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Scrabulous on the front page of the New York Times March 2, 2008

Posted by jeremyliew in IP, litigation, social games, social gaming.
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The NY Times has a color piece of Scrabulous below the fold on the front page of their physical paper today. I admit, I like to read my Sunday NY Times in physical format – call me a luddite!

The Aggarwallas have really done a great job of building a true social game, but it is not looking like they will be able to reap all the benefits of their work due to their IP infringement.

Harold Zeitz, senior vice president for games at RealNetworks, said Friday that he was working closely with the Agarwalla brothers to bring the official Scrabble game to Facebook users.

Hasbro, meanwhile, said in a statement that Electronic Arts was planning to release an online version of Scrabble this spring. And Mattel, which signed a deal with RealNetworks last July, says that settling with the Agarwallas would set a bad precedent.

Last year Andrew Bridges did a guest post on the Lightspeed blog about how big companies use litigation as a strategy against startups that is highly relevant to the Scrabulous situation.

Comments»

1. Vivek Puri - March 2, 2008

Not sure how successful this cross-border/country litigation is going to work in the longer run. Accepted they can get Facebook to shut out Scrabulous right now, but once Scrabulous and likes go live on European or Asian socialnetworks……. Hasbro would be better off building the online versions of its games before there is a forced timeout for them.

2. Michel Bastien - March 2, 2008

Jeremy, is this case really a good example of how big companies use litigation as a strategy against startups?

I don’t think so.

Scrabulous is blatantly violating Hasbro’s Intellectual Property. It was from the get go, before it became hugely popular. As an individual developer (or startup, or hobbyist), for something as valuable as Scrabble (or say Halo as I discuss in my blog here: http://michelbastien.typepad.com/blog/2008/01/bye-bye-scrabul.html), at some point, you have to expect that the owner of the property you’re exploiting will come down on you with a giant sledgehammer. It’s obviously more likely to happen if you’re having even only a moderate amount of success and momentum.

As much as I respect the Agarwalla brothers for creating something as successful and appreciated as Scrabulous, they had to know that the party wasn’t going to go on forever…

And as someone who has spent his (still) short career working alongside some of the most successful IP creators in the games industry, it’s necessary for an IP creator to know that you’ll be able to protect what you create, should you have to.

I believe it’s a critical right (of IP owners) and in more cases than not, it stimulates innovation.

Btw, I love the blog! One of my favorites on the web.

Cheers,
Michel Bastien

3. jeremyliew - March 3, 2008

Michel,

I completely agree with you – in this case the Agarwallas appear to have blatently violated Hasbro’s IP as you say. The relevant piece of Andrew Bridge’s guest post is two fold (i) the litigation appears to be part of a negotiation to get the Agarwallas to sell Scrabulous to someone who does own the rights (Real Networks) (ie litigation is negotiation conducted by other means) and (ii) they wouldn’t have been sued if they hadn’t been successful.


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