Ramar Larkin Jones, a Seattle Pokémon fanatic and a cafe manager has been hosting the Unofficial Pokémon PAX Kickoff Party for the past five years. It’s a free party featuring Pokémon giveaways and music. To advertise the party this year, he used images of Pikachu and Snivy on a promotional poster.
Jones cancelled the party after being threatened with a lawsuit from the Pokémon Company, which claimed his use of Pikachu and Snivy infringed on the company’s copyright.
“Once I canceled the event, I thought it would be over, thought it’d be dropped,” Jones told me. “I talked to a lawyer the Monday after PAX and thought everything was good. I thought the lawsuit was a scare tactic—people were making jokes about it at PAX.”
Normally, that’s how these things go. A copyright holder sends a cease and desist letter or even files a lawsuit, the infringer cancels their event or takes down the infringing material, and everyone moves on. But not this time.
The Pokémon Company went through the entire legal process. Jones consulted with but did not hire a lawyer, because it was too expensive. The Japanese company sent Jones a letter asking him to pay $5,400 for copyright infringement. The settlement would prohibit him from ever using the company’s copyrighted material again.
“I can’t pay it,” he said. “I manage a cafe, and cost of living is super expensive in Seattle. I am hoping I can try to pay it over the course of a year, because I simply want to be done with it. It’s a part of my childhood, and you know that if you’re in the culture you can’t really get away from it”
Although the Pokémon Company might be right, legally, it remains the question whether it is a smart marketing move to attack your fan base in this way. It could them hurt more that the $5.400,- they gain with the law suit.
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