Facebook’s Scrabulous Isn’t Fabulous To Toy Makers

    January 17, 2008
    WebProNews Staff

Another day, another Facebook controversy. At this point, as long as Facebook’s not directly responsible or in legal harm’s way, it’s just good publicity. Hasbro and Mattel have a beef with a Facebook application called Scrabulous, an online application knockoff of the classic game Scrabble.

And they want it taken down.

Of course, Facebookers are plenty upset about that, and are rallying behind the game.

The app, according to BBC, pulls in 500,000 daily users, and has spawned Scrabulous cheat websites so players can consult an automatic word-generator.

Classic Scrabble players join me in saying that’s just wrong. If you don’t know any words, you lose. That’s how it goes. And that’s what dictionaries and challenges are for. They’re probably in there looking for how to spell "woot" which is suddenly legal, thanks to Webster.

(By the way, it’s not always good to follow Noah Webster’s and his successors’ lead, you know. Back in the day, after he removed the Us from words like colour and behaviour, he proposed the spelling of women be changed to "wimmin" like it sounds. Thankfully, he was overruled. Unfortunately, nobody stood up to "woot." But I will make a stand.)

It’s unusual that two different companies would cry copyright infringement over the same product, but in this case, Hasbro has US and Canada rights, and Mattel has the rights everywhere else. Obviously somebody leveraged a legal loophole at some point, but that won’t matter as hypocrisy has no place in legal proceedings.

Facebookers, as has often happened, are incensed and misguided as to why, and are scrambling to keep their beloved online past time just because they love it so much, whatever the legal rights of the copyright owners.

Nevertheless, Hasbro and Mattel are pretty set on squashing the game, which was developed by Calcutta-based Indian brothers Rajat and Jayant Agarwalla, who apparently have never heard of intellectual property. Otherwise, they may have worked a bit harder to name the game something other than an obvious derivative of the original.

Then again, it may not have spread like it did. Critics have suggested that the two toy companies buy or license the game outright, or hire the brothers rather than go the heavy-handed legal route. However, it really is a golden opportunity to smack an infringer and take his idea and rebrand it properly. Think of how much they’ll save in research in development – thanks Rajat and Jayant!