|Part 2: The History of the Monopoly Board Game|
Anti-Monopoly Box Cover
All illustrations by Ralph Anspach 1997©
By Mary Bellis
Prologue: In last week's feature I began investigating the history of the world's best-selling board game, uncovering a trail of controversy surrounding Monopoly beginning in 1936, the year that Parker Brothers purchased the rights to the game from Charles Darrow.
This week the story continues with the 1974 lawsuit brought by the General Mills Fun Group, once owners of Parker Brothers and Monopoly ®, against Ralph Anspach, the inventor/designer of the Anti-Monopoly® board game and Ralph Anspach's monopolization lawsuit against the current owners of Monopoly ®.
Go straight to jail, do not collect $200 or say anything vaguely similar.
Dr. Ralph Anspach, economics professor and inventor of a board game called Anti-Monopoly, put his product on the market in 1974 with great sales prospects. Parker Brothers and General Mills threatened to sue anyone involved with the sale of Anti-Monopoly for infringement of its trademark of the word Monopoly. Dr. Anspach (a man of relatively modest salary) found himself facing a lawsuit against the 57th largest corporation in America.
Carl Person, a New York based lawyer, was willing to take on the case on a contingency basis to help Dr. Anspach fight what turned into a ten-year court battle. Twice a lower federal court ruled against Anti-Monopoly and at one point 40,000 Anti-Monopoly games were buried in a Minnesota landfill by court order. Ralph Anspach mortgaged his home to pay the court costs and faced a loss of his home. Then the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a victory in 1984. Ralph Anspach was back in business and l/2 million copies of Anti-Monopoly sold in the same year.
Anti-Monopoly Game Card
But the game was not over yet, the country's largest toy manufacturer, Hasbro Inc. went on a toy manufacturer's shopping spree and bought Parker Brothers, soon after Ralph Anspach's victory in supreme court. Hasbro Inc. become the new owners of Monopoly and with the purchase of many other board-game producers, Hasbro Inc. gained control of at least 80% of the American board-game market. A deal was signed between two giant toy retailers, Toys 'R' Us and Kmart, and Hasbro. The fine print included an agreement for the two chains not to buy any competing product. Ralph Anspach and Anti-Monopoly suddenly faced serious marketing problems.
Ralph Anspach protested to the Federal Trade Commission with no results. He has gone back to court, with a monopolization case pending, Anti-Monopoly Inc. v. Hasbro, Inc., Toys 'R' Us and Kmart Corp. Carl Person is again representing Ralph Anspach in court.
His complaint charges that the defendant Hasbro, Inc. has been allowed by the Federal Trade Commission to acquire by merger over 80% of the board-game market and has funneled over 50% of that entire U.S. market through the defendants Toys 'R' Us and Kmart. He also claims that Hasbro, Inc. used a variety of anti-competitive practices, including predatory price discrimination, to destroy the network of wholesalers, retailers and independent sales representatives. Small toy manufacturers have to depend on that network to bring products to market.
So far, the lower court judge has refused to even let Anspach go to trial, granting summary judgment to the defendants. Ralph Anspach published a book on his experiences and I heartily recommend reading it. It is an amazing story. Ralph Anspach deserves the real credit for unearthing the true history of Monopoly while developing his defense case against the Parker Brothers' infringement suit.
Ralph Anspach on Maxine Brady's "The Monopoly Book, Strategy and Tactics"
"Here's a sidelight to the Brady book. I broke the story on the real history and the Parker Brothers/Darrow fraud in a debate with Maxine on a major New York talk show. Maxine was taken a back by the Quaker game I had brought to the show. But she is quick on her feet so she said something like who cares about who invented the game; the only thing which matters is that Monopoly is the greatest game ever invented.
I responded by saying that Monopoly had evolved in the public domain for thirty years but once it fell into private ownership, its evolution stopped while chess evolved for two thousand years before it found its present form. So how do we know that the Quaker version of Monopoly, stolen from the public domain, cannot be improved upon? Maxine answered that Monopoly was perfect and no one could improve it.
On the flight home to San Francisco, I worked out the details of the Anti-Monopoly game now on the market in response to Brady's challenge. Whether Anti-Monopoly is an improved version has not yet been tested since Monopoly excluded us from the board game market. But the web is still free so we will see when we put Anti-Monopoly out on the web." - Ralph Anspach
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