Reuben Klamer Wins 59 year Tug-of-War over Iconic Game of Life Board Game
(Reuben autographing games at Chicago Toy & Game Fair in 2009 with a line that wrapped around the Hasbro booth and out the door! )
A year ago my son Nick and I had the pleasure of dinner with dear friends Reuben Klamer and Bea Pardo. My son was extra excited because dinner was at the La Jolla Golf Club where one of his favorite golfers, Phil Michelson, is a member.
Before dinner, we were able to see where the magic happens - Reuben's home office with his many treasures. It was a special night with the exception of the cloud of a court hearing coming up on the case that was finally decided. My heart went out to Reuben and Bea to have to deal with such things instead of creating more toys and games as well as enjoy the many successes to date.
Reuben invented the Game of Life and much much more. You can read this interview with Reuben by Joyce Johnson that we posted a few years ago. What the interview didn't mention was the ongoing lawsuit that has finally been put to rest after 59 years.... finally! The story is at the end of this article.
(Reuben, Bea, my son Nick and me on our way to dinner)
Reuben was our Lifetime Achievement Honoree at the 2009 Toy & Game Inventor of the Year (TAGIE) Awards. The following year he came out to toast fellow inventor legend and close friend Eddie Goldfarb, our 2010 honoree. These two are legends!
And they are inspirations! Several years ago Reuben drove from La Jolla to a pub event we hosted in Santa Monica and was pitching people at companies he had not worked with yet. His appetite for pitching matches his love of food (he ate his burger and half of mine)!
A story he told that evening demonstrates the impact Reuben and others in our industry have on the world. Just before Reuben had heart bypass surgery years ago, his surgeon shared that he chose the medical field because he only won the game when he was the doctor in the Game of Life.
I do what I do because play is absolutely vital to making us better people. Sharing stories like Reuben's connects us and shows the magic of our industry to the world... which promotes play!
Thank you, Reuben!
GAME OF LIFE AUTHORSHIP FINALLY DECLARED — AFTER 59 YEARS
Reuben Klamer Wins Long-Running Court Battle Over Iconic Board Game
by Jodi Levin
February 6, 2019 — Saying he is “greatly relieved,” toy industry legend Reuben Klamer joyfully announced today that after a six-decade tug-of-war with artist Bill Markham (and following his death, Markham’s heirs), a federal judge has decisively settled the question of who is the sole author and owner of the copyright to the Game of Life: Mr. Klamer.
“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. “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. And though the credit, in the colloquial sense, can be split pro rata, the law dictates that the copyrights cannot be.”
Smith had flown to Los Angeles during a bench trial to hear live testimony from Klamer, now 96, and two elderly former employees of Markham who created the game prototype and its initial rules and box cover. The case had dragged off and on since nearly the beginning, but the battle headed to U.S. District Court for Rhode Island in 2015, where Markham’s heirs sued Hasbro, which had acquired Milton Bradley and the Game of Life in 1984.
A precursor to the game was invented in 1860 by Milton Bradley and was called the Checkered Game of Life. In 1959, as executives sought a special project to commemorate the Milton Bradley company’s centennial, Klamer, rummaging around in the Milton Bradley archives and coming upon Bradley’s original game, decided to update it with “post-war American values.” He enlisted Markham’s company, a graphic design firm, to do the art work.
Klamer and Art Linkletter, a well-known radio and television personality who shared a development company, pitched the newly created Game of Life to Milton Bradley executives at the storied Chasen’s restaurant in West Hollywood in August 1959. Soon after, Klamer and Linkletter licensed the game to Milton Bradley.
The Game of Life was a monster hit when it was introduced in January 1960 and is still a revenue source for Hasbro, Milton Bradley’s successor-in-interest.
In finding for Hasbro, Smith ruled that Markham and his team had worked for Klamer “at his instance and expense,” and that the copyright in a “work for hire” belongs to the hirer — in this case Klamer — not the worker.
The judge wrote that he found the testimony of Markham’s long-ago employees, Leonard Israel, who died in January, and Grace Chambers, credible and consistent with Klamer’s testimony. Neither had a financial interest in the outcome.
Judge Smith’s 25-page decision was cleverly styled with Game of Life terms, including that this was the parties’ “Day of Reckoning” and that Markham’s heirs cannot ascend to “Millionaire Acres.”
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Jodi Levin, The Uncommon Essay
201.280.7962 or firstname.lastname@example.org
(Reuben with his TAGIE Award and Hasbro's George Burtch)
(Mary Couzin and Reuben Klamer at the TAGIEs)