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Pokémon GO and the Alleged Nuisance of Catching ’Em All

Attorney: Soniya D. Khemlani | Published 10.11.16


In recent months, Pikachu fever has taken over mobile devices, city streets, and even corporate boardrooms. Since the July 6, 2016, debut of Pokémon GO, a mobile app developed by Niantic, Inc., players have found themselves immersed in a world full of Pokémon. The well-known app allows players to catch Pokémon in “augmented reality,” so a player can meet a Bulbasaur outside a grocery store or find a Meowth waiting at a mailbox. Some of the main goals of the game include catching as many Pokémon as possible, visiting Pokéstops to collect items for use in the game, and battling in the Pokémon Gym. Players have found themselves traveling to unlikely areas, sometimes through extraordinary means, since the game is played based on real-world locations programmed into the Pokémon GO app.

Pokémon GO Litigation

The virtues of Pokémon GO have been well documented since it became an overnight sensation this summer. Pokémon GO players found themselves getting more exercise, visiting more local sites, and socializing with other players, all in their quest to, as the Pokémon cartoon theme song says, “be the very best like no one ever was.”  However, Pokémon GO has also seen its fair share of criticism, and with that has come a growing number of lawsuits against Niantic, Inc., The Pokémon Company, and Nintendo Co., Ltd. A few class action lawsuits have been filed, with property owners claiming that Pokémon GO players’ efforts to “catch ’em all” have created nuisances. Since July, aspiring Pokémon trainers have taken their efforts to catch a Charmander or battle with a Squirtle into many unlikely venues, from family backyards to cemeteries to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. A class action complaint in the Northern District of California contends Niantic is liable for the nuisance it created, which has allegedly denied individuals the use and enjoyment of their land, while another complaint states that Pokémon GO players have gone so far as to destroy landscaping while visiting residential sites in the hope of catching rare Pokémon.

Pokémon GO presently includes certain in-game admonishments that seek to curb criticism and minimize certain issues the app has created, including telling users not to trespass when playing the game, that they should not play while driving, and that they need to be aware of their surroundings while playing. However, some players have really taken the Pokémon theme song to heart, traveling “across the land” and “searching far and wide,” sometimes without regard to their own safety and the safety of others. Lawsuits may ultimately determine just how far Pokémon trainers can go to “catch ’em all” and the price of the quests.