Facebook lexophiles may need to look elsewhere for their fix, as Hasbro has recently issued a cease-and-desist letter to parties involved with Scrabulous.
Scrabulous is a free, popular application based on Scrabble that boasts over 11,000 fans on Facebook and millions more on its website. Users can play online through Facebook, email or against a computer opponent on Scrabulous’ website.
Unfortunately, the application was developed without the approval of Hasbro and Mattel — the two companies that share ownership of the Scrabble name brand.
“Scrabulous infringes on Hasbro’s trademark,” Marisa Pedatella, marketing services specialist for Hasbro Canada, said. “[Hasbro has] spent many years building the Scrabble brand and what Scrabulous is doing is piracy.”
Jayant Agarwalla, co-founder of Scrabulous, said Scrabulous does not usually comment on legal issues.
As one of the top 10 applications on Facebook, support for the application is rampant. Since the Jan. 11 announcement, 36 different groups have sprung up.
“Save Scrabulous,” currently the largest group of supporters, boasts over 44,000 members. Group members cited Scrabulous as one of the reasons they purchased new Scrabble sets and started a petition to Hasbro in an attempt to save the application.
Mark Perry, a professor in the Faculty of Law, said the cease-and-desist order also presents an interesting legal perspective.
Though there may be an issue of copyright if Scrabulous copied various parts of the board, the more pressing issue is likely one of trademark, Perry said.
“Are they using [Hasbro’s] trademark and making money out of it?”
Perry explained trademarks are exploited to confuse the consumer — making a customer think your product is actually another name-brand product.
“In this case, there is no confusion. The consumer is paying nothing to the marketer.” Whether profits from advertising can be linked in the same manner is something the courts will have to decide, Perry said.
Pedatella said Hasbro is searching for an amicable solution, which could result in a legal version available in North America.