WEST ORANGE, NJ — A West Orange man is attempting to stop Pokemon GO players from intruding on his property by filing a lawsuit seeking class-action status in Northern California Federal Court against Niantic Inc., The Pokemon Company and Nintendo Co. Ltd., the organizations responsible for the hugely popular augmented reality game.
Jeffrey Marder claims in his suit that at least five people have knocked on his door requesting permission to access his backyard to capture a Pokemon, a virtual creature which he alleges game developer Niantic programmed to appear on his property in the game using his GPS coordinates without permission. He claims numerous other strangers also started “lingering” outside his home within the first week the game was released on July 6, interfering with his life.
Marder is seeking damages on behalf of himself and all other Americans whose property was either unknowingly used or directly abuts an area used as a “Pokestop” or a “Pokemon gym,” which are locations where players can obtain rewards or meet to engage in Pokemon battles. He specifically accuses the defendants of creating a nuisance in the lives of those affected and profiting off of that disruption.
“Niantic made unauthorized use of Plaintiff’s and other Class members’ property by placing Pokestops or Pokemon gyms thereupon or nearby,” Marder’s lawsuit, which appears to be the first of its kind, states. “In so doing, Niantic has encouraged Pokemon GO’s millions of players to make unwanted incursions onto the properties of Plaintiff and other members of the class — a clear and ongoing invasion of their use and enjoyment of their land from which Defendants have profited and continue to profit.”
In addition to monetary rewards, the lawsuit also calls for the defendants to stop the “wrongful acts and practices alleged.”
Marder and his attorneys did not respond to requests for comment before press time Aug. 10. Niantic, The Pokemon Company and Nintendo also did not respond.
The Niantic website, however, does have an online form people can use to request that a Pokestop or Pokemon gym be removed. It can be found here: https://support.pokemongo.nianticlabs.com/hc/en-us/requests/new?ticket_form_id=319928. The game also advises players not to enter anyone’s private land, though Marder’s lawsuit uses this as evidence that the company knows people’s properties are being used.
The lawsuit comes following the wild success of the game, which uses a mobile phone’s GPS, camera and gyroscope technology to superimpose Pokemon over the real world image seen through a player’s camera screen. An algorithm developed by Niantic situates Pokemon at the GPS coordinates of real-world locations, allowing players to discover and “catch” them by swiping on their phones.
Pokemon GO has been downloaded more than 100 million times worldwide and has generated more than $10 million in daily revenue through in-app purchases since being launched, according to analysis firm App Annie. Analysis firm Sensor Tower reports the game has made more than $160 million total so far. Additionally, Apple announced that the game set the record for the most downloaded app in store history within the first week of its release.
The game has been lauded for its unique concept as well, with many technology pundits predicting that Pokemon GO will lead to a host of other augmented reality games. And supporters have claimed it has gotten them out of the house and introduced them to businesses in the area they would not have known about otherwise.
But Pokemon GO has also received criticism for using sensitive locations and private properties as Pokestops and Pokemon gyms. Marder’s lawsuit mentions this as evidence of its allegations’ prevalence, citing examples such as the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., a cemetery in Alabama and a New Mexico house famous for its use on the series “Breaking Bad.” It reported that one Massachusetts man who lives in a former church had droves of people visit his residence when it was marked as a Pokemon gym without his knowledge. Other sites that have sparked outrage include the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, the Arlington National Cemetery and the National Sept. 11 Memorial and Museum.
Some Pokemon GO players have also experienced accidents as a result of being engrossed in the game, and reports of players being robbed, beaten and harassed while trying to find creatures have surfaced. An 18-year-old Guatemalan man became the first death tied to Pokemon GO after he was shot and killed while playing. Law enforcement officials have warned players to be aware of their surroundings at all times.