Pokémon GO: Legal Issues

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As we discussed in our previous posts on Pokémon GO and the latest news, this new augmented reality game raises a series of legal issues. Most recently, a Detroit couple sued the makers of Pokémon GO and, among other claims, seek injunctive relief (e.g. requiring owners’ permission before designating Pokestops and gyms) and share of profits with private property owners.

The game raises issues relating to several areas of law:

Privacy law – for example, Al Franken wrote to Niantic raising questions as to how they handle collected user information, emphasizing his concern for information related to children. Senator Franken’s concerns are quite understandable – the application enables access to users’ GPS locations, last viewed webpage history, and control over the smartphone’s camera.

Property law – for example, property owners’ interests in exclusive possession, the doctrine of attractive nuisances, and whether Niantic may be liable for placing Pokestops or gyms on private property or hazardous locations (i.e. for trespass, injury to persons, and/or injury to property).

First Amendment law – for example, if the Government were to place certain restrictions on the use of a public space.

Product liability – for example, potential suits related to car accidents, as has occurred in relation to Snapchat.

Niantic has, of course, anticipated that potential claims might arise, disclaimed certain liability in their terms, and provide for dispute resolution by arbitration. Additionally, with respect to Pokestops on private residences, Niantic accepts requests to remove property from the Pokestop designation.