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Hasbro Finally Drops Scrabulous Lawsuit

Soulskill posted more than 5 years ago | from the triple-word-score dept.

Classic Games (Games) 51

The Associated Press reports that Hasbro Inc. has now dropped the lawsuit it launched earlier this year against Rajat and Jayant Agarwalla, the creators of Scrabulous, a Scrabble clone that found a sizable following on Facebook. We previously discussed Scrabulous' return to Facebook under a different name, as well as the "official" Scrabble client, which was not exactly well received. Hasbro's IP rights to the game are limited to North America, and the AP story adds: "Mattel, which owns the rights to Scrabble outside of North America, filed a lawsuit against the brothers in India claiming violations of intellectual property. It was not immediately clear what the status of that lawsuit is."

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I hate that frigging game (5, Funny)

stoolpigeon (454276) | more than 5 years ago | (#26143541)

My wife absolutely crushes me every time we play. It was bad enough when she dominated me in physical sports but this is too much. I was really hoping they would get shut down.

Re:I hate that frigging game (1)

n3tcat (664243) | more than 5 years ago | (#26144003)

Maybe you'd have better luck with WiiSports boxing...

Re:I hate that frigging game (4, Funny)

stoolpigeon (454276) | more than 5 years ago | (#26144077)

She's brutal with that. She got beat once- and then played in practice mode until she could whip everybody in the family. Really all I've got left is Mario Kart double dash - but nobody wants to play that any more. I just race the console.
 
It's cool though. She's just very competitive and I'm not. But my vocabulary isn't too bad - I thought scrabulous was a real opportunity to dominate. I was very mistaken.

Re:I hate that frigging game (4, Informative)

quarterbuck (1268694) | more than 5 years ago | (#26144725)

The only way out then is to get used to the idea of Comparative advantage [wikipedia.org] . She may be better than you at everything in absolute terms, but since both of you have only 24 hours in a day, it still is better for you to stick together and interact (play games). You just have to find the game you are the absolute best and she is the absolute worst and play for limited time (so that she does'nt change her comparative advantage).
This is how my economist professor explained the reasoning for marrying an absolutely hot and smart woman.

Re:I hate that frigging game (2, Insightful)

jdgeorge (18767) | more than 5 years ago | (#26147423)

This is how my economist professor explained the reasoning for marrying an absolutely hot and smart woman.

And yet, to me, the reasoning is similar to what I'd do with a winning lottery ticket: I wouldn't say, "no, I'm not sure I'd be comfortable with all that wealth; why don't you keep it?" Instead, I'd say, "yes, thank you, I'll take the 'cash now' option please."

Re:I hate that frigging game (1)

quarterbuck (1268694) | more than 5 years ago | (#26148487)

I should have been clearer - he is married to another very smart woman and he said this had to be the reason she picked HIM.

Re:I hate that frigging game (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26167797)

Are you saying he's a woman now?

Re:I hate that frigging game (1)

Xtravar (725372) | more than 5 years ago | (#26146501)

Due to statistical findings, we can safely assume you make more money than her. So don't feel too bad.

In the rare case you don't... well, I'm sorry you suck at life. :(

Re:I hate that frigging game (2, Insightful)

LandDolphin (1202876) | more than 5 years ago | (#26150641)

Yeah, what a loser. Stuck with a wife who is smart, good at what she most everything, and makes more money then him. Pfft, really would have to suck to be him.

Re:I hate that frigging game (1)

TheLink (130905) | more than 5 years ago | (#26146837)

Ah, but is she better in bed than you?

If she is, then maybe she being better in so man things isn't so bad ;).

Re:I hate that frigging game (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26150499)

If she's better at man things it bed, he's in big trouble.

Re:I hate that frigging game (1)

Creepy (93888) | more than 5 years ago | (#26163733)

Ah, but is she better in bed than you?

Probably, but how is he supposed to know that?

K.C. Munchkin (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26143617)

Anybody remember K.C. Munchkin?

Re:K.C. Munchkin (1)

base3 (539820) | more than 5 years ago | (#26143761)

Yup. Still have an O^2 in the garage.

You can't create certain board layouts anymore (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26143635)

You are now constrained in terms of which board layouts you can create in Wordscraper which prevents you from creating a board with the same bonus pattern as the scrabble board.

Some guy has figured out the rules:

http://tinyurl.com/63fwjk

I wouldn't have thought Hasbro had a legal leg to stand on with forcing wordscraper preventing users being able to create certain board layouts, but perhaps wordscraper just bowed to pressure to avoid legal hassle.

