American toy and board game developer Hasbro Inc. (NASDAQ:HB) , owners of the My Little Pony franchise and many other recognizable properties, has been making a push to get into the rapidly growing and lucrative mobile gaming market. In 2013, Hasbro invested $112 million into mobile game developer Backflip Studios. This August, news reports indicated that Hasbro was working with a San Francisco-based mobile game developer to create a massively multiplayer game based on Hasbro’s Transformers entertainment property, which will be released sometime in 2017.
Unfortunately for Hasbro, not all of its activities in the mobile gaming business have been completely original, leaving the game developer open to legal challenges. In late October, it was reported that Hasbro was named as a defendant in a copyright infringement action filed by Turkey-based gaming developer Peak Games in the San Francisco courthouse of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California (N.D. Cal.).
At the center of Peak Games’ complaint is Hasbro’s My Little Pony: Puzzle Party mobile game app, which Peak Games alleges is essentially a clone of that firm’s Toy Blast game. According to screenshots culled from the complaint by VentureBeat, both games provide players with a cross-like game board composed of blocks of various colors. The complaint alleges that Hasbro’s copying of Toy Blast is thorough, right to a step-by-step reprinting of the game’s tutorial.
Peak Games has good reason to protect its intellectual property related to Toy Blast as the game has enjoyed a good deal of popularity among mobile device users. As of November 8th, Toy Blast was ranked fifth among free gaming apps available on the Google Play store. Overall, games developed by Peak Games have been downloaded 275 million times and the company enjoys 29 million monthly active users according to VentureBeat.
For its own part, Hasbro has gone after others in recent years for similar allegations of copying a game which was developed by Hasbro. In December 2008, Hasbro dropped its lawsuit against the developers of Scrabulous, a Facebook app modeled after Hasbro’s Scrabble, after the app’s developers took the game offline. Hasbro has also tried to suppress the dissemination of online Scrabble word lists in the past, maintaining that anyone offering such a word list must take a license from Hasbro.
The recent copyright infringement action filed by Peak Games is not the first time this year that Hasbro’s My Little Pony-related properties have been targeted for this legal issue. This January, Minnesota-based typeface font developer and licensing firm Font Brothers sued Hasbro for its unlicensed use of a Font Brothers font in My Little Pony products. That lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York (E.D.N.Y.).
Hasbro posted a positive earnings report for 2016’s third quarter during which the game maker earned $1.68 billion, a 14 percent year-over-year increase from the $1.47 billion net revenues earned by Hasbro in 2015’s third quarter. This most recent earnings report indicated that revenues for My Little Pony-related properties are down compared to other Hasbro properties such as Nerf, Transformers and Play-Doh.