Nintendo scores a legal victory over alleged Mario Kart impersonators

Let’s a not go!
Let’s a not go!
Image: AP Photo/Koji Sasahara
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

Since June 2015, people in Japan could dress up as Mario and Princess Peach and race around cities in a real-life version of Nintendo’s popular Mario Kart game series—but that’s about to change. On Thursday (Sept. 27), Nintendo won a court battle against MariCar, a company that offers go-kart tours in three different cities (Tokyo, Osaka, and Okinawa). A Tokyo district court ordered MariCar to stop renting Mario Kart costumes, and to pay $89,000 in damages to Nintendo. The company is still allowed to rent out go-karts.

Nintendo first filed the lawsuit against the go-kart service last year over copyright infringement claims and for allegedly violating Japan’s Unfair Competition Prevention Act, which includes misappropriation of other party’s goods and businesses. Nintendo also complained that MariCar used photos and videos from Mario Kart in its promotional materials, and that “Mario Kart” is commonly referred to as “MariKar,” which closely resembles the go-kart company’s name.

In a statement, Nintendo said it will continue to take the necessary steps to protect its brand and intellectual property. As Engadget points out, Nintendo is protective of its IP and has filed for copyright and patent infringement several times before. The company also had plans to open its own real-life version of Mario Kart at Super Nintendo World, which is set to open at Universal Studios Japan before the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

The MariCar website currently states that the service is ongoing as usual, because the service is “fully complied through local governing laws in Japan.” There is a disclaimer at the bottom that says the service “is in no way a reflection of the game Mario Kart,” and urges customers to avoid racing each other or throwing red turtles at each other, like players do in the video game. According to the website, prices for go-kart tours range between JPY9,000 to JPY 12,000 ($79-$105), and the company had a range of costumes drivers could choose from before the ride.

The go-kart service has faced controversy before, precisely because of MariCar drivers were a menace on the streets. Quartz previously reported that Japanese authorities have previously expressed concern over go-karts, particularly after a series of road incidents involving the vehicles, including MariCAR karts in particular. Japan still allows people to drive go-karts on public roads, but it looks like the vision of Luigi racing by will be no more.