Facebook in wrangle with Hasbro over Scrabulous

Facebook has been asked to scrap one of its most popular applications, Scrabulous, after Hasbro and Mattel, the owners of Scrabble, said it infringed their trademark.

On Facebook the game is known as Scrabulous and it allows users of the social networking site to play each other. More than half a million users do so daily with people able to play with friends and those they do not know.

The application was developed in Calcutta, India, by software developers Jayant and Rajat Agarwalla and launched at the end of June.

The pair had earlier developed their own online versions on the websites Bingobinge.com, and Scrabulous.com in 2006. Last year they put it on Facebook after an approach to Hasbro, which owns the rights in the US and Canada, received no response.

Initally the pair said that they were targeting just a few thousand users, but within weeks the Scrabulous application had 20,000 users and was growing fast and making the pair around £10,000 a month.

Now Hasbro has responded jointly with Mattel, which owns the rights to the board game internationally, and asked the applications be pulled.

In a statement, Mattel UK said: "Letters have been sent to Facebook in the US regarding the Scrabulous application. Mattel values its intellectual property and actively protects its brands and trademarks.

"As Mattel owns the rights to the Scrabble trademark outside the US and Canada, we are currently reviewing our position regarding other countries."

The addictive quality of the game is explained by one blogger:

"I have a confession. The reason why you’ve heard barely a peep from me isn't because I’ve been Tasered by zealous cops or abducted by aliens. Truth is, I've been fiendishly playing Scrabble Scrabulous on Facebook. I swear, it's like a Krispy Kreme donut with sprinkles of crack on top.

"After its integration with Facebook, Scrabulous is now delightful, convenient, and sticky. It's a great example of how to take a classic standalone product and turn it into an online service that connects emotionally and deeply with people.

"The proof is in the numbers. While the original Scrabulous.com hosts 20,000 active users, the Facebook port gets 260,000 players on weekdays and about 5m million hits a day."

It is this success that has finally prompted Hasbro to act.

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