Pokémon Go craze sparks legal action over backyard intrusion

Niantic-Nintendo game downloaded more than 30 million times in first two weeks

Pokémon may be the craze of the moment, but not everyone is so keen to "catch 'em all". A US man has filed a legal action against Niantic, who made the game, and Nintendo, because he claims players are coming to his home uninvited to catch the Pokémon located in his back yard.

The West Orange man alleges the companies have created a nuisance with their GPS-based game and seeks class-action status on behalf of all Americans whose properties have been trespassed upon by players in search of Pokémon Go monsters.

The complaint includes references to Pokémon hunters parading into an Alabama cemetery and the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington and also cites a Massachusetts homeowner visited more than a dozen times within hours of the game’s release last month.

Pokémon Go was developed by San Francisco-based Niantic, with some input from Nintendo. While excitement over the game’s popularity at one point more than doubled Nintendo’s market value, shares have since corrected as the company pared back expectations, saying financial impact would be “limited”.


The game’s user map places Pokémon gyms and Pokestops on and adjacent to private properties without owners’ consent, according to the complaint filed by Jeffrey Marder in federal court in Oakland, California.

“At least five individuals knocked on plaintiff’s door, informed plaintiff that there was a Pokémon in his backyard and asked for access to plaintiff’s backyard in order to ‘catch’ the Pokémon,” according to the complaint.

“Defendants have shown a flagrant disregard for the foreseeable consequences of populating the real world with virtual Pokémon without seeking the permission of property owners.”

Japanese downloads

Nintendo shares fell to a three-week low in Tokyo after Pokémon dropped to fourth place from number one in Japanese iPhone downloads. The shares rose 1 per cent to 21,170 yen at 11.28am today. In the first two weeks after its release, Pokémon Go had been downloaded more than 30 million times and generated more than $35 million in revenue, according to the complaint.

Niantic did not immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment on the complaint.

The company’s guidelines for the game urge users to “adhere to the rules of the human world”, including avoiding trespassing or trying to “gain access to any property or location where you do not have the right or permission to be”.

Yasuhiro Minagawa, a spokesman for Nintendo, declined to comment.

The maps are based on Niantic’s original GPS-based, augmented reality game called Ingress, which generated a cult after it was released in 2013. As they played the game, Ingress users helped build the map now used in Pokémon Go, said Ryan Morrison, a lawyer in New York who specialises in legal issues related to video games.

“There’s going to be 200 lawsuits, that’s for sure,” Mr Morrison said in a phone interview. “If the court comes along and says this kind of suit is okat, what a terrible blow it will be to augmented reality technology.”

– (Bloomberg)