25 July 2008

Absolutely Fabulous Scrabulous? Or Absolutely Fabulous Infringing Game?

Today, BBC News has reported that Hasbro, the right owner of Scrabble in the USA, is suing the creators of Scrabulous, which is available on Facebook, on the grounds that Scrabulous infringes its copyright and trademark.
Before filing the lawsuit, Hasbro requested Facebook to take down the application back in January 2008, but the latter refused to do so. The fact that Scrabulous in one of the most popular applications on Facebook and attracts over 595,000 active users daily might have had something to do with this decision.
At this stage, Facebook has not been joined to the lawsuit but it might be at a later stage. In addition, the rights to Scrabble outside the US are owned by Mattel which is not involved in this current lawsuit.

It will be interesting to see how this case evolves and how the proliferation of similar applications (e.g. Starbucks, Swarovski & Louis Vuitton applications on Facebook) can be successfully regulated and monitored.

A sensible option in some cases, might be for the rights owners and the creators to negotiate an agreement with which both parties are equally comfortable rather than the imposition of a downright prohibition on use which might not be in the interest of creativity. A fine balance has to be maintained between the protection of the rights of owners and the opportunity for creativity by developers.
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