PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Hasbro hit back Friday in a lawsuit over who owns the rights to The Game of Life, flatly denying claims by a toy inventor’s widow who says her husband created the board game and that she is owed $2 million or more in royalties.
The board game has sold more than 30 million copies and been spun off into an iPhone app, TV show, gambling and other ventures.
Lorraine Markham sued Hasbro earlier this year in federal court in Providence. She says her husband, Bill, invented the game in 1959 but that another toy inventor struck a deal with her husband and Hasbro has taken credit for it, denying her husband his legacy.
Her lawyers have said in a court filing that she plans to terminate rights to the game.
In its first response to the lawsuit, Pawtucket-based Hasbro Inc. on Friday denied that Markham created or designed the game and said his widow has no ownership interest in it. The toy maker said in court papers that it owns copyrights and other intellectual property rights to the game and its packaging, not Markham.
Hasbro also countersued, asking a federal judge to declare that it owns the rights to the game and asking for attorney’s fees.
The other toy inventor, Reuben Klamer, has said he is the sole creator of the game and hired Bill Markham to make the game board. Markham made only a prototype, Klamer said. Klamer said he then made significant revisions to the board before delivering it to board game-maker Milton Bradley, which has since been absorbed by Hasbro. Klamer filed a countersuit last month.
Markham’s lawyer, Lou Solomon, said Friday that Hasbro has acknowledged for years that her husband created the game. He cited a 1959 agreement Klamer and Markham signed that describes Markham as its inventor and designer, and said Hasbro paid royalties as a result.
“It’s sad that a big company can try to outspend an inventor of such a valuable game. They should be ashamed of themselves,” Solomon said.
The Game of Life features three-dimensional plastic board pieces and a clicking wheel. Players are assigned a car, and pick up pegs that represent spouses or children along the way. At the end, the richest player wins.
It was inducted into the Toy Hall of Fame in 2010 and has been displayed at the Smithsonian Institution.