Re:You can't create certain board layouts anymore (1)

Guiness17 (606444) | more than 5 years ago | (#26156987)

I actually followed a 'tinyurl' link from Slashdot. I had to peek between my fingers as I clicked on it. But anyways, many tx for that

Of course they dropped it (4, Insightful)

LingNoi (1066278) | more than 5 years ago | (#26143681)

The damage is done, they've crushed Scrabulous into non-existence, what else is there to do?

Re:Of course they dropped it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26144227)

Sue the creators so that they never make a better version of their games again

Re:Of course they dropped it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26144245)

Drive them into the ground and hear the lamentations of their women.

Re:Of course they dropped it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26147805)

Then Krom will beat you at a game of Scrabulous and toss you out of Valhalla!

Re:Of course they dropped it (-1, Troll)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 5 years ago | (#26144757)

Did they really think that a company founded by two Jews wouldn't sue over money? Really?

Re:Of course they dropped it (1)

samkass (174571) | more than 5 years ago | (#26146251)

I'm sure they'll figure out some other way to hurt their own brands. Seriously, if they'd just embraced Scrabulous and asked for a percent of the profit, everyone would be way ahead right now. As it is, no one I know who played Scrabulous moved to the "official" client and few play the game Scrabulous turned into. Opportunity lost.

Sue Crossword Publishers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26149249)

Sue the newpapers and other publishers of crossword puzzles. A 90% majority of the 90%-bootlickers in Congress would support them. Prior art can be legislated around.

Category icons (1)

vrmlguy (120854) | more than 5 years ago | (#26143757)

Hmmm, five category icons for one story. Is that a record?

Re:Category icons (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26143997)

Somebody should fire up LWP and find out. ;)

Re:Category icons (1)

BlackCobra43 (596714) | more than 5 years ago | (#26144151)

The Pac-Man's on a Double-Icon square, too!

Still not convinced lawsuit was valid. (3, Insightful)

Xest (935314) | more than 5 years ago | (#26143865)

Many law suits have demonstrated that the idea of a game simply can't be copyrighted, only the name and IP. Arguably the only thing Scrabulous could've been caught on legally in this respect was the name, Scrabulous. A court case against someone for using a similar name wont find a sympathetic ear with a judge even then if the company hasn't at least given the defendant the option of changing the name out of court.

Really, I think the best they could've done legally is taken them to court over the name had they been unwilling to change it after an initial request out of court.

The lawsuit was probably there simply as a scare tactic to try and scare them into ceasing and desisting. This scare tactic worked to an extent, but now we're approaching the time they'd actually have to go to court and that they'd actually have to state their case they've backed off, because they know it was unwinnable based on similar past court cases.

If you could copyright a first person shooter where you have to fight off an alien invasion for example, then that would kill off most the FPS market. If someone however created an FPS called Doomer and it had all the weapons and characters of the original then this would be a valid court case.

The key is to ensure the only thing that's copied is the idea and concept and that the name and assets do not closely resemble the originals.

Re:Still not convinced lawsuit was valid. (5, Informative)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 5 years ago | (#26143909)

Many law suits have demonstrated that the idea of a game simply can't be copyrighted, only the name and IP.

Law suits don't demonstrate this - it's the law at the US Copyright Office [copyright.gov]

The idea for a game is not protected by copyright. The same is true of the name or title given to the game and of the method or methods for playing it.

Copyright protects only the particular manner of an author's expression in literary, artistic, or musical form. Copyright protection does not extend to any idea, system, method, device, or trademark material involved in the development, merchandising, or playing of a game. Once a game has been made public, nothing in the copyright law prevents others from developing another game based on similar principles.

In other words, the artwork is copyrightable, but neither the rules of the game, nor the method of play, is. That's simply the law.

Rules: copyrights or patents (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 5 years ago | (#26144523)

Aren't the rules of the game covered by copyright? If I were to write a book about a little orphan who lived in a broom closet at her stepfather's, who discovered that she was a genie, went to a school for genies, made two really close genie friends, found out she was good at playing the genie game Firbage, and got into all sorts of adventures while an evil genie who's very name strikes fear is trying to kill her - would I not get convicted of copyright violations? If I can't write a similar book, or create my own spin-off without violating copyright, then how can creating a game with similar rules not be a violation?

Or is this a good defence against software patents? After all, what are game rules but the algorithm for playing the game?

