Saturday, August 30, 2008

Are Game Companies Going Too Far to Protect Their Trademarks?

I'm a college student, and not an affluent one, and I simply do not have the time, energy, or resources to fight this battle right now.

- Noah Witherspoon, developer of the mobile game Tris

In Wendy Davis, "Tris Plays Its Final Round," Daily Online Examinar, August 27, 2008

Witherspoon developed an application for the iPhone which copied the popular game Tetris. The Tetris Company, arguing that Witherspoon violated its copyright and trademark rights, persuaded him to take it offline or else be sued. The same thing happened with the game Scrabulous, an application for Facebook; Habros and Mattel, Scrabble's owners, forced Facebok to pull it from its system.

Some lawyers believe that games such as Scrabble and maybe even Tetris are not copyrightable because they were were simply rearrangements of old game ideas. Trademark laws may apply because the new games look very much like the trademarked ones, but attorneys suggest it's fairly easy to make cosmetic changes to get around those restrictions. Wendy Davis wonders if zealous owners are too quick to demand removal: "Legal questions aside, it seems obvious that Scrabulous is the best thing to happen to Scrabble in decades. Before the shutdown, the application drew 500,000 people a day -- some of whom became so enamored of the game that they purchased the physical version. One has to wonder whether Hasbro/Mattel and the Tetris Company have really thought through the ramifications of removing programs that serve to increase the popularity of their games."

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