More T-R-O-U-B-L-E for Scrabulous?

First, members of Facebook fell in love with Scrabulous, an unauthorized, near-identical online copycat of the board game Scrabble; legal issues ensued.

Now, after a months-long legal kerfuffle, game publisher Electronic Arts and Hasbro are striking back by launching a Scrabble application on Facebook by month's end.

Hasbro owns the rights to Scrabble in the United States and Canada. Last year, Hasbro struck a deal with Electronic Arts to develop digital versions of classic board games.

The companies will launch a Facebook application of the long-time word game by the end of July; an online version of the game is available now at

The Scrabulous fracas began in January, when Hasbro tried to get the online copycat yanked offline. Scrabulous, which is played much the same way as Scrabble, was developed by brothers Rajat and Jayant Agarwalla in Calcutta, India. The game is among the top 10 most downloaded applications on Facebook and also can be played online at the brothers' Web site,

Scrabble Online

Despite that fight, the Scrabulous application is still available on Facebook.

Hasbro refused to comment on the current legal fight, spokesman Gary Serby told in an e-mail.

"Hasbro has been consistent in stating that Scrabulous infringes upon our intellectual property, and we are keeping our legal options open," Serby said. "We have no further comment at this time on Scrabulous and our legal strategy going forward."

Earlier this year, Serby refused to comment on reports that Hasbro sent out legal notices to four parties involved in developing and hosting the game.

Hasbro isn't the first company to bring a licensed Scrabble application to Facebook. In April, RealNetworks, an Internet software provider, launched Scrabble by Mattel on the social networking site. The application allows Facebook members outside the U.S. and Canada — or those who say they live outside the two countries — to play the real Scrabble.

Last year, RealNetworks struck a deal with Mattel, which owns the copyright to Scrabble internationally, to develop online casual games based on several Mattel board games, including Scrabble.

"We've been working with Mattel for a couple of months," RealNetworks spokesman Ryan Luckin said in April. "We do have a similar deal with Hasbro with online rights for Scrabble so we'll continue to work with them as one of our partners."

Luckin said that RealNetworks is still in talks with the Agarwalla brothers; he declined to reveal details of those discussions.

"At the end of the day no matter what game is out there with a Scrabble trademark on it, it has to be approved by Mattel and Hasbro," he said. "So no matter what happens we want to work with them ... and also make this work for the Scrabulous guys as well."

RealNetworks, according to Luckin, is not involved with the legal issues that Hasbro and Mattel are currently taking on.

The Agarwalla brothers also declined to comment.

Backlash Against Gamemakers

As Hasbro fought to shut down Scrabulous in January, thousands of visitors to Facebook, where the game most famously lives, lobbied to keep it alive and kicking.

Within hours of news of a potential Scrabulous disappearance from the Web, many bloggers and Scrabulous fans registered their disapproval.

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