Re:Rules: copyrights or patents (1)

jackbird (721605) | more than 5 years ago | (#26145147)

Because one is a book (a fixed expression of a creative idea) and the other is a game (an abstract set of rules). And the third one is software, and software copyrights work somewhat the way you describe (google "abstraction, filtration, comparison test" - this is how, e.g. similar applications can exist that copy each others' features). Software patents are not enshrined in black-letter law, being instead the result of court decisions.

Re:Rules: copyrights or patents (1)

Clovis42 (1229086) | more than 5 years ago | (#26145199)

The basic concepts of the game are not covered by copyright. You can copyright a particular description of those rules though. Similarly, you cannot copyright a recipe. However, a specific description of the recipe can be. If the rules/recipe are so straightfoward that it is the only way to describe them, they generally wouldn't be covered by copyright.

If a game has a storyline, then that storyline is covered by copyright. The name is usually trademarked. But you cannot control the basic ruleset.

Re:Rules: copyrights or patents (1)

multisync (218450) | more than 5 years ago | (#26145627)

Aren't the rules of the game covered by copyright?

Yup. And that's basically what Hasbro was alleging in the copyright portion of their complaint [nytimes.com] , that there are no rules to Scrabulous, that "a user not already familiar with the rules of the SCRABBLE crossword game would not know how to play "Scrabulous," and "until earlier this year, defendants included on their website hyperlinks to official SCRABBLE webpages, resources such as the official SCRABBLE rules, and also other websites offering unauthorized and infringing versions of SCRABBLE."

Hasbro was claiming that the creators of Scrabulous infringed their copyrights on the official rulebook and game dictionary.

Re:Rules: copyrights or patents (1)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 5 years ago | (#26153987)

Aren't the rules of the game covered by copyright?

Yup. And that's basically what Hasbro was alleging in the copyright portion of their complaint, that there are no rules to Scrabulous, that "a user not already familiar with the rules of the SCRABBLE crossword game would not know how to play "Scrabulous," and "until earlier this year, defendants included on their website hyperlinks to official SCRABBLE webpages, resources such as the official SCRABBLE rules, and also other websites offering unauthorized and infringing versions of SCRABBLE."

Hasbro was claiming that the creators of Scrabulous infringed their copyrights on the official rulebook and game dictionary.

Wrong.

Read the link I posted - it's from the US Copyright Office. The rules of a game are NOT covered by copyright. What IS covered is the actual text, same as an original story would be covered. If you can express the rules using different words, you're good to go.

While Hasbro originally made a lot of noise about infringing the rules, they had to back off of that particular charge. They then went after the look of the board - one of the layouts exactly duplicated the point values of Scrabble. The devs changed that, made the letters round instead of square, stopped linking to Scrabble's official rules, and Hasbro no longer had the ghost of a claim, which is why this didn't go to court.

As for the rules, you can make a game with the same rules - as the US Copyright Office will tell you - you just can't copy, word for word, the rules someone else wrote because that particular expression of the rules is copyright.

Re:Rules: copyrights or patents (1)

multisync (218450) | more than 5 years ago | (#26155813)

The rules of a game are NOT covered by copyright. What IS covered is the actual text

Hasbro said the Scrabulous guys linked to their rules and player dictionary - the "actual text" - and that, by essentially including those copyrighted materials as part of their game, they violated Hasbro's copyright. That's why I quoted from the complaint "until earlier this year, defendants included on their website hyperlinks to official SCRABBLE webpages, resources such as the official SCRABBLE rules, and also other websites offering unauthorized and infringing versions of SCRABBLE."

Read the last sentence of my comment, which you quoted: "Hasbro was claiming that the creators of Scrabulous infringed their copyrights on the official rulebook and game dictionary."

Re:Rules: copyrights or patents (1)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 5 years ago | (#26156245)

Since it didn't go to court, we don't have a decision as to whether "linking to" is a copyright violation. The RIAA and certai media believe it is. The rest of the world doesn't.

Since it was Hasbro's own servers that were generating the rules pages, it's dubious that there was an actual copyright violation. More likely, it would be misrepresentation or "trade dress", which could be avoided by clearly identifying the source as belonging to Hasbro.

Re:Rules: copyrights or patents (1)

multisync (218450) | more than 5 years ago | (#26159611)

That may very well be. I never suggested Hasbro was right, just that the basis for the copyright portion of their complaint was the text of the Scrabble rule book and game dictionary.

LittleBigPlanet (1)

HalAtWork (926717) | more than 5 years ago | (#26147835)

So why are levels inspired by other games in LittleBigPlanet being modded out?

