Copyright Law

Wordscraper is Facebook's New Scrabulous, Testing IP Law

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There is Scrabulous news today for some 500,000 aficionados of the popular computerized word game that was played on the Internet by some 450,000 Facebook users each day.

Although Scrabulous can no longer be played via the social networking site, a remarkably similar game by the same software developers is now available on Facebook in its stead. The new game, Wordscraper, has circular spaces for letters instead of squares and gives players the option of setting up the board’s double-word and triple-letter scores in a variety of different ways, to customize the game, reports the London Times.

But “in theory, if a player decided that the version he or she liked best was one where the configuration of squares was identical to that on a Scrabble board, they could set that as their default set of rules and play the equivalent of Scrabble in every game,” the newspaper points out.

Clearly, the revision of Scrabulous is intended to take the new Wordscraper game out of the litigation realm in which the developers found themselves after they were sued by Hasbro, which owns the rights to Scrabble, earlier this month. And, because the toymaker holds not only a copyright to the game itself but a trademark on the Scrabble name, the new name is a step in the right direction, according to the Technology blog of the Los Angeles Times.

However, whether the changes in the game are sufficient to avoid a successful copyright infringement claim remains to be seen, reports the Associated Press. While the idea of the game isn’t protected, the way it is designed can’t be too much like Scrabble.

“It’s going to come down to the little things like squares and circles and double, triple and so on,” intellectual property attorney Ethan Horwitz, who works in King and Spalding’s office in New York, tells the news agency. “What they’ve done is taking a step in the right direction, but I don’t think it’s a big enough step.”

Earlier coverage: “Game Over for Scrabulous Players on Facebook” “Hasbro Sues Scrabulous Creators, Asks Facebook for Takedown”

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