| SAN FRANCISCO
SAN FRANCISCO Word-wise game players lost a
popular online diversion on Tuesday as the creators of a
knock-off of the game Scrabble cut off service in North America
in the face of a lawsuit by game maker Hasbro.
Scrabulous, an online version of the classic board game
created by two brothers in India, cut off the service for U.S.
and Canadian Internet users on Tuesday after Hasbro filed suit
in a New York federal court last Thursday.
"Scrabulous is disabled for U.S. and Canadian users until
further notice," Scrabulous notified players of the crossword
game inside the popular Facebook social network site.
Scrabulous, introduced on Facebook a year ago, has become a
phenomenon, sucking productivity in offices and schools around
the globe. The game has become one of Facebook's dozen most
actively used programs, attracting 500,000 daily players. It
pits online opponents who compete to come up with clever words
using the most exotic letters to score points.
The Hasbro lawsuit, filed in the U.S. Southern District of
New York, names the creators of the game, brothers Rajat
Agarwalla and Jayant Agarwalla, and RJ Softwares, as
Hasbro owns the rights to Scrabble in North America, while
rival Mattel owns the rights to the popular board game in the
rest of the world. Mattel filed a suit against Scrabulous
several months ago and is awaiting a decision on its complaint
by an Indian court.
Hasbro, the world's No.2 toy company, had sent a notice
last week to Facebook requesting that it remove the application
in the United States and Canada as soon as possible.
"We view the Scrabulous application as clear and blatant
infringement of our Scrabble intellectual property, and we are
pursuing this legal action in accordance with the interests of
our shareholders, and the integrity of the Scrabble brand,"
Hasbro's General Counsel Barry Nagler said at the time.
Pawtucket, Rhode Island-based Hasbro filed suit against the
Scrabulous creators after launching a legitimate Scrabble
version on Facebook earlier this month.
Hasbro had asked Facebook earlier this year to remove the
Scrabulous application, but the social network site refused,
seeking instead to broker a deal between the parties.
A Facebook spokesman said Scrabulous creators had acted
voluntarily to comply with Hasbro's demands. "We did not take
the application down," David Swain said.
The social network site is encouraging North American
members to try out the newly launched official Facebook version
of Scrabble created by Electronic Arts for Hasbro.
Hasbro cautioned users of the official game that it remains
in a trial stage and may perform slowly ahead of its formal
launch next month.
In its statement, Facebook encouraged users to consider
trying a new game developed by the Agarwalla brothers called
"Wordscraper" that bears clear similarities to the Scrabulous
game but had counted only a few dozen users before Tuesday.
The new game pits two players who each have seven tiles but
allows them to create their own boards and assign their own
point systems to different letters. "Don't follow rules, make
them!" an introduction to the new game advises players.
(Additional reporting by Braden Reddall, editing by Ian