Recently, a notable case involving Hasbro Inc. and inventor David Wexler made headlines when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit backed a New York federal judge’s decision to dismiss Wexler’s lawsuit.
David Wexler, son of the inventor of the popular game Connect 4, found himself in a legal battle with Hasbro Inc., alleging that the company had stolen his board game ideas without compensation. Wexler claimed that he had pitched various game concepts to Hasbro between 2007 and 2015, including mash-ups of classic Hasbro games. Among these was a proposal for a version of Connect 4 that incorporated Nerf projectiles. Although Hasbro expressed some interest in the Connect 4–Nerf idea, they ultimately did not pursue it.
In subsequent years, Hasbro released a line of “game mashups,” featuring combinations of well-known games such as Monopoly and Jenga, Candyland and Connect 4, and Twister and Scrabble. Wexler argued that these releases were based on his earlier proposals, and he believed that an implied contract had been breached, leading to his claims of misappropriation, unfair competition, and unjust enrichment.
In New York, an “idea theft” claim requires that the idea be “novel”. In March 2022, U.S. District Judge Valerie E. Caproni of the Southern District of New York, granted summary judgment to Hasbro, stating that Wexler’s ideas were “generic” and lacked novelty. Judge Caproni found that the combinations proposed by Wexler were merely variations of preexisting games and toys, such as Connect 4 and Nerf products, which did not meet the required standard of novelty to support his legal claims.
On May 18, 2023, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed Judge Caproni’s 2022 decision granting summary judgment to Hasbro Inc. The court ruled that Wexler’s board game ideas were “generic” and lacked the necessary novelty to support his claims of breach of contract and misappropriation against the toy giant.
The Second Circuit panel stated that while Wexler’s suggested combinations of games had not been used before, the ideas were not novel in themselves. The court held that for Wexler to succeed in his claims, he needed to demonstrate that his concepts were genuinely new and unique. Author’s Note: while the court may have deemed these ideas “generic” after the fact they were probably highly unique and novel at the time Wexler pitched them. Hindsight is 20/20 vision.
Wexler is represented by Philippe A. Zimmerman of Moses & Singer LLP.
Hasbro is represented by Joshua C. Krumholz and Courtney L. Batliner of Holland & Knight LLP
The case is Wexler v. Hasbro Inc., case number 22-741, in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.
* Lowe & Associates (“The Firm”) is a boutique entertainment and business law firm located in Beverly Hills, California. The firm has extensive experience handling cases involving “idea theft” claims , having provided top-quality legal services to its clients since 1991. The Firm is recognized for its many achievements, including successfully litigating many high-profile cases.