Scrambled trademarks

Zynga Inc. and Mattel Inc., both producers of games, are fighting over Scrabble. Not a game of Scrabble, but a lawsuit in the UK concerning Scrabble.

The lawsuit is filed by Mattel, owner of several brands Scrabble. Mattel is of the opinion that Zynga’s game Scramble is violating several trademarks of Mattel. These trademarks concern the shape of the tiles that are used in the Scrabble game, more specifically the “three- dimensional ivory-colored tile on the top surface of which is shown a letter of the Roman alphabet and a number in the range 1 to 10″.

As a defense, Zynga (obviously) argued that these trademarks are invalid. A trademark must be sufficiently clear, everyone should be able to assess the trademark claim. And trademarks that can vary in numbers or shapes are always at odds with this requirement. Hence such marks are often not accepted.

The judge agreed with Zynga in a preliminary opinion. The judge found that the registration “amounts to an attempt to claim a perpetual monopoly on all conceivable ivory-colored tiles shapes which bear any letter and color combination on the top surface.” This would gain Mattel an unfair competitive advantage. At least, Zynga won the first round of Scrabble.

Source: Bloomberg

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