago | (#24326203)

Now that you mentioned it, they are going to be commin' a knocking at your door any minute now.

Re:This is what I am worried about.. (1)

smussman (1160103) | more than 6 years ago | (#24326285)

You mean kind of like Tali [gnome.org] ?

Re:This is what I am worried about.. (2, Interesting)

peltedsoftware (1332353) | more than 6 years ago | (#24326367)

Yea, but fun graphics.... :-) http://peltedsoftware.com/ [peltedsoftware.com]

Re:This is what I am worried about.. (1)

smussman (1160103) | more than 6 years ago | (#24326541)

Yeah, your graphics definitely look more Mac-ish. I guess the idea I was trying to get across was that if they haven't been sued, then your probability is pretty low. At least unless your apps really take off. (which might not be a bad thing ;))

Re:This is what I am worried about.. (3, Informative)

Shade of Pyrrhus (992978) | more than 6 years ago | (#24326485)

Very unlikely - one big issue with Scrabulous is that they've made quite a bit of cash selling advertising on their app. So not only are they being a copycat, they're also profiting off of someone else's IP.

Scrabulous ... attracts over 600,000 daily users and gives the brothers $25,000 of advertising a month.

[http://www.thetrendwatch.com/2008/01/31/scrabble-vs-scrabulous/ [thetrendwatch.com] ]

If you're not selling your app or ads on it, you're likely safe...but IANAL ;)

Scrabble (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24326171)

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 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24326343)

Monopoly, of course, is in the public domain -- it's only trademarks that Hasbro owns. In this case it's utterly obvious that Scrabulous infringes on the Scrabble trademark, so the name of the game needs to change.

But copyright? Hasbro can get fucked.

Re:Scrabble (3, Insightful)

sssssss27 (1117705) | more than 6 years ago | (#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.

Re:Scrabble (1)

philspear (1142299) | more than 6 years ago | (#24326449)

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 I've been told.

Re:Scrabble (5, Insightful)

vux984 (928602) | more than 6 years ago | (#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.

Re:Scrabble (1)

stinerman (812158) | more than 6 years ago | (#24326613)

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 Motors.

Re:Scrabble (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24326877)

Problem: Game rules cannot be covered by copyright. The particular expression of the game rules can be, but not the rules of the game themselves.

Best thing for Hasbro to do... (3, Interesting)

vigmeister (1112659) | more than 6 years ago | (#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!

Does Hasbro even make games still? (3, Insightful)

feedayeen (1322473) | more than 6 years ago | (#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:Does Hasbro even make games still? (2, Funny)

LostCluster (625375) | more than 6 years ago | (#24326565)

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.

Rename it Crosswords (1)

zymano (581466) | more than 6 years ago | (#24326251)

Could they still sue then?

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

Still alternatives (5, Interesting)

uberphear (984901) | more than 6 years ago | (#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:Still alternatives (2, Informative)

Rutulian (171771) | more than 6 years ago | (#24326409)

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....

Apparently, YANAL. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24326605)

Apparently, YANAL.

Re:Still alternatives (1)

AmonEzhno (1276076) | more than 6 years ago | (#24326611)

I was wondering the same thing. On another point on that thread; to breach a larger issue, how is a game created in 1948 still under copyright. That seems ridiculous to me.

Re:Still alternatives (1)

fishbowl (7759) | more than 6 years ago | (#24326619)

>So, what exactly is the precedent here? I didn't think you could copyright the layout of a board game.

It is a creative expression fixed into a tangible medium that lasts for more than a brief period of time.
It is not trivial -- the layout of the board is critical to the mechanics of the game.

Why do you imagine copyright law can't apply to it? What makes the design of a game board
special?

>there are tons of clones of popular games out there (Risk, Monopoly, etc),

Risk is copyrighted and trademaked, and many who make commercial derivatives, do license the game.
The creator died in 1970. But the copyright is still valid in every nation signed to the Berne Convention.

Monopoly was in the public domain long before it was even commercially sold.

