MADISON (CN) – A Nevada app maker claims in court that Milwaukee County’s law requiring a permit to develop augmented reality games like “Pokemon Go” violates its free-speech rights.
“Candy Lab AR cannot afford to undertake the process of researching the need to, and undertaking the effort to apply for, permits from municipal governments before publishing the very mobile applications that are the source of the company’s revenue,” according to the complaint filed Friday in Milwaukee federal court.
Augmented reality gives users the illusion that “digital images are physically present in front” of them by blending digital content with a person’s physical senses, Candy Lab says.
The ordinance at issue amends Section 47.03 of the Milwaukee County Code and came after the “Pokemon Go” augmented reality app was released last year. In the game, users collect items and Pokemon by physically going to real-world locations, as directed by the app.
After the game’s launch and ensuing global craze, Milwaukee County parks saw “increased trash, wear on the parks, and the need for a police presence in the parks,” according to the complaint. Candy Lab says the ordinance was passed in February in response to the popularity of “Pokemon Go.”
Just weeks after the ordinance passed, Candy Lab launched its “Texas Rope ‘Em” app, which requires players to interact with virtual poker cards in actual physical settings throughout Milwaukee, in violation of the ordinance.
The ordinance requires businesses introducing augmented reality games to be played in the county to fill out a special-event application that includes liability for damage done to parks by users playing the game.
“The cost of obtaining insurance for unknown numbers of players, in every park, during all park hours would be cost prohibitive,” Candy Lab claims.
According to the lawsuit, app makers face other potential fees including: “hotline fee ($500.00), garbage collection ($50.00 per employee per hour), recycling containers rental ($5.00 per day), picnic tables rental ($15.00 per day), garbage baskets rental ($7.00 per day), barricades rental ($8.00 per day) and an excessive clean-up fee ($150.00 minimum) and participant fees.”
Candy Lab wants a judge to declare that the ordinance violates its constitutional rights and interferes with customers’ ability to use its apps.
“This restriction impinges on Candy Lab AR’s right to free speech by regulating Candy Lab AR’s right to publish its video games that make use of the augmented reality medium,” the lawsuit states.
The Milwaukee County Department of Parks, Recreation and Culture – one of the defendants, along with the county and its board of supervisors – did not respond to an email request for comment sent Monday.
Candy Lab is an augmented reality startup that was founded in 2010 and is represented in Friday’s lawsuit by Brian Wassom with Warner Norcross & Judd LLP.