National / Crime & Legal

Popular go-kart company MariCar loses court battle over street kart business

Kyodo, AFP-JIJI

The Tokyo District Court on Thursday 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 which 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.