Re:Still alternatives (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 6 years ago | (#24326655)

You can probably copyright the board as well.

Then it's just a question of what is and isn't a derivative work. Just when does a similar board count as different enough?

Isn't that patent and trademark? (1)

davidwr (791652) | more than 6 years ago | (#24326705)

The mechanics of the game, the use of a player-generated crossword puzzle, point-multipliers in specific locations, the point values and other rules are typically covered by patents, and don't last all that long.

The actual wording of the rules and the name and logo are probably covered by copyright, which is still in force.

The name, logo, colors, the "star patterns" on the point-multipliers, and possibly even the location of the number of points on each tile are probably covered by trademark, which lasts "forever" as long as it is in use.

If these guys had created their own trade dress and reworded the rules, they'd be in much better shape legally. Of course, they would have to rely on word of mouth advertising to be "discovered" as an online "Scrabble game."

Counter Sue (5, Interesting)

AmericanInKiev (453362) | more than 6 years ago | (#24326331)

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:Counter Sue (1)

hellwig (1325869) | more than 6 years ago | (#24326721)

It's unclear how the lawsuit will proceed; the defendants could simply ignore it if they no U.S. assets to seize, and aren't worried about Indian courts enforcing a default judgment. RJ Softwares did not respond to queries on Thursday.

Why don't the makers of Scrabulous just ignore the lawsuit if they're all the way in India? India certainly isn't going to extradite them over a civil suit. As long as they don't plan any trips to America they should be fine to continue as they like, correct?

Is their website hosted in America, otherwise, how can Hasbro ask the courts to disable it? Certainly the courts powers don't extend to the American DNS servers. I mean, imagine the ramifications if you could sue someone and have their domain blocked in America. A great-firewall controlled not by communists but any asshole with enough money to file a lawsuit. And certainly the New York court can't force ICANN to simply disable the domain name world wide. There's already enough international outcry over the fact that America essentially controls ICANN, imagine if an American court blocked a foreign domain.

"It's really no different from when the recording industry faced the issue of folks posting music on sites like Napster and letting them copy it for free."

Wrong. This isn't copying and uploading, this is re-creating from scratch and uploading. I remember when reverse-engineering something was still legal. These guys created an internet application from scratch that mirrors the actions of a physical product created 70 years prior. Thank god the patent office/court system wasn't always this stupid, otherwise Eli Whitney would have been sued by the guy who thought-up slavery.

Name, logo, and text of the rules (1)

davidwr (791652) | more than 6 years ago | (#24326753)

The exact text of the rules is covered by copyright. Until those expire they are protected. It's easy enough to reword them though.

common wisdom (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24326349)

If you can't beat 'em, sue 'em.

old news (0)

pak9rabid (1011935) | more than 6 years ago | (#24326391)

Oh, how quickly we forget [slashdot.org]

Re: New News (for once) (4, Informative)

sampson7 (536545) | more than 6 years ago | (#24326537)

Actually, Hasbro withdrew their prior lawsuit against Scrabulous *until* such time as it could put its own service up on Facebook. Hasbro's version is now live, and they have recommenced their suit. Ergo, this is new news.

Way to pick the ONE article in the history of /. that is actually *not* a dupe.

Hasbro only avail in 2 countries. Thanks Hasbro. (5, Informative)

DangerJones (1125935) | more than 6 years ago | (#24326415)

How about Hasbro makes an application that isn't only available in America and Canada before they spoil our fun?

Game Rules (1)

Nightspirit (846159) | more than 6 years ago | (#24326417)

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.

Re:Game Rules (1)

stinerman (812158) | more than 6 years ago | (#24326641)

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.

Why not yahoo games Literati (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24326481)

? why hasn't yahoo been touched

Re:Why not yahoo games Literati (1)

night_flyer (453866) | more than 6 years ago | (#24326783)

cause it doesnt have a name that is similer to scrabble?

I'd have more sympathy for the Scrabulous people.. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#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.

Re:I'd have more sympathy for the Scrabulous peopl (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24326585)

You were safe until you used the term "Sorry" and "game" in the same in the same paragraph, but now we are forced to sue you.

