PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- The companies that make Scrabble are trying to shut down Scrabulous, an online version of the game that is one of the most popular applications on the social networking site Facebook.
Hasbro Inc., which owns the rights to the crossword game in the United States and Canada, and El Segundo-based Mattel Inc., which owns the rights elsewhere, believe the Facebook game infringes on their copyrights and trademarks.
Scrabulous listed more than 600,000 daily active users on Facebook as of Wednesday and is one of the 10 most used applications on the site. People also can play at Scrabulous.com.
The companies jointly issued cease-and-desist notices to four parties involved in the development, hosting and marketing of Scrabulous, according to a letter Pawtucket-based Hasbro is sending consumers who have contacted them about Scrabulous.
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In a separate written statement released Wednesday, Hasbro was not specific about who the four parties are, but said it was reviewing a number of options with them and hoped to find an amicable solution.
"If we cannot come to one quickly, we will be forced to close down the site and its associated distribution points," Hasbro said.
Facebook and Scrabulous did not return several requests for comment.
While there are authorized Scrabble games online, Scrabulous has gained popularity because it's free, easy to play with friends and easy to access on Facebook.
The game was developed by brothers Rajat and Jayant Agarwalla, from Calcutta, India, who say on the Web site that they created it after they couldn't find an online version of Scrabble that they liked.
News of the toy companies' action prompted Scrabulous fans to start a "Save Scrabulous" group on Facebook and urge others to lodge protests with the companies by posting Web links to the Hasbro and Mattel sites.
"We are not surprised that fans have thoroughly enjoyed playing Scrabulous on Facebook.com," the Hasbro letter says. "What consumers may not realize, however, is that Scrabulous is an illegally copied online version of the world's most popular word game."
John D. Williams Jr., executive director of the National Scrabble Association, said the group was hopeful the companies could work out some sort of agreement. While most competitive Scrabble players don't play Scrabulous, he said, the online game was a great way to introduce young people to the traditional board game.
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