The final shell was cast in the long legal battle, and it was a blue one.
On 25 December, Judge Katsuyuki Kizawa of the Supreme Court of Japan dismissed an appeal by Mari Mobility Development Inc., regarding the popular tourist attraction once known as MariCar. As a result, their three-year legal battle with Nintendo has ended in favor of the video game giant.
The cause of the lawsuit is probably obvious without even knowing the backstory, as the service which allows people to drive go-karts around the streets of Tokyo and Osaka is only a couple letters off the hit racing game series Mario Kart. Further exacerbating matters was that MariCar once allowed customers to wear Nintendo-themed costumes while driving for an experience similar to the game.
In 2017, Nintendo first filed against MariCar over fears that accidents that occur during the go-kart tours could damage the Mario Kart brand. In fact, since filing, a cyclist and building were both struck by karts in separate incidents.
By September of 2018, the Tokyo District Court ruled in favor of Nintendo and ordered MariCar to stopping renting out Nintendo-themed costumes and pay 10 million yen (US$97,000) in compensation. However, they were allowed to keep the name and distanced themselves from the games by plastering their carts with “unrelated to Nintendo” in both English and Japanese.
Both companies were unsatisfied with the result and filed appeals, and in January of 2020, the Intellectual Property High Court also sided with Nintendo and upped their compensation to 50 million yen ($483,000) and ordered use of the name “MariCar” to stop.
The company, which had since rebranded itself as “Street Kart,” appealed, but by this time the damage had been done, and with COVID-19 rapidly shutting out the tourists that made up their core clientele, things were looking bleak.
▼ Street Kart caters especially to people visiting from other countries.
Netizens in Japan, who largely saw this as an open-and-shut case from the start, were mostly surprised it was still going on, but overwhelmingly agreed with the verdicts.
“That’s just the way it goes.”
“This still hadn’t been settled?”
“Come to think of it, I haven’t seen any go-karts around Tokyo since corona. But now we have to deal with Uber Eats people.”
“Sorry, but I can’t find any sympathy for MariCar. Do business right or get crushed.”
“Even without the lawsuit, I don’t think it would survive COVID-19.”
“Finally, some good news!”
“They picked the wrong company to mess with.”
“Anyone who misses it can still check out the USJ ride.”
“Okay, now lets talk about how Mario is a rip-off of Mickey. Look at the pants and gloves and listen to how they both talk. Come on, people!!!”
Huh… I never actually noticed it before, but there are a lot of similarities between Mario and Mickey. They both have five-letter names starting with “M” and their jawlines are both strikingly similar. Sure, he didn’t start out looking like that, but he certainly seems to be getting more Mickeyfied as the years pass.
▼ Look, I’m just asking questions here….
Anyway, for the time being, Street Kart’s websites are still up, which means they may still try to tough it out and reclaim their past success. However, with the Nintendo matter finally settled, their future now appears to rest chiefly in the hands of a global pandemic.