Game Blotter - A roundup of crimes, legal cases, and when "the law" gets involved with gamesThe government of Sierra Leone has instituted a new policy requiring that applicants purchase and play a board game about traffic laws and road safety in order to get a driver’s license.

In Manipur, India, District Police raided organized dice games and then staged a public burning of confiscated items. Paramilitary police personnel, though, were caught and arrested for participating in the shakedown of a dice game that was taking place below a police station.

The 2nd U.S. Court of Appeals in Manhattan has reinstated the conviction of a man for running a gambling club in New York. A District Court judge had thrown out the conviction based on a finding that the game of choice in the warehouse backroom, Poker, is a game of skill, not chance. The appeals court, however, ruled that the nature of the game wasn’t relevant under New York law.

Homeless Chess players were back with a brass band on Market Street in San Francisco in defiance of police, who had previously ejected them as a cover for drug dealing.

A conflict over similar issues is brewing in Syracuse, New York. The city is considering turning a vacant lot, the scene of a recent murder, in to a Chess park. Neighbors, however, are concerned that the park would more likely be used for drug dealing.

Philippine prisoners held a Chess tournament. So did Philippine lawyers.

Chess grandmaster Timur Gareev played and defeated 10 inmates at the Cook County jail blindfolded.

The Court of Appeal for England and Wales upheld a lower court decision to cancel Mattel’s UK trademark for Scrabble tiles. The courts agreed with Zynga, the applicant for cancellation, that the description of the mark in the registration was too vague and could impinge on the rights of other trademark owners. The Scrabble registration provided a drawing of a blank tile and the description, “On the top surface of which is shown a letter of the Roman alphabet and a numeral in the range 1 to 10.” Zynga explained that there are many ways in which letters and numbers could be combined and that the vague description provided by Mattel would capture other trademarks such as “3M” and “F1”.

A High Court judge also ruled for Zynga, deciding that the online game Scramble With Friends does not infringe on Mattel’s trademark rights to “Scrabble”. The judge however, did find a problem with Zynga’s current Scramble logo and ordered that it be changed. According to the judge, “Zynga’s present logo with the m on its side gives the impression that the word is Scrabble when one looks at it quickly and has the propensity to confuse.”

A Dutch court has refused to grant an injunction sought by Jumbo Games against Ravensburger. Jumbo wanted to halt sales of Wasgij by Ravensburger in Europe, claiming that the latter company’s license from the former only permits sales of the game in the United States.

A man was shot and killed while playing cards on the front steps of a friend’s house in Camden, New Jersey. Police do not believe the man was the intended target but have not explained why.

The Durham County Council (UK) designed a “Monopoly-style” board game with which to facilitate public meetings to discuss service priorities during required budget cuts.

A California appeals courts sided with Mattel in a dispute over a license agreement for the board game, Outburst. Licensor, Hersch & Co., sought $1.5 million in damages over an alleged failure by Mattel to meet a contractually mandated minimum advertising spend, which Hersch claimed damaged the Outburst brand and made it more difficult for the company to secure a subsequent license. In addition to claiming that it had spent $2 million on advertising as required, Mattel successfully argued that the specific type of damages sought by Hersch & Co. were barred by the contract.

Hasbro wasn’t so fortunate in its dispute with Johnson Research over royalties for licenses related to Nerf and Super Soaker. The latter claimed that the license agreements required payment of royalties on a much greater number of products than Hasbro had maintained. In binding arbitration, Hasbro was ordered to pay Johnson $73 million.

Hasbro, however, did prevail in its court battle with MiTile Ltd., related to the game company’s Scrabble Flash, Simon Flash, and Yahtzee Flash. MiTile claimed that Hasbro infringed on its patent for manipulable, interactive, electronic game blocks. MiTile also pointed to discussions of potential collaboration it had with Hasbro prior to the release of the Flash games. Yet a federal judge in Virginia disagreed, granting summary judgement and ruling that Hasbro did not infringe. The judge, though, did not, as Hasbro had requested, invalidate MiTile’s patent.

While playing Backgammon in the office of his Cyprus taxi business, a man was shot and killed by a relative.

In China, a Mahjong parlor hires people to fill in seats at the table when guests want to play but haven’t brought enough players. These professional Mahjong players, however, are required to work for 12 hour shifts and are responsible for covering their own losses. People don’t stay in the job long.

A man in Greenville, Alabama got in to an argument over a game of Dominoes on his front porch. To emphasize his point, he fired his gun into the air. But then he continued shooting, at which point he hit and killed his girlfriend (not a player, just a bystander).

In Las Vegas, though, the girlfriend was the intended target. A man was unhappy losing at Dominoes to his girlfriend, so he choked her and hit her on the head with a hammer.

In a report of an assault at a Dominoes game in Lufkin, Texas, the victim complained of an elbow injury. Owie!

Thieves in Scranton, Pennsylvania stole a “Monopoly game worth $100” from an apartment in the process of being vacated.

Hasbro is contesting a trademark sought by Future World Electronics for “Moneyopoly” to be used in “scratch-off games incorporated into the advertising material of others used for promoting the sale of goods and services of others.”

Former world Chess champion Gary Kasparov has let go of his political ambitions in Russia and is instead planning to run for president of the World Chess Federation (FIDE). The incumbent, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, is the former president of the Russian republic, Kalmykia; claims to have been abducted by aliens; alleges that Chess was invented by aliens; and was a supporter of Libyan dictator Qaddafi.

Last month I mentioned two Michigan students for stealing money lost during a dice game. This month, felony robbery charges against them were dropped but they’re still being charged with illegal gambling.

In the remote community of Yarralin, Northern Territory, Australia, two men got in to a fight over a card game. They both went and grabbed weapons, one a nulla nulla (Aboriginal club), the other a shotgun. Take a guess as to which one won the fight (and was arrested).

Police in Baton Rouge arrested a man for shooting and killing a fellow player after the conclusion of a dice game.

Masked men attempted to rob a backyard Dominoes game in the Cayman Islands. When the assailants, armed with a handgun and machete, pushed the players in to the home, its owner closed the door before the robbers could follow. So instead, they ran away.

Players in Savanna-la-Mar, Jamaica were not so lucky. A group of gunmen attacked a Dominoes game there, killing three and injuring two more. Police have not yet determined a motive for the attack.

A jury in Portsmouth, Virginia found Calvin Alexander-Lamont Kitt guilty of murder for shooting his host over a dice game. The jury recommended 48 years in prison.