Property Owners Drop Pokemon From Class Action Suit

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) — Property owners on Wednesday dropped their class action against Pokemon, abandoning claims that the Pokemon Go game encouraged players to trespass on private property; only Niantic remains as a defendant.

Lead plaintiff Jeffery Marder of New Jersey sued Niantic, Nintendo and Pokemon Co. in Federal Court one year ago. Marder said five people knocked on his door in the first week of the game’s debut in July 2016, asking for permission to “catch” Pokemon in his backyard.

He claimed the game makers unfairly profited from the unauthorized use of people’s private property by plopping virtual characters in their real-world yards and homes without permission.

The augmented reality game, a reincarnation of Nintendo’s popular 1990s Gameboy franchise, uses GPS and camera functions to let players achieve goals by “catching” virtual characters in the real world.

Marder and other plaintiffs filed a stipulation of voluntary dismissal Wednesday, typically a sign that the suit has been settled out of court. In April, the plaintiffs voluntarily dismissed claims against Nintendo.

Attorneys for Marder and Niantic did not return phone calls seeking comment Wednesday.

Marder alleged claims of nuisance and unjust enrichment against Niantic and the other defendants.

After the game’s debut, several media reports surfaced about people playing Pokemon Go in inappropriate places, including an Alabama cemetery and the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.

The Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum in Poland last year banned people from playing “Pokemon Go” there, calling the behavior “disrespectful” at a site memorializing the murder of more than 1 million Jews by Nazis during World War II.

In a brief filed in January, Niantic argued that the plaintiffs could not sue it for “virtually trespassing” on private property because trespass “requires unauthorized entry of a tangible object.” It said it could not be sued for “inducing” people to trespass because it did not intentionally cause trespassing, and no significant harm resulted from the alleged trespassing.

Niantic made nearly $1 billion from the Pokemon Go game in 2016, according to Forbes. The game had 65 million monthly active users as of April this year, according to the gaming publication IGN.

In February, the mobile app marketing firm SensorTower estimated that Pokemon Go makes $1.5 to $2.5 million per day, down from its peak of $18 million per day at the height of its popularity in 2016, according to TechCrunch.

Niantic is represented by Jeffrey Gutkin with Cooley LLP in San Francisco. Marder by Jeremy Lieberman with the Pomerantz firm in New York.

Niantic did not return an email seeking comment Wednesday afternoon.

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