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Japanese court sides with Nintendo over go-karting copyright infringement

October 23, 2018


A Japanese trial court has ruled in favour of gaming giant Nintendo in the company’s copyright infringement suit against a Tokyo company which rented out go-karts and costumes based on Nintendo video games.

The case began in February 2017, when Nintendo initially filed its copyright infringement claim. On September 27 of this year, the Tokyo District court ordered the go-karting company, whose name is variously translated as “MariCar” or “Marika,” to cease using the likeness of Nintendo characters. The court also awarded Nintendo ¥11,000,000 (almost $100,000 in American dollars) in damages for the infringement.

The lawsuit pointed out the similarities between the go-kart company’s name and the name of Nintendo’s popular Mario Kart game series. In addition, for roughly $80 per ride, the go-kart business provided costumes of Nintendo characters to drivers to wear during the rides, and subsequently posted photos of drivers online for promotional purposes. Despite a disclaimer on MariCar’s website stating that the rentals are “in no way a reflection of the game Mario Kart,” the court ultimately agreed that these activities amounted to copyright infringement of Nintendo’s games and characters.

In addition to its intellectual property troubles, media outlets have previously reported that the go-karting industry in various Japanese cities, popular among tourists, was creating significant safety concerns following dozens of collisions with pedestrians and other vehicles. The collisions disproportionately involved tourists, primarily from the United States and South Korea.

Nintendo has historically protected its IP portfolio.

For example, in a 2017 court filing, the company opposed an American couple’s registration of the trademark “Poké Go” for use in relation to clothing on the grounds that it would cause confusion with its own Pokémon trademarks.

Earlier this year, Nintendo of America also filed suit in the United States against an individual who posted thousands of Nintendo game emulators on a website for download. A similar website stated that its users have downloaded an emulator of Nintendo’s flagship Super Mario Bros game almost 800,000 times.

In the wake of the Japanese court ruling, Nintendo released a statement saying that it will “continue to take necessary measures against infringement of intellectual property including our brand.”

Nintendo’s corporate leadership has emphasized the importance of the company’s intellectual property portfolio to its business model. Speaking in early October 2018, Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime noted that “leveraging [Nintendo’s] intellectual property in a variety of ways” across various platforms is a key part of the company’s plan for future growth.


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