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Scrabulous Pulls Off Facebook In US, Canada; Can They Continue?

15 August, 2008

Scrabulous, a Facebook application created by two Kolkata brothers, has been pulled off from the US and Canadian Facebook pages. Scrabulous – an application that allows users to play the game Scrabble online – is facing legal action for intellectual property infringement by gaming company Hasbro which owns the rights for the game.

Scrabulous was started by two Kolkata-based brothers, Rajat and Jayant Agarwalla in 2005. Scrabulous was pulled of as game-making giant Hasbro filed a lawsuit against the company formed by the brothers, called RJ Softwares, on July 25. Electronic Arts, with consent of Hasbro had released its version of Scrabble for American and Canadian Facebook users. Mattel, which holds the rights to Scrabble outside North America, has also filed a suit against Scrabulous in a case awaiting resolution. Though they have pulled of the application, the Agarwalla brothers will pursue the case in court.

Though started in 2005, Scrabulous gained worldwide popularity last year when it was released as a free “add-on” application for Facebook. Scrabulous attracted daily users of somewhere around 500,000 and at its peak reached 5 million users per month. The owners earned $25,000 per week from the ad revenues generated by the application. The new application launched by EA has attracted only 15,000 daily users, compared with some half-million for Scrabulous.

Hasbro’s and EA’s problems do not end here. The new version was disabled by hackers.

The issue started earlier this when Hasbro asked Facebook to pull down the application as it considered it a copyright infringement. Till the Agarwalla brothers started Scrabulous, there was no digital application for Scrabble. The issue raised a lot of hue and cry from Scrabulous fans. New York-based Jason Madhosingh, 31, formed a group called Save Scrabulous, which now has more than 47,000 members. More than 50 such groups were formed on Facebook.

Is the pulling off Scrabulous pages the beginning of retreat for the Kolkata brothers? VC Circle could not reach the brothers for their comment despite several attempts. It’s likely the brothers may sell the company now before the legal suit destroys what they have created so far.

Another online application of Scrabble, e-Scrabble.com, was acquired by Hasbro in 2005 after the it received a cease-and-desist order from Hasbro Inc.

Another Facebook application which had recently faced copyright issue was iThink. This application was started by Minekey, an India and US-based provider of online content discovery and recommendation services, eight months ago. A Texas-based online market research company had objected to Minekey’s use of the name iThink. Last week, the name of the application has been changed to Minekey, the name of the parent company.

This instance is not the same as Scrabulous since here the product itself is challenged, and not the name.


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Scrabulous Pulls Off Facebook In US, Canada; Can They Continue?

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