Court orders halt to cosplay rentals, payment of fine for copyright infringement.

Tokyo gives fans a number of opportunities to live out their video game fantasies in the real word. This is, after all, the city where you can sneak into an actual Metal Gear Solid base, or have dinner in a Final Fantasy adventurers’ guild.

But for the past few years, those who like entertainment both video and vehicular have been heading to MariCar. If the name has you thinking of Nintendo’s hit racing franchise Mario Kart, that’s sort of the whole point, as MariCar rents out not only go-karts for group drives through the streets of downtown Tokyo, but also costumes so that you and your friends can cosplay as the beloved characters while you’re behind the wheel.

MariCar’s group drives are an attention-grabbing affair, since even in Japan a pack of a half-dozen or more cosplayers buzzing down the road really stick out. However, the company has also attracted the attention of Nintendo, The Kyoto video game developer has brought legal action against Tokyo-based MariCar, claiming that the kart operator’s activities constitute copyright infringement and damage to the Nintendo/Mario Kart brand.

On Thursday, the Tokyo District Court reached a verdict in the lawsuit filed by Nintendo, and found in favor of the plaintiff. According to a Nintendo press release, the court has issued an injunction barring MariCar from renting out costumes of Mario or other Nintendo characters, and has also ordered MariCar to pay Nintendo an undisclosed amount as compensation for infringing upon Nintendo’s intellectual property rights.

Nintendo concludes its statement with:

“We intend to continue taking necessary measures to protect our company’s intellectual properties and brands, which were built up through many years of hard work, from actions that would damage them.”

It might initially be hard to see how a service catering to fans of Mario Kart would be detrimental to the game or its sales, but the company does have some legitimate concerns. Something that sets MariCar apart from other fan projects and derivative works is that MariCar’s tours take place on public streets in one of the busiest cities in the world. Yes, participants do need a valid driver’s license, but when a bunch of friends get together for motorized cosplay, they’re not always paying enough proper attention to the road, which has resulted in a number of high-profile kart accidents.

The fact that MariCar is especially popular with foreign tourists adds yet another wrinkle to the dispute. Again, overseas tourists need an international driver’s license to rent a MariCar, but combining a lack of experience on Japanese roads with the distractions of group cosplay is a recipe for potential disaster. Earlier this year, a foreign kart driver struck a bicyclist in Tokyo’s Akihabara neighborhood, and another hopped a curb and crashed into a building in the Roppongi district.

▼ One of MariCar’s exuberant English-language customer reviews says “Getting dressed up is a must, made us feel like we were celebrities,” further implying that not all drivers’ eyes stay on the road.

Given the possibilities of property damage or personal injury, it’s not that surprising that Nintendo wants its characters distanced from MariCar, especially if it feels that foreign customers may not wholly grasp that the two companies are entirely separate entities. However, even if it’s not renting out Nintendo costumes, MariCar is still in business, and it’s not like a Mario outfit (denim overalls, red long-sleeved T-shirt, red cap) is that hard for customers to put together themselves before showing up for their drive. Or maybe MariCar will shift gears and simply start renting out Bowsette costumes instead.

Source: Nintendo via IT Media

Follow Casey on Twitter, where all this talk of driving games has him wanting a new Ridge Racer.