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Hasbro Wins Copyright Dispute Over ‘Game of Life’

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A Rhode Island federal judge ruled Friday that “The Game of Life” was a work-for-hire and that the widow of toy developer Bill Markham has no claim to the copyright.

“Like the Game of Life itself, this fifty-nine-year tug-of-war for renown and royalties has followed a long, circuitous path,” Chief Judge William E. Smith wrote in his decision, issued Friday. “The weight of the evidence in this case is that the success that met the Game of Life was, in fact, nothing if not the result of collective effort.”

The Game of Life was originally called the Checkered Game of Life. It was invented in 1860 by Milton Bradley, the founder of the company by the same name. In 1959, the company sought to update the game. Toy developer Reuben Klamer hired Bill Markham to help with the project. The game was an enormous hit.

Markham sued Klamer in the 80s for more credit and money for his help with the game. The two settled the case in 1989, but Markham’s heirs sued Hasbro, which had acquired Milton Bradley and the game in 1984.

Smith found in favor of Hasbro, as Markham had worked for Klamer during the development.