Americans love to settle arguments in one of two ways, by either shooting each other or suing each other. Nintendo, although a filthy Japanese company, is actually supportive of both. For example, the Zapper for the NES is one of the finest gun simulation devices I have ever had the experience of handling, and the big N even tried to up the ante with the ill-fated Super Scope 6. Although honestly, Nintendo, a bazooka? We may blood thirsty psychopaths, but we’re also fat and lazy. You expect us to hold 10 ounces of plastic on our shoulder for longer than a minute? I can barely jerk off without passing out from exhaustion.
Nintendo also has some deep experience with the justice system. Nintendo has spent the past 25+ years in ligitation over one thing or another, such as the time when Universal sued Nintendo over Donkey Kong. It seemed like an open and shut case. Both Donkey Kong and King Kong share the same last name (Leibowitz), both of them are big hairy gorillas, and both of them are horrible rapists. The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals was having none of it, however, saying that “[w]hen taken as a whole, we find as a matter of law that ‘Donkey Kong’ does not evoke or suggest the name of King Kong” (Universal City Studios, Inc. v. Nintendo Co., 746 F.2d 112, 118 (U.S. App., 1984). That’s right, as a matter of mother fucking LAW, bitch.
Nintendo just doesn’t play defense. Oh, no. Our favorite corporate manufacturer of video game products is well-versed in all types of fences, including the chain-link fence, the picket fence, and OFFENSE. Nintendo sued (the-now-owned-by-Hasbro) Galoob over Game Genie, which was a big clunky thing that you put on your game cartridges to allow you to alter the game, or simply cheat. As such, you could give yourself super speed, infinite lives, or thirty dicks. This infringed on Nintendo’s rights as a stable of underpaid artists with a vision oozing creativity, story, and craftsmanship. The Court of Appeals wrote that “Nintendo introduced evidence in the court below that the sale of Game Genie could cause irreparable harm to its design strategy, reputation, and its right to create derivative works” (Nintendo of America, Inc. v. Lewis Galoob Toys, Inc., 1991 U.S. App. LEXIS 1160).
hose are the type of cases which would require some thought by the trial and appellate judges, along with creative arguments by the overpaid attorneys. One case Nintendo was involved in, however, seemed like a cakewalk for our heroes. The makers of “Monster in My Pocket,” Morrison Entertainment Group, sued Nintendo for trademark infringement, tort damages, and state unfair trade practice claims over the name and logo of “Pokémon.” The decision was published in Morrison Entertainment Group Inc. v. Nintendo of America, Inc., 56 Fed. Appx. 782 (U.S. App., 2003), so feel free to grab a copy to read over with some hot chocolate and a slanket.
The Honorables Canby, Gould and Berzon of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals analyzed the evidence in front of them. They used their senses, noting that each logo is “significantly different in sight and sound.” They probably taste different, too. It seems likely that Pokémon tastes tangy. Continuing on, the court opined that “[t]he two marks look very different when written out as text. Pokémon is a single word with seven letters and an accented ‘e.’ In contrast, Monster in My Pocket contains four separate words, two of which begin with ‘m’.” That’s right. Pokémon has seven letters, and Monster in My Pocket has like 42 letters or something. What kind of asshole would confuse those two? A giant asshole, that’s what kind.
“Pokémon and Monsters in My Pocket also sound very different,” the Court found. “Pokémon is a three syllable single word beginning with a ‘p.’ Monster in My Pocket sounds nothing like this — it has four words and six syllables total. The mark also begins with a ‘Ma’ sound rather than a ‘Po’ sound.” I have an inquisitive mind and I do not take things at face value, so I spent three weeks researching this. As it turns out, “Po” and “Ma” do not sound anything alike. Although if you live in West Virginia, “Po” and “Ma” are probably your parents.
he court also got a little philosophical. “When they appear in their logo form, as they do on all products, it is even more clear that these marks are dissimilar. Pokémon appears in yellow typeface with a blue border and bubbly cartoon-like lettering. The Monster in My Pocket logo, in contrast, is predominantly green. The lettering uses a gothic-style font with jagged edges suggestive of ghouls and goblins. The ‘in My Pocket’ portion of the logo is on a second line and surrounded by a box.” The Pokémon logo suggests a sense of fun, excitement, and childlike innocence, whereas Monster in My Pocket creates an ambiance of cartoon-like horror, oozing madness and mayhem. And yet…why do they always appear in their logo form? Isn’t there something more to their existence? Is this all we were meant for? Can we not transcend the very nature we were created to fill?
Speaking of meaning, the Court did concede that “[t]he meanings of the two marks are somewhat similar. The congruence in meanings, although not immediately apparent, stems from the fact that Pokémon is derived from the nickname for the Japanese version of the game, which is sold under the trademark Pocket Monster. In Japan, Pocket Monster is commonly shortened to ‘po-kay-mon’.” I wonder if this means ConAgra Foods cannot create a Parkay brand toy for children. The day when children can no longer rub butter substitute all over their smooth bodies is the day I no longer want to own a windowless van.
Continues the Court, “‘Pocket monster’ is undeniably similar, although not identical, in meaning to ‘monster in my pocket.’ The similarity in meaning has less force than it might otherwise, however, as that similarity is not apparent to the casual observer, who will not know that Pokémon is short for ‘pocket monster.’ Instead, most observers are likely to simply view Pokémon as a fanciful word with no inherent meaning at all.” It’s true, we are an ignorant people. Your fancy product name got some kinda meanin’ to it? Well lookee here, Mr. Kaybee Toys Man with yer fancy literacy and teeth, why don’t you ring up mah Gameboy Color purchase after dee-duct-in’ mah coupon and then shut yer fruity pie hole right up?
There you have it. In the battle between Baba Yaga, the Jersey Devil and Cockatrice versus Jigglypuff, Squirtle and Togepi, the adorable little critters have a better team of attorneys and the law on their side. So shuffle on home, Catoblepas, and update the Wikipedia entry to reflect this new article, because your ass just got served. By Nintendo. In the 90s.