The Pokemon Company International (TPCi) filed a complaint earlier this week for the express purpose of shutting down a party in Seattle. This particular party promised Pokemon aplenty, plus propinquity to PAX....okay I've had my alliteration fun ("propinquity" means "closeness" or "relationship"). It was a party being planned by a couple of people operating as their company, "Ruckus Productions," as an unofficial kickoff to the annual Penny Arcade Expo (PAX). They had planned to hold a Pokemon themed event at a bar called 500 East and promoted it extensively in the run-up to the convention with posters featuring pictures of Pikachu and Snivy. There were some other social media posts that also used the mega-popular mascot Pikachu as a promotion for their party. From what I read, the entry fee for this event was minimal. Like $2.
Also, people have been throwing Pokemon theme parties like this one for PAX since 2011. Why is TPCi getting all litigation-y about this one?
To the complaint!
((This isn't lawyer magic. You can check it out too over at Scribd)
I got distracted, okay?
Anyway, TPCi did a lovely bit of advertising for the Pokemon Card Game, but what was the crux of the complaint? Those little pictures of Snivy and Pikachu on the poster and Facebook posts, that's what. So exactly what you probably thought. They were using TPCi's copyrighted images to promote their event. Doesn't matter if it was a Pokemon themed event or not. Doesn't matter if you wrote "Unofficial" on the poster or not. I don't even think it matters if they were charging money for people to go to the party or not. When they chose to use those little Snivy and Pikachu pictures, they called down the hammer.
I'd say there might also be a problem with the Pokemon themed adult-beverages the party was going to serve, but without any specifics I can't be sure (like, if they just served a drink that was red on top and white on the bottom, that's probably okay; if they had a written menu offering "The Pokeball" as a shot, that's going to be a problem).
The short answer from this seems to be "Don't market something using someone else's intellectual property."
In related news, water is wet, the sky is blue, and some more time is probably going to have to pass before we really know what's going on here. For what it's worth, the damages asked for in the complaint are pretty garden variety. Certainly not calling for Ruckus Productions' head on a stick.
People congregating on the basis that they enjoy Pokemon is not copyright infringement. Using someone else's IP to advertise is.
I'll keep following this to see if anything happens. Now that the party's been cancelled, there's every chance the suit will just get dropped....or TPCi could go for blood. I don't think they want that kind of negative press, but it's totally possible.