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'Scrabble' maker Hasbro sues over 'Scrabulous'

Hasbro launched an official version of its Facebook Scrabble application a few weeks ago. Now it wants the far more popular Scrabulous knockoff deleted.

This is the lawsuit we all knew was coming: Hasbro, which sells the Scrabble board game, has sued to shut down the wildly popular knockoff on Facebook called Scrabulous.

Hasbro on Thursday filed a copyright and trademark lawsuit in New York against the creators of the ad-supported Scrabulous application, which boasts an astonishing half-million daily users.

Mark Blecher, general manager for Hasbro Digital Media, said in a telephone interview that his employer's goal is to promote its authentic, legitimate Facebook application. "This is theft of intellectual property," Blecher said of Scrabulous. "It's really no different from when the recording industry faced the issue of folks posting music on sites like Napster and letting them copy it for free."

Blecher said Hasbro waited, "in deference to the fans," until it launched its official Scrabble Facebook app earlier this month. That was created by Electronic Arts and is used by a mere 8,900 daily users.

The lawsuit names as defendants Kolkata, India-based RJ Softwares, its CEO Rajat Agarwalla, and Jayant Agarwalla, who launched Scrabulous two years ago. It asks the court to yank the Scrabulous game from Facebook, disable the Scrabulous.com domain name, and grant Hasbro damages and attorneys fees.

It's unclear how the lawsuit will proceed; the defendants could simply ignore it if they have no U.S. assets to seize, and aren't worried about Indian courts enforcing a default judgment. RJ Softwares did not respond to queries on Thursday.

Hasbro combined the lawsuit with a notice to Facebook invoking the Digital Millennium Copyright Act's takedown provision. As of 11:30 p.m. PT on Thursday, the Scrabulous application was still listed on Facebook.

Facebook representative Brandee Barker replied with this statement, which is succinct enough to include here verbatim:

We believe that games are an important part of the social experience on Facebook and have been impressed by the creativity and innovation of the games that developers--both large and small--have built on Facebook Platform. In the case of disputes such as the one involving Scrabulous, our hope and expectation is that the parties can resolve their disagreements in a manner that satisfies the parties, that continues to offer a great experience to gamers and that doesn't discourage other developers from using Platform to share their creativity and test new ideas. Over the past year, Facebook has tried to use its status as neutral platform provider to help the parties come to an amicable agreement. We're disappointed that Hasbro has sought to draw us into their dispute; nevertheless, we have forwarded their concerns to Scrabulous and requested their appropriate response.