A film director and the son of a prolific, longstanding game inventor for Hasbro is suing the toy giant, saying that it is reaping millions of dollars in revenues after stealing his idea for a line of Hasbro game and toy combinations called “Mash-Ups.”
David Wexler, a film director, screenwriter and producer who has helped to create at least six feature films, has filed a 21-page misappropriation and breach of contract lawsuit against Hasbro in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
Wexler claims that from 2007 to 2015 he sat down at least 10 times with Hasbro’s product development team—sometimes accompanied by his father, Howard Wexler, the creator of Hasbro’s famed Connect 4 game—and pitched different toy ideas, including the idea for a new line of “Mash-Up” games and toys that “would combine the trademarks, gameplay, style and artwork of two classic Hasbro games and toys into a single game or toy; thus creating a new game experience that would be both familiar and novel to players,” according to his lawsuit.
But eventually, by 2015, Hasbro told him that it would not be using his ideas and concepts, he claims. Then, around 2016, Hasbro began developing a line of combining, or “mashing up,” classic Hasbro games, some of which it would bring to market a few years later, the lawsuit states.
According to both Wexler’s complaint and his lawyer, Philippe Zimmerman, a Moses & Singer partner in Manhattan, Wexler had pitched using specific Hasbro combinations such as Yahtzee and Boggle, Monopoly and Trouble, Jenga and Twister, Transformers and Sorry, and Connect 4 and Nerf.
Then in 2019, Hasbro, which some consider to be the largest toy maker in the world—citing its stock market value—started putting out mash-up-type games including a combination of Jenga and Monopoly that Wexler considers to be very similar to his Jenga and Twister idea, according to his complaint. Both his proposed idea and the Jenga/Monopoly “game mash+up” use the Jenga tiles and have the other games’ design elements printed on the tiles.
Moreover, Hasbro has released and is making large revenues from a combination of Connect 4 and Nerf that mimics his Connect 4 and Nerf proposal, although the gaming behemoth has not included that combination game in its game mash+up line, according to Wexler’s suit.
“In a blatant, albeit doomed, effort to hide its deceit in stealing Mr. Wexler’s idea of a collection of Mash-Ups, Hasbro manufactured and sold the Connect 4 and Nerf Mash-Up, but did not include it in its mash+ups collection,” says Wexler’s lawsuit, which was filed earlier this month.
Hasbro did not respond to a request for comment.
The complaint, while not naming a specific damages amount, demands that continuing royalty fees be paid to Wexler into the future—or in perpetuity, as Zimmerman puts it. The complaint also requests punitive damages.
The suit also makes clear that Wexler believes Hasbro has been making millions of dollars in profits from numerous mash-up-type games, and that its profits will likely grow for years to come.
“Hasbro’s game mash+ups have been a commercial success,” the complaint says. “After being initially offered exclusively at Target in 2019, game mash+ups are now widely available, including at Walmart and on Amazon.”
It adds, “Indeed, upon information and belief, game mash+ups are generating millions of dollars in revenues for Hasbro and are expected to [generate] substantially more in revenues as a result of, among other things, their broader availability and the addition of more games to the game mash+ups collection.”
The industry standard for a game or toy investor’s royalties is 5%, according to the suit.
It also alleges that if Wexler is not ultimately paid the royalties he deserves, the “trust” long relied on between toy and game inventors and toy companies could be broken.
“Hasbro’s conduct in stealing Mr. Wexler’s ideas violates a core element of the toy and game inventing industry’s custom and practice, and if left to stand, could destroy the trust between toy and game inventors and toy and game companies that has played a critical role in sustaining the toy industry for decades,” the suit says.
Howard Wexler has allegedly invented more than 120 game and toy concepts for Hasbro and other companies over many decades, Zimmerman, who specializes in part in intellectual property cases, said by phone Tuesday.
He added that “there is a line of [legal] authority that has developed in New York, California and other jurisdictions that recognize that creative people should be compensated for their work and their ideas. This case presents another example of a creative person needing to go to court to protect their rights.”
Zimmerman also said that “Howard [Wexler] is very supportive of his son, and my understanding is he believes his son presented Hasbro with a valuable idea that they are now exploiting without paying him.”
“David hopes and expects that his suit with Hasbro will not have any affect on his father’s decades-long relationship with Hasbro,” the lawyer added.