January 28, 2019
Glaser Weil is pleased to announce its client Reuben Klamer prevailed in a copyright dispute over Hasbro’s “The Game of Life.” After a lengthy trial on the issue of copyright authorship, the Court agreed that Klamer was the author of the popular board game “The Game of Life.”
In 1959, on a visit to manufacturer Milton Bradley, Klamer was inspired by the company’s copy of a much older game to create a board game based on the phases of life. Klamer contracted with designer Bill Markham to execute a prototype of the board game, which Milton Bradley (and its successor Hasbro) released to great success in the market, continuing to this day.
A dispute arose when Markham’s widow sought to upend a long-standing profit-sharing agreement between Klamer, Markham and others. Markham’s widow asserted that Bill Markham, and not Klamer, was the original copyright author under the Copyright Act, and therefore possessed a termination right to the original 1959 agreement with Milton Bradley / Hasbro—threatening to derail a half-century of royalty distributions.
In order to help resolve the many complex issues in the case, the Court held a bench trial solely on the issue of copyright authorship. Ultimately, the Court determined that Klamer was the sole author of “The Game of Life,” as the prototype had been created by Markham and his employees at the “instance and expense” of Klamer—in other words, under the Copyright Act of 1909 and applicable First Circuit precedent, Klamer was the author and copyright holder because the prototype was a work for hire.
Glaser Weil’s team was led by Partner and Chair of the Litigation Department Patricia L. Glaser, with the assistance of Thomas P. Burke Jr., Justin Thiele, Nicholas Huskins, Erica Van Loon and Brittany Elias.