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July 30, 2008

Scrabulous Brand Naming Not Fabulous to Hasbro

scrabble tiles.pngThe demise of the much loved Scrabble knockoff named Scrabulous, played by thousands of avid Facebook users, has sent a "cry of woe" through the blogosphere.

This blatent copy of Scrabble has finally been shut down by Hasbro after the two brothers who invented it refused to be bought off.

While some argue that this type of fighting between online/offline game creators should prompt companies to "give up trying to protect their brand altogether and just learn how to better compete with those that counterfeit their copyright," the more interesting question is how, exactly, did Scrabulous' get itself into trouble.

The answer is partly in the name. The entire fight centered around trademark and copyright infringement, and not patent infringement.

The Scrabble brand name goes back to 1954, but the actual copyright is in reference to the very well protected and recognizable board. This offers a lot of loopholes, mainly with the contention that the fifty-four year old "Scrabble" name should be in the public domain, which arguably came out of copyright in 1994, even though technically it is still protected for another 55 years (70 years after the death of the game's inventor in 1993).

facebook_logo.pngThe fact is, the Scrabble brand name is immensely valuable to Hasbro and they have a duty to protect it.

The side issue here is Facebook's culpability in this matter. Simply put, the Scrabulous game attracted users to the site, and that's trademark infringement. It appears that Hasbro has decided to not take the matter up with them, but sooner or later Facebook will likely suffer from a similar case.

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Posted by William Lozito at July 30, 2008 9:39 AM
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