Re:LittleBigPlanet (1)

jdgeorge (18767) | more than 5 years ago | (#26148027)

So why are levels inspired by other games in LittleBigPlanet being modded out?

Possibly out of trademark concerns, and probably out of Sony's desire to keep its development partners and potential partners happy.

Re:Still not convinced lawsuit was valid. (1)

neo (4625) | more than 5 years ago | (#26151663)

But you CAN patent the game mechanics.

Re:Still not convinced lawsuit was valid. (1)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 5 years ago | (#26155045)

But you CAN patent the game mechanics.

There are no "game mechanics" that are "innovative enough" to meat the standard of being an "invention", and patentable in most board games (Mousetrap is the only possible exception that readily comes to mind).

Re:Still not convinced lawsuit was valid. (1)

neo (4625) | more than 5 years ago | (#26159875)

Two points:

1. The patent office gives out game mechanic patents pretty easily. I've seen copies of chess variants with only the switching of piece positions given as new mechanics.

2. You don't think that scrabble meets the criteria of innovation? I see absolutely no prior art that comes close to it and the restricted use and valuation of tiles for letter use is entirely inventive.

Re:Still not convinced lawsuit was valid. (1)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 5 years ago | (#26169253)

You don't think that scrabble meets the criteria of innovation? I see absolutely no prior art that comes close to it and the restricted use and valuation of tiles for letter use is entirely inventive.

So go and be the first to patent it - Hasbro didn't. (of course, there's a reason they didn't - it's not patentable :-).

Re:Still not convinced lawsuit was valid. (1)

neo (4625) | more than 5 years ago | (#26175029)

I can't patent it... there's prior art. (See: Hasbro Scrabble)

'Capablanca Chess' is a chess variant that includes two new pieces (one that moves like a rook and a knight and one that moves like a bishop and a knight). The game was created as a way to avoid the current frequency of draws in chess.

It was never patented.

However 'Gothic Chess' was patented. ( US patent number 6,481,716 on November 19, 2002 ) The games are nearly identical except for the starting position of the pieces.

You could make the argument that it *shouldn't* be patented, but it is and it has much less innovation than Scrabble.

Re:Still not convinced lawsuit was valid. (1)

cowscows (103644) | more than 5 years ago | (#26143993)

Did you ever look at Scrabulous? If we go by your own criteria that you laid out in your last sentence, then it most certainly was a valid lawsuit.

I was playing Scrabble the other day... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26143955)

and these letters were left on my rack:
R A J G O T R E A L L Y S H A F T E D

so I jumped for joy and immediately started writing down the most obvious permutations:
deflorate ghastly Raj
deflagrate hostly Raj
defrayal ghostlet Raj
godfather stellar Jay
defrost earthgall Jay
dogfall shatterer Jay
flatter gasholder Jay

Congrats to Raj and Jay on having the lawsuit against them dropped.

Re:I was playing Scrabble the other day... (1)

AkaKaryuu (1062882) | more than 5 years ago | (#26145285)

Sir you clearly have more than 7 letters and demand that you abide by the rules immediately. This type of obvious disregard for the regulations set forth by the game makers is an insult to the integrity of the game mechanics and the American people simply will not stand for it..

Sorry, just practicing my scare tactics. Seems to be the way law works now a days.

Not 19-letter, but perhaps 14 (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 5 years ago | (#26148289)

Sir you clearly have more than 7 letters

I don't know how a 19-letter rack would work, but I do know how a 14-letter rack might work. The card game Bridge is played with two teams of two players; the player in control of a round (the "declarer") can play from his partner's hand ("dummy"). I could imagine a crossword game played a similar way.

Re:I was playing Scrabble the other day... (1)

tjwhaynes (114792) | more than 5 years ago | (#26149769)

The longest words I can find for that lot are only 13 letters long:

  • softheartedly
  • tetrahedrally

and the best score (without bonuses) is for "jollyheads". Ah the wonders of a few lines of perl.

Cheers,
Toby Haynes

And the Matel lawsuit is still on? (1)

MMC Monster (602931) | more than 5 years ago | (#26143965)

Awesome!

Makes me want to go on facebook (for the first time ever) and play Wordscraper.

Re:And the Matel lawsuit is still on? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26144343)

the reason you've never been to facebook is a lack of friends.

i love how the geeks here try to make social networking sites look uncool because they're popular but we all know the truth is that it's just another place for them to be rejected and mocked.

fear social networking nerd.

Re:And the Matel lawsuit is still on? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26164331)

Mom? Is that you?

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