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Hasbro pulls the trigger, files lawsuit against Scrabulous makers

July 24, 2008 |  1:21 pm

Update 4:49 PM

Facebook just issued the following statement regarding its role in the Scrabble vs. Scrabulous conflict: "We’re disappointed that Hasbro has sought to draw us into their dispute; nevertheless, we have forwarded their concerns to Scrabulous and requested their appropriate response."

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Scrabulous_logo Hasbro made its move. The owner of Scrabble today filed suit against the developers of Scrabulous, a popular word game played by millions of Facebook users each month.

Filed in New York federal court, the suit against Rajat Agarwalla, Jayant Agarwalla and their company, RJ Softwares, claims copyright infringement under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

"We view the Scrabulous application as clear and blatant infringement of our Scrabble intellectual property," Hasbro's general counsel, Barry Nagler, said in a statement. Hasbro also sent a letter to Facebook this morning, requesting that the social networking site shut down Scrabulous. As of noon Pacific, the application was still up.

The war between Scrabble and Scrabulous began ...

...months ago when Hasbro, which owns the rights to Scrabble in North America, and Mattel, which owns the rights elsewhere, sent cease-and-desist letters to the Agarwalla brothers, who reside in India. The brothers issued a statement vowing to keep the application live.

Hasbro earlier this month introduced a beta version of its official Scrabble game on Facebook. Developed by Electronic Arts, the game is slated to be broadly available to all Facebook members sometime next month. "We want to give Scrabble fans a legitimate way to play the game," said Mark Blecher, Hasbro's general manager of digital media and gaming.

So far in the court of public opinion, players have ruled in favor of Scrabulous. While Scrabble counted 8,862 active players this morning on Facebook, Scrabulous had 512,961. Blecher said the game hasn't really begun, since Scrabble is still in beta, which means only players who have been invited can access the application.

Hasbro, through EA, has also developed Scrabble for iPhones and iPods. The game is also featured on EA's online game site, Pogo.

"Our primary goal is to give fans the chance to experience their passion in as many places as possible," Blecher said.

Anywhere but Scrabulous.

"Scrabulous looks like Scrabble, plays like Scrabble, and it sounds like Scrabble," Blecher said. "So it’s theft of intellectual property. It is just that simple. This is no different than when the recording industry considers it theft if people post songs on Napster and allow others to copy it for free."

-- Alex Pham

Image courtesy of Scrabulous

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