Real-Life Mario Karting Company Sued by Nintendo
posted on by Eric Stimson
The Shinagawa-based company MariCar lets visitors combine a tour of Japan's flagship city with geeky pleasure and the thrill of racing with its Mario Kart-themed go-cart tours. Customers don costumes from Nintendo's popular Mario Kart series (or of other well-known characters), then go careening through the streets of Tokyo through famous districts like Akihabara, Shibuya, and Harajuku, to the dismay or delight of passersby and other drivers. It's an especially popular service with foreigners, who make up about 90% of its clientele and only need an international driver's license to participate. Racing is permitted, but normal traffic laws must be obeyed — so that means no shell-hurling.
MariCar's future is now in doubt, however. Nintendo has posted a press release claiming that MariCar's name, use of Mario costumes, and distribution of images of customers wearing these costumes constitutes unfair competition and copyright infringement. Accordingly, it has filed a lawsuit at the Tokyo District Court demanding MariCar cease and desist and pay compensation.
Since the press release appeared on February 24, MariCar has been thrown into turmoil. According to a statement from the company, its webpage, e-mail address, and phone line are all down due to an influx of confused and concerned inquiries. It also claims that it had consulted "many lawyers and attorneys" and was convinced its service didn't qualify as unfair competition or copyright infringement. It had met with a representative from Nintendo several months before and was sure it had "received a statement that shows they understood our service." It even claims that it was about to cooperate with Nintendo to take down other rental car companies that used Nintendo costumes without permission. It "cannot imagine the expenses of getting into a legal battle with an international corporation."