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Wordscraper Leaves Hasbro at a Loss for Words

Published on July 31, 2008
by John Paczkowski

Well, this certainly wasn’t what Hasbro had in mind when it sued Scrabulous for copyright infringement. No, I’d guess boycotts, malicious attacks on the official online version of Scrabble, and the rebirth of the knockoff of the classic board game under a new name were about the last things on Hasbro’s mind. Yanked from Facebook earlier this week in response to a legal request from Hasbro, Scrabulous has returned to the social network with a new name and a new look. Rebranded as Wordscraper, Scrabulous still recalls Scrabble, but with its new design and rules it may now be different enough from the board game to deflect Hasbro’s lawsuit.

“Copyrights are not supposed to protect board games,” intellectual property attorney Pete Kinsella told CNet News.com. “What copyrights protect is the expression of an idea rather than the idea itself. The law allows people to design around things, and particularly when there isn’t patent protection, the law has great incentive to design around things by making things somewhat different.”

Which is an unfortunate state of affairs for Hasbro (HAS): The newly launched Wordscraper has, in a very short time, already signed up 3,569 users. And it will surely gather more as word of its debut spreads. What will the game company do now? What will it do if Wordscraper’s creators release it as a true board game?

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