Japan is not an easy place to drive a car, but Mari Mobility Development Inc. has built a popular tourist-oriented business partly on its "MariCAR" go-cart tours. The "MariCAR" tours offer superhero outfits, including for Nintendo Co.'s classic video game hero Mario. Nintendo of course holds the trademark for its game "Mario Kart," which is commonly shortened to "marika-" (equivalent to "Maricar" if spelled in English). And on September 27, 2018, it won a Tokyo District Court infringement case against Mari Mobility for infringement of trademark.
The grounds for the decision came largely from the Unfair Competition Prevention Act's provisions against acts that lend themselves to consumer's confusion of something not trademarked, with the trademark (called an "Act of Inducement of Confusion with a Well-Known Indication" by Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry). The court agreed with Nintendo that Mari Mobility's business was violating Nintendo's IP by putting forward the common abbreviation "MariCAR" (notably Mari Mobility's company name was MariCAR until March 22, 2018) in its carting tours, particularly in conjunction with renting Mario and related characters' costumes for tourists to wear during their drives.
Nintendo's press release after the decision asserts, "We intend to continue to implement measures needed against infringing acts against our intellectual property, including our branding . . ." Mari Mobility, however, announced it will appeal the decision. Its business websites in English and Japanese state the tour is unrelated to Nintendo and Nintendo's trademarked Mario Kart, and that it is abiding by local laws. It just seems like Mari Mobility is really building on Nintendo's trademark and popularity to attract customers.
On the other hand, is their touring service, far afield from the video gaming industry where Nintendo is doing its business, really harming Nintendo's reputation and business? That's up for debate. Interestingly, in early 2017 Nintendo filed for a "defensive" "Mario Kart" trademark [No. 4880591-2(01)]–follow-up to the many already existing related trademarks–specifying classifications related to go-carts, cart rentals, and amusement park carts.
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