Hasbro has lost a legal battle over the Monopoly trademark in the European Union, a continuation of a legal battle between Hasbro and Croatian board game seller Kreativni Događaji.
Monopoly is one of the most popular board games in the world. Aside from the base game, it's had hundreds of special and licensed editions released including a Roblox edition, a special event featuring a life-sized version of the game, and a terrifying version that makes a game of Monopoly take even longer to win.
Part of the success is owed to the strength of the Monopoly trademark. Unfortunately, World IP Review reports (via Derecho En Zapatillas) that Hasbro has lost a legal battle in the EU which has resulted in the trademark being invalidated in that region — and that's far from the first time such a legal battle took place.
The Many Legal Battles Over the Monopoly Trademark
The case between Hasbro and Kreativni Događaji has been dragging on for nearly a decade, claiming that Hasbro attempted to circumvent regulations by refiling the trademark without fulfilling all of the necessary requirements. The European Union Intellectual Property office ruled that Hasbro had acted in "bad faith" and this decision has now been upheld.
Strangely, this is not the first legal battle over the trademark. Aside from Događaji's lawsuit in the EU, U.S. law firm Gottlieb, Rackman & Reisman, P.C wrote about the extensive history of the Monopoly trademark. For example, there was a time in the early 1980s when the trademark was declared invalid in the United States; this was rectified with an amendment to the Lanham Trademark Act and a subsequent compromise which restored the trademark and licensed a competing "Anti-Monopoly" trademark to its creator while giving ownership to Parker Brothers (which is now owned by Hasbro).
The invalidation of the Monopoly trademark removes several protections that prevent competing games from being sold under the same name in the same categories of product. It should be noted that while you can probably copyright the exact text of a game's rules, you cannot copyright the concepts that serve as the rules of a game — and no, you can't patent a game's rules, either. That means that the only legal protection against cloning for most tabletop games is a trademark on the game's name and copyrights on any of its art assets.
That said, it's not as if someone could easily crank out a different board game with the name Monopoly and get people to buy it as easily as they would purchase the officially-licensed products. I imagine that Hasbro will likely try to find new ways to validate the trademark in the EU, too, just as it has done in the United States in the past.
What do you think about Hasbro losing a court battle over the Monopoly trademark? Do you think it would be worth it to attempt to sell a competing game with the same name? Let us know in the comments below!