For the past four years, Seattle's PAX Prime convention has been the home to a series of epic, Pokémon-themed parties.
While promoting this year's "Pok'emon PAX Kickoff Party," though, organizer Ramar Larkin was caught off guard when he received word that he was being sued by The Pokémon Company (PDF), the Nintendo subsidiary who holds the copyright to the Pokémon franchise.
Specifically, the company took issue with Larkin's use of images of Pikachu, the Pokémon Company's most iconic character, and mascot, and Snivy, the grass-type starter from Pokémon Black & White.
"Pikachu, the most recognizable Pokémon within the Pokémon universe, has become the principal mascot for TPCi as a company and for the Pokémon brand world-wide," The Pokémon Company argued:
Defendants’ exploitation of the Pikachu and Snivy characters in promotion ofthe “5th Annual Unofficial Pokemon PAX Kickoff Party” is a direct infringement of TPCi’sexclusive rights in the Pokémon Works.
In its initial court filing, The Pokémon Company claimed that the unauthorized party not only violated its copyright, but also threatened its revenue by charging people money to attend.
"Defendants boast that the '5th Annual Unofficial Pokémon PAX Kickoff Party' will feature among other things, 'Pokémon themed shots and drinks - Smash Bros.Tournament with cash prize - Dancing - Giveaways - Cosplay Contest and more,' and an “AMAZIN POKEMON MASHUP," the claim stated.
Under threat of having to pay $4,000 dollars in damages, Larkin quickly shut down the event, but The Pokémon Company is not backing down. Even though it doesn't have to continue with the lawsuit, The Pokémon Company has chosen to.
In the next two months, Larkin's responsible for settling his debt with Ninteno, something he says he can't afford.
"I work in a cafe and I literally don’t have $4,000," Larkin wrote on his successfully-funded Go Fund Me page. "I wish they would have just sent a cease and desist because I had no problem dropping the party but I just don’t have $4,000 to pay in the next 45 days."
To look at some of the monster-themed, free-to-play mobile games available on Android and iOS, you'd think that Nintendo and the Pokémon Company weren't all that concerned about protecting their intellectual property.
Games like Bulu Monster and Haypi Monster are basically Pokémon close, and unlike Larkin's party, they're designed to actually make cash off of a large userbase that might otherwise be playing Pokémon games. Whether The Pokémon Company gets more serious about games like that remains to be seen, but Larkin says that in the meantime, he'll "never throw another fandom party again."
We’ve reached out to The Pokémon Company for comment and will update if we hear back.