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Let's discuss Nintendo's case against MariCar

This week’s featured article

KYODO, AFP-JIJI

The Tokyo District Court on Sept. 27 ordered the operator of a go-kart service that lets customers drive on public roads wearing costumes of Nintendo Co.’s video game characters to pay damages for copyright infringement.

The amount of compensation was not immediately known. Nintendo had sought ¥10 million ($88,300) when it filed a lawsuit against MariCar Inc. in February last year and demanded it stop using the costumes, which have been popular with foreign tourists.

Visitors to Tokyo and other major Japanese cities are often stunned to see convoys of karts driven by people — usually tourists — dressed up as Mario, Yoshi, Princess Peach and other popular Nintendo characters buzzing around busy streets.

Unlike many countries, Japan has no ban on people driving go-karts on public roads.

But the court ruling looks set to bring such Nintendo-themed antics screeching to a halt.

The video gaming giant said the ruling blocks the MariCar go-kart service from lending Mario and other characters’ costumes to its customers.

Nintendo complained that its popular racing game “Mario Kart” is known widely as “MariKar,” just like the go-kart service’s name.

It also argued that the go-kart enterprise had not been given permission to allow drivers to dress up as its characters or to use photo and video footage from the racing game in its publicity materials.

“We will continue to take necessary steps against damage being done to our brand and intellectual properties, which we have spent years to build,” Nintendo said in a brief statement.

Nintendo noted that it had won damages but did not discuss the financial amount.

Mari Mobility, the go-kart operator that has changed its official name from MariCar, said in a brief statement that it will review the ruling before deciding what to do next.

The company website says its service “is in no way a reflection” of Nintendo’s Mario Kart, and tells customers not to race one another, nor throw banana skins or red turtle shells — all things you can famously do in Nintendo’s frenetic racing game.

Occasional accidents among go-karters on Japan’s streets have prompted authorities to require that operators improve safety measures, like mandating the use of seat belts and helmets.

First published in The Japan Times on Sept. 29.

Warm up

One-minute chat about games.

Game

Collect words related to streets, e.g., road, car, signal.

New words

1) infringement: violation, e.g., “That would be an infringement of privacy.”

2) antic: odd or silly behavior, e.g., “A monkey performed antics for the crowd.”

Guess the headline

Popular g_-_ _ _ _ company MariCar loses court battle over s_ _ _ _ _ kart business

Questions

1) What is the service mentioned in the article?

2) Why did Nintendo bring the case to court?

3) What is the situation in Japan in terms of regulating such vehicles?

Let’s discuss the article

1) Do you agree with Nintendo’s complaint?

2) What do you think of the go-kart service?

3) What rules do you think go-kart operators should follow?

Reference

公道を使った観光客向けアトラクションはそれ自体も安全性などの観点からしばしば問題視されてきましたが、別の問題により運営会社が敗訴する事態となりました。

主なターゲットが外国人観光客ということもあり乗客たちの中にはこのサービスが任天堂社の公式のものだと思う人もいるかもしれません。

外国人観光客が増えていく中で気も強く安全に日本を楽しんでもらうためにはどうすればいいのでしょうか。朝の会に参加し皆さんで語り合ってみましょう。

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