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Inspiration or Infringement? A Look at Palworld’s Alleged Pokémon Plagiarism

April 12, 2024


In the world of intellectual property, the line between inspiration and infringement is not always easily drawn. While seminal cases have produced a bounty of guiding principles to help creatives delineate between paying homage and plagiarism, every so often a new case arises to challenge these boundaries.

The latest chapter in the inspiration vs. infringement saga centers around game developer Pocketpair’s recent online sensation, "Palworld". The game has taken the internet by storm, making waves in the gaming community and piquing the interest of intellectual property enthusiasts for its potential infringement of Nintendo’s Pokémon franchise.

Palworld is an open world survival game which invites players to “fight, farm, build and work alongside mysterious creatures called Pals” – creatures which many players were quick to notice bear a striking resemblance to many of Nintendo’s Pokémon designs. While many would have assumed that this alone would have been sufficient to provoke the ire of Nintendo, which has developed a reputation for its litigiousness, the similarities do not end there.

In Palworld, Pals are captured using "Pal Spheres", the design and mechanics of which are highly reminiscent of Nintendo’s "Pokéballs". The similarities between the two properties are so strong that some on the internet have been quick to dub Palworld as “Pokémon with guns”.

In response to the outcry, The Pokémon Company (the Nintendo subsidiary which manages the Pokémon IP) announced in January that it had not granted permission for use of its Pokémon IP or assets. The company noted its intention to launch an investigation into the allegations of plagiarism and to “take appropriate measures” if it determined that any of its IP rights had been infringed.

Pocketpair CEO, Takuro Mizobe, posted a response to the plagiarism accusations via X (formerly Twitter), but has not formally denied the allegations at the time of writing this update.


Authors: Roy Friedman and Arash Rouhi


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