Re:I'd have more sympathy for the Scrabulous peopl (1)

Cajun Hell (725246) | more than 6 years ago | (#24326621)

A word in a URL can infringe a trademark? Wow. I guess they should change that part of the URL to "buttheadgamecompany".

FreeCiv (3, Interesting)

Chiasmus_ (171285) | more than 6 years ago | (#24326557)

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).

once again the US has no clue (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24326631)

good luck enforcing US laws against an Indian company

Well, this is another last straw for me. (1, Interesting)

Chiasmus_ (171285) | more than 6 years ago | (#24326643)

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 companies that cling to the antiquated business model that withholding entertainment through legal action is still a valid way to do things.

DMCA in Canada? (1)

A L 1 E N (1177827) | more than 6 years ago | (#24326719)

Here's an excerpt from the press release as posted on Kotaku: http://kotaku.com/5028663/hasbro-sues-over-scrabulous-facebook-game [kotaku.com]

In addition, Hasbro has delivered to Facebook, which hosts the Scrabulous game, a notification of copyright infringement under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (or the "DMCA") requesting that they remove the Scrabulous application in the U.S. and Canada as soon as possible.

This burns me up in so many ways. >:(

Not only is this a trademark case rather than a copyright one (as far I can tell, no lawyer here), but as a Canadian, it disgusts me that they're using the DMCA to dictate what can or cannot be published in Canada. We're having a tough enough time keeping crap legislation like that out of our country without amoral corporations smearing it across the boarder.

So, what does it infringe? (2, Insightful)

MattW (97290) | more than 6 years ago | (#24326765)

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?

Hurts sales? Hah. (1)

Quirkz (1206400) | more than 6 years ago | (#24326853)

I already own three Scrabble sets: deluxe, regular, and travel. I'm not going to buy another. And I never use any of the sets because: 1) Most of the people I would play with live out of state 2) It's actually a lot more boring in person because you have to sit and wait for them to play; with an online version you can do other things while your opponent thinks, and they're doing other things while it's your turn. Besides, the digital version is significantly different than the real-world one. Automatic tile shuffling, built-in dictionary, automatic scoring: these things I would kill to have in the box set Scrabble and are much more pleasant to have done for me by the computer. I don't know if it constitutes a "difference" in the legal sense, but in terms of personal experience it's a phenomenal difference. And leaving a game up for days or weeks, completely unattended, without having your cats nap on the middle of the board or eat the pieces? Priceless.

What Intellectual Property? (1)

Undead Ed (1068120) | more than 6 years ago | (#24326933)

There can be no patent on a games and the copyright on the board must be pretty narrow - certainly does not cover the essentials of the game.

The only legitimate complaint could be the title but that is going to be tough.

I REALLY hope Scrabulous kicks their butt in court.

Ed

The game is too simple (1)

archont (1215492) | more than 6 years ago | (#24326957)

There's a finite number of games a man can develop and play. Ti-tac-toe is one of them, chess is another. I don't see why both should be free of copyrights while Scrabble wouldn't be. Indeed, some long-dead man invented it one day, but the same applies to all such games.

My logic tells me it makes sense if hasbro wants to prevent companies from releasing scrabble clones. You know, the real stuff you can touch and move. The kind of stuff that is real.

But virtual scrabble? The blocks aren't the same, because they don't exist. The name is different, even if some may see similarities and the rules are different, maybe because there was no code to copy from. It's safe to assume the sued company didn't copy any assets - they wrote something, from scratch, that is similar. Because adding anything more would make it worse.

What does this mean for 3rd party D&D publishe (1)

RSKennan (835119) | more than 6 years ago | (#24326971)

I wonder if this means that Hasborg will be going after the people who publish D&D stuff under copyright instead of the GSL next. As it stands, game rules can't be copyrighted any more than a math equation can.

I know I'm probably an idiot for not RTFA, but the only things they could be going after under current law would be the board design, logos and such. If they're trying to cast a broader net, that could set some far reaching precedents.
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