Facebook asked to pull Scrabulous

Facebook has been asked to remove the Scrabulous game from its website by the makers of Scrabble.

The Facebook add-on has proved hugely popular on the social network site and regularly racks up more than 500,000 daily users. Lawyers for toy makers Hasbro and Mattel say Scrabulous infringes their copyright on the board-based word game. The move has sparked protests by regular fans of Scrabulous keen to keep the add-on running.

Scrabulous is currently one of Facebook's ten most popular applications - little programs that Facebook members can add to the profiles they maintain on the site. The request to remove the add-on came from both Hasbro and Mattel because ownership of the Scrabble trademark is split between the two. Hasbro owns rights to the game in the US and Canada while Mattel has rights everywhere else in the world.

Facebook told the PA newswire that it had no comment to make at this stage.

View: BBC News

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12 Comments

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Smooth move.

I hadn't played Scrabble for years, but I got into it on Facebook.

Ever since, I've been looking to buy the board game version, but can only find either a travel version, or "Super Scrabble". Maybe they should consider that this might actually promote their product, then make some kind of effort to get it on the shelves.

How about Hasbro and Mattel get together and buy the app from the developer, how good a promotional tool would that be! I guess they don't care about promoting their business

Actually, the patent is not the problem, the trademark is. Scrabble is a trademark and Scrabulous is a name based on the original trademarked name. If they called the game "Little virtual wodden letters in a spelling board" then Mattel probably would not have cared. People, however, would not know what the hell that application was. People automatically know what Scrabulous is because they know what Scrabble is, and that is where the problem arises.

When you have a trademark you are obligated to protect it, otherwise the name may become ubiquitous and public domain. That is the reason why you will sometimes see Xerox putting out ads saying stuff like "When you want a copy of a document it is not correct to say could you Xerox it for me?"

Tivo has had the same problem, Kleenex, and many other brand names and trademarks that people automatically know what you are talking about.

In the United States copyrights expire and it is in the Constitution that they should expire. However the founding fathers forgot to include how much time it takes for copyrighted material to become public domain leaving that decision to the US Congress and our friend Mr. President. Right know a copyrighted material goes public domain 70 years after the death of the original author. This term has been expanded over the years and some people claim that it gets expanded everytime Mickey mouse is about to become public domain.

All this info pertains to US and it may be different in other countries. In the original story it says that Mattel owns the rights to everywhere except the United States where it is Hasbro.

krasch said,
And shouldn't they be going after the developers? The application wasn't made by Facebook...

Maybe that's why they've only requested then to remove it, instead of slapping them with a big lawsuit?