Hasbro Sues Scrabulous For Making Scrabble Popular Again
from the don't-you-ever-do-that-again dept
For months, Hasbro and Mattel had been threatening the makers of Scrabulous with a lawsuit for daring to do what the gaming companies had been unwilling to do: make a fun version of Scrabble available on Facebook in a way that got many people playing the game on a regular basis. It took nearly 9 months, but Hasbro finally put a version of Scrabble on Facebook itself, and now that it’s up has finally officially filed the lawsuit.
It’s rather telling that Hasbro waited until its own version was online to file the lawsuit. What the company is basically admitting is that Scrabulous was a great promotional vehicle for Scrabble (otherwise why leave it up?), but now that Hasbro is competing with Scrabulous online, it wants to cut out that competition. Hasbro’s General Counsel is being quite misleading in saying: “Hasbro has an obligation to act appropriately against infringement of our intellectual properties.” That’s not quite true. There is no “obligation” to sue someone who made your game popular again just because you were late to the game.
Scrabulous showed Hasbro that there was a huge market for their game. There was no indication that Hasbro had any interest in Scrabble for Facebook prior to Scrabulous’ success.
Then there’s this bizarre quote from Hasbro’s GM of digital initiatives: “Hasbro has always had the same two priorities. One is to offer a great playing authentic game for fans and the second is to protect our intellectual property. This was theft of I.P., plain and simple.” Really? Your second biggest priority is to protect your IP? Then why did you wait all this time to sue? Clearly there was a benefit in leaving Scrabulous up while your own version was being developed. Clearly the comparison to “theft” is incorrect. No one would let “theft” go on for months on end before suing, just so they could create their own competitive offering.
The Scrabulous/Hasbro situation is a perfect example of Matt Mason’s thesis that “piracy” is almost never about “theft.” It’s almost always a market indicator that the market is unhappy with what’s being offered. It’s the market showing companies what they want.