Access to Innovation
“Mario Kart” Copycat(?) Tourist Company Ordered to Stop IP Infringement
INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY INDUSTRY NEWS
Japan is not an easy place to drive a car, but Mari Mobility Development Inc. has built a popular tourist-oriented business partly on its “MariCAR” go-cart tours. The “MariCAR” tours offer superhero outfits, including for Nintendo Co.’s classic video game hero Mario. Nintendo of course holds the trademark for its game “Mario Kart,” which is commonly shortened to “marika-” (equivalent to “Maricar” if spelled in English). And on September 27, 2018, it won a Tokyo District Court infringement case against Mari Mobility for infringement of trademark.
The grounds for the decision came largely from the Unfair Competition Prevention Act’s provisions against acts that lend themselves to consumer’s confusion of something not trademarked, with the trademark (called an “Act of Inducement of Confusion with a Well-Known Indication” by Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry). The court agreed with Nintendo that Mari Mobility’s business was violating Nintendo’s IP by putting forward the common abbreviation “MariCAR” (notably Mari Mobility’s company name was MariCAR until March 22, 2018) in its carting tours, particularly in conjunction with renting Mario and related characters’ costumes for tourists to wear during their drives.
Nintendo’s press release after the decision asserts, “We intend to continue to implement measures needed against infringing acts against our intellectual property, including our branding . . .” Mari Mobility, however, announced it will appeal the decision. Its business websites in English and Japanese state the tour is unrelated to Nintendo and Nintendo’s trademarked Mario Kart, and that it is abiding by local laws. It just seems like Mari Mobility is really building on Nintendo’s trademark and popularity to attract customers.
On the other hand, is their touring service, far afield from the video gaming industry where Nintendo is doing its business, really harming Nintendo’s reputation and business? That’s up for debate. Interestingly, in early 2017 Nintendo filed for a “defensive” “Mario Kart” trademark [No. 4880591-2(01)]–follow-up to the many already existing related trademarks–specifying classifications related to go-carts, cart rentals, and amusement park carts.
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MariCAR website, accessed October 4, 2018.
Mari Mobility Development Inc., “地裁判決に対する控訴のお知らせ [Notice of appeal of district court decision],” September 30, 2018 press release.
Mari Mobility Development Inc., “社名変更に関するお知らせ [Notice concerning change of company name],” March 22, 2018 press release.
Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry, “ What is Violation of Unfair Competition Prevention Law?”
Nikkei Shimbun, “マリカー訴訟、焦点は「コスチューム」 [MariCAR litigation’s focus is costumes],” May 11, 2017.
Nintendo, “公道カートのレンタルサービスに伴う当社知的財産の利用行為に関する東京地裁判決について [Concerning the Tokyo District Court decision on use of our company’s intellectual property in public road cart rental service],” press release, September 27, 2018.
Yahoo! Japan, hosting of Kai-You article, “公道カート「マリカー」に損害賠償命令、東京地裁が判決 任天堂が声明 [Public road cart ‘MariCAR’ ordered to make payment for damages; Tokyo District Court decides case],” September 27, 2018.
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