If you’ve ever toured Tokyo’s streets, you might have noticed people in Mario cosplay speeding past you on go-karts. Nintendo definitely noticed and in early 2017 filed a lawsuit against tourism company “MariCar” for copyright infringement. Today, a Tokyo court determined that MariCar was infringing on Nintendo’s copyrights and has forced the company to pay 10 million yen to the gaming giant.
MariCar’s business model was centered around giving people tours of Tokyo on go-karts while dressing them up in various outfits, not necessarily limited to but certainly focusing on Mario-themed outfits. Nintendo filed a complaint with the Japanese patent office in 2017, stating that MariCar as a name was deliberately meant to invoke Mario Kart. The patent office disagreed and dismissed the claim last year, stating that “MariCar” is not a widely recognized abbreviation of Mario Kart.
Where Nintendo did succeed, however, is in the claim that MariCar uses Mario characters to advertise their tourism and cosplay service to the point of essentially theming themselves around the popular game series. While the website today has hurriedly removed all pictures of patrons dressed as Yoshis, Luigis, Peaches, and more, the MariCar page had been almost completely comprised of the Mushroom Kingdom denizens as recently as last week. The site still mentions banana peels and turtle shells in its advertising, as well.
Nintendo has argued that the cosplay, even outside of explicit advertising, functions as advertising for MariCar when patrons drive around as their characters. In essence, Nintendo is saying that MariCar is advertising their go-kart business using Mario characters by just being on the road in the outfits.
MariCar has been asked to pay 10 million yen to Nintendo, which works out to about $89,000. While not a bankrupting sum for the company, it does force them to drop the Mario-themed advertising and, thus, stop using the costumes as a whole when out on the streets. In an official statement, Nintendo reiterated that it will take whatever necessary steps to protect its brand and property.