The game of Monopoly is a real-estate trading game developed in the first half of the twentieth century. The premise of the game is that eventually, due to market forces simulated within the game as properties are bought, sold and leased, a monopoly will eventuate. The person owning this monopoly is then declared the winner.
The story of the how the game Monopoly came to be successful is a little bit like a Monopoly game being played out in real life. The current owner of the game, Hasbro toys, came to own it by a series of buy-outs and mergers which leave it as the only power capable of legally making money from it.
Monopoly was developed from a game called The Landlord's Game by a number of people in Atlantic City, eventually to be sold to Parker Brothers by Charles Darrow, the man officially recognized as its inventor. Darrow wasn't the only one to try and commercialize the public domain game, and neither was he the first, with a game called Finance predating Monopoly. Finance provides perhaps the most easily obtainable evidence that Darrow didn't single-handedly develop the game. The board is astoundingly similar.
Parker Brothers bought the game from Darrow, and when they found out he didn't actually invent it, they proceeded to pay off all the people who had stakes in earlier versions of the game. It wasn't until the Anti-Monopoly lawsuit, launched when Parker Brothers contested the legality of a game which attempted to promote perfect competition which was called "Anti-Monopoly", that the truth was finally uncovered. Since, Parker Brothers itself has been gobbled up in a merger, and now Hasbro owns the rights to the game.
However, the original 1935 patent on Monopoly has now expired, and the only protection Hasbro have is that they own the distinctive board design and corner squares as trademarks (as well as the word Monopoly and the Uncle Pennybags character, of course). This has lead to a reclaimation of Monopoly by the public domain, and even some commercial ventures.
Last updated: Wednesday 29th July 1998
Monopoly and Uncle Pennybags are trademarks of Hasbro Inc.