So what does Hasbro do now? It’s not clear that the new game trespasses on anything legally protected. It doesn’t have a similar name, the board looks different and there are some different rules. Obviously, the concept of spelling out words and earning points is the same, but that’s not the kind of thing that trademark or copyright law is designed to protect. As a patent and trademark lawyer explained to Caroline McCarthy of CNET’s The Social, the idea of a game can’t be legally owned — only the real-world expression of that idea.
I’ve been kind of fascinated by this case ever since it first appeared. Not just because Scrabulous became so popular so quickly, but also because it seemed to boost interest in the actual board game itself, with stories of people addicted to the Facebook game going out and buying real-world copies for the first time. My first reaction was to cheer for Scrabulous, and wonder why Hasbro or EA didn’t just buy the app from the Agarwalla brothers and take advantage of all the free marketing their game was getting through Facebook. Mashable makes the same point here.