On January 29, 2020, the Superior Court of Intellectual Property of Japan rejected an appeal from a popular Tokyo tour operator, in a lawsuit that Nintendo filed against its company. However, the court dramatically increased the amount of damages due to the video game and entertainment giant, from 10 million Japanese yen (US $ 100,000) to 50 million yen (US $ 500,000).
MARI Mobility Development, also known as Maricar, rents go-karts that legally transit the streets in various places across Tokyo, Japan. Participants have long been encouraged to wear costumes of the characters from the popular Nintendo series ‘Mario Kart’, supplied by Maricart, and then run through city traffic on fleets of go-karts. Anyone who has a Japanese or international driver's license can drive the go-karts.
According to BengoDotCom, a Japanese news site that reports on legal issues, before being sued by Nintendo, Maricar stated on his website:
ス ー パ ー マ リ プ の 乗 れ し 、 ま さ ば 、 リ さ ル マ リ カ！！！！！
If you dress like the Super Mario character, it's like you're driving the real Mario Kart (from the video game)!
BengoDotCom also reported that Maricar used accessories with themes, statues of Mario, which is and official merchandise of Nintendo, to decorate and market the different venues of his excursions around Tokyo.
However, Maricar claims to have no links or affiliation with Nintendo: “Street Kart is in no way a reflection of Nintendo or the game‘ Mario Kart ’,” says a disclaimer shown in a pop-up window on the franchise site. The creator of the “Mario Kart” video, which is based in Kyoto, decided to sue Maricar in September 2018. Nintendo argued that, under the Japan Unfair Competition Prevention Act, by using the characters without permission of “Mario Kart” in merchandise, Maricar incurred in “unfair competition” (“不正 競争 行為 に あ た る”).
A Tokyo court agreed with Nintendo, awarding the video game creator 10,000,000 Japanese yen in damages, which must be paid by Maricar during that year. Maricar filed an appeal against the Tokyo court ruling before the Supreme Intellectual Property Court, who dismissed the appeal in a provisional ruling in May 2019, stating that “Maricar's actions infringe Nintendo's commercial interests.” (“MARI 社 の 行為 は 、 任天堂 の 営 業 上 の 利益 を 侵害 す る”).
In January 2020, the Superior Court of Intellectual Property increased Nintendo's compensation to 50 million yen:
That's a lot by Japanese standards.
Nintendo has been serial-winning cases in recent weeks in Japan and the US.
(There is a reason why in a company portrait a while ago, the Nikkei called Nintendo's department “legendary”.) Https://t.co/qpfE6xyVNG
– Dr. Serkan Toto / Kantan Games Inc. (@serkantoto) January 29, 2020
(By court order) MariCar Inc., a company similar to Mario Kart, must pay Nintendo damages for 50 million (about 500,000), five times the original amount, by virtue of an appeal court ruling, Japanese media report.
That is still a lot by Japanese standards.
Nintendo has won a series of lawsuits in Japan and the United States.
(For that reason, when Nikkei described the company some time ago, he described the (legal) department of Nintendo as 'legendary'.
Nintendo has a reputation for resorting to litigation a lot. Around the same time that the company won the appeal against Maricar, it also won an intellectual property lawsuit in the United States after a long battle to ban old versions of its popular games from being played online. Also in Europe, in January 2020, Nintendo won a legal battle to prevent some customers from canceling advance orders.
As for Maricar, since Nintendo plans to open a theme park in Osaka that would include characters like ‘Mario Kart’, the existence of a go-kart in Tokyo that uses the Nintendo brand, even informally, can potentially confuse visitors. In addition, Maricar's go-karts have caused several accidents and the inhabitants of Tokyo generally do not like to see them on the streets of the city, and costumes constitute a tangible risk for the Nintendo brand:
地 元 の 住民 た ち く 公道 カ ー ト を 見 か け る は 、 て 至 情 情 情 た に た た た た た た た た た た た た た
After seeing the go-karts roaming the streets in public, the locals were enraged at Nintendo itself and sent complaint emails (to the video game company).
Although Maricar continues to offer go-kart excursions in Tokyo, as of the provisional ruling of May 2019, the company closed its main website and removed the costumes and everything related to the Nintendo brand from its different locations. However, Mario and other characters driving their go-karts in the city of Tokyo are still alive in many YouTube videos.
(embed) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2OZW3L3PcIY (/ embed)