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Trade Marks

Riding the ‘Pokemon Go’ wave – how to reference the trade mark

Max Steinhausen

Since its launch, Pokemon Go, a free-to-play, location-based ‘augmented reality mobile game, is on everyone’s mind. Pokemon Go sees players hunt through real-world locations for digital Pokemons. Players look for these virtual creatures, catch them, train them and battle with them.

With its overnight success, Pokemon Go has become a global phenomenon that businesses around the world want to be associated with. In Australia (as in many other countries) for example, Nintendo has protected the trade mark ‘Pokemon Go’, combining a word and a logo. So, how can you use the trade mark ‘Pokemon Go’ to generate leads for your business without infringing on it?

In-game rights

In the game, real-life local businesses can apply to become virtual ‘PokemonGyms’ or ‘PokeStops’ (physical locations that turn into training and battle grounds for Pokemon, or where players can stop to virtually collect items such as Pokeballs) to generate customer traffic to their real-life businesses.

This option implies that you’d have to install the App to be part of the game as a player or as a sponsored location. The business would then be featured on a virtual map of the game in the hope to attract players to visit their ‘brick and mortar’ stores. For example, a downtown café could apply for a sponsored location to attract patrons to come to their café and buy of the menu whilst training and hunting their Pokemons. Accredited ‘sponsored location’ businesses pay fees each time a player visits the store.

If you are a player and your business is next to an already existing PokeStop, you can set ‘Lure Modules’. These will attract Pokemons to the nearest PokeStop for a period of 30 minutes. This in turn will attract players to hang around the Lure Modules, close to your business, increasing potential purchases. You can receive the Lure Modules during certain level-ups, you can also buy them in in-game shops for little real-world money.

Pokemon Go friendly business

Without having a direct association to the game as a player or sponsored business you can still mention the trade mark ‘Pokemon Go’ and related terms, such as the famous Pokeball, in a descriptive way, to attract players to your business. Depending on the business you conduct, you can for example hold Pokemon Go events like a Gym battle, or you can offer specials to teams or even a phone charging station for players’ devices. You could highlight that you have a rare Pokemon around your business location or give tips on your social media.

The one rule you need to adhere to is that you cannot use the trade mark as your ‘badge of origin’, which means you can’t create the impression that you are the owner of the trade mark. Following this rule there are many ways in which you can benefit from the current hype.

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