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Why Did The Creator of Trivia Dictionary Try To Sue Trivial Pursuit?

The first edition of The Trivia Encyclopedia was published in the early 1970s. It was written by Fred L. Worth as his personal collection of trivia. The book contains Worth’s Law, his invention, which states that something works automatically when the repairman arrives. But did you know why Worth tried to sue Trivial Pursuit? 

“The Trivia Encyclopedia” creator attempted to sue “Trivial Pursuit” for using their “false” fact in their game. The false fact concerned the character Columbo’s first name.

What is the Columbo Controversy? 

In the television series Columbo, Lt. Columbo’s first name was never spoken aloud. When pressed, he would insist on Lieutenant.

Worth planted the fact that the Lieutenant’s full name was Philip Columbo in his book and its sequels in an attempt to catch anyone who might try to violate his copyright. Worth’s ruse, however, was only partially successful.

He filed a $300 million lawsuit against the Trivial Pursuit board game distributors in 1984, claiming they had sourced their questions from his books, reproducing misprints and typographical errors. The ace up his sleeve was a Trivial Pursuit reference to the TV character Philip Columbo, even though the name was Worth’s invention.

The creators of Trivial Pursuit did not deny using material from Worth’s book. Still, they argued that there was nothing wrong with using it as one of many sources from which the game’s material originated. The judge agreed, ruling in favor of Trivial Pursuit, and dismissed the case.

However, misinformation persists in popular culture. Several sources claim that the name Philip Columbo was in the original script for Prescription: Murder or that it was visible on his police badge as the full name of the Columbo character. In fact, in two episodes, close-ups of a signature on Columbo’s police badge appear to reveal that his first name is Frank. Peugeot even ran an advertising campaign mentioning Lt. Philip Columbo as the most famous driver of the Peugeot convertible. (Source: En-Academic)

Did Trivia Dictionary Win the Lawsuit? 

A federal appeals court ruled on Tuesday that the creators of the board game Trivial Pursuit did not violate the intellectual property rights of two trivia encyclopedias.

The court dismissed a $300 million lawsuit filed by encyclopedist Fred L. Worth against Horn Abbot Ltd. and Selchow & Righter Co.

Although the creators of Trivial Pursuit admitted to using Worth’s books as source material for their game, the 9th U.S. Worth was denied compensation by the Circuit Court of Appeals.

No reasonable jury could find substantial similarity of both ideas and expression between the works at issue.

Judge Dorothy W. Nelson. 

Before an original work is deemed infringed, Nelson noted that expression similarity might have to amount to verbatim reproduction or very close paraphrasing.

According to Worth, the decision harms the integrity of a legitimate author while benefiting other authors who do little or no research of their own.
The game’s creators, Canadians Chris Haney and Scott Abbott, did not deny consulting Worth’s books in the development of the board game after it was conceived in 1979, but they did say the books were just one of many reference sources they used. (Source: AP News)

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