Former Pokémon Lawyer Shares Rare Insight Into Company’s Cease and Desist Thinking: ‘No One Likes Suing Fans’

Former Pokémon Lawyer Shares Rare Insight Into Company’s Cease and Desist Thinking: ‘No One Likes Suing Fans’

A former chief legal officer of The Pokémon Company has shared a rare insight into its thinking behind fan project takedowns.

Speaking to Aftermath, Don McGowan made clear that, at least during his time, The Pokémon Company didn’t actively seek out fan projects to shut down but only did so when they crossed a certain line.

“You don’t send a takedown right away,” McGowan said. “You wait to see if they get funded, for a Kickstarter or similar. If they get funded then that’s when you engage. No one likes suing fans.”

McGowan said he and the legal team at The Pokémon Company would typically only come across a project that used its copyright once it was raised in the press. “I would be sitting in my office minding my own business when someone from the company would send me a link to a news article, or I would stumble across it myself,” he said.

“I teach entertainment law at the University of Washington and say this to my students: ‘The worst thing on earth is when your ‘fan’ project gets press, because now I know about you.’ “

Despite this attitude, there are multiple examples of Pokémon fan projects that were issued a takedown notice, hauling them offline. In 2018, a popular fan-made creation tool players used to build their own Pokémon games bit the dust. In 2021, support for a Pokémon fan project called Pokémon Uranium ceased after nine years of development. And in 2022, The Pokémon Company removed almost all videos of a fan-made Pokémon hunting FPS that went viral on YouTube and social media.

It’s not a fan project, but Palworld hit the headlines earlier this year after some compared it to Pokémon. The Pokémon Company only released a fairly tame and generic statement in response: “We intend to investigate and take appropriate measures to address any acts that infringe on intellectual property rights related to the Pokémon.” Lawyers told IGN a lawsuit was unlikely.

Ryan Dinsdale is an IGN freelance reporter. He’ll talk about The Witcher all day.

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