Pokémon Go App Creator Sued for Patent Infringement

On September 3, plaintiffs NantWorks, LLC and Nant Holdings IP, LLC (Nant IP) filed a patent infringement action against defendant Niantic, Inc., the maker of popular augmented reality (AR) mobile device applications Pokémon Go, Ingress, and Harry Potter: Wizards Unite. The complaint claims that Niantic illegally used the plaintiffs’ “groundbreaking” AR technology after the priority dates of the plaintiffs’ three registered patents-in-suit had passed.

The plaintiffs are Delaware companies that “develop various technologies to advance healthcare, commerce, and digital entertainment.” Nant IP owns the entertainment, AR, and gaming technology patents, including the three patents-in-suit. Niantic is a Delaware corporation and a “venture - backed private company that publishes location -based AR games for use on mobile devices, such as Android and iOS mobile phones or tablets,” the complaint explains.

According to the filing, the July 2016 debut of Niantic’s Pokémon Go App “sent people on scavenger hunts to collect Pokémon cartoon characters” using image recognition technology to allow users to interact with associated AR characters using their mobile device’s camera. During the four years following its release, 105 million United States-based users downloaded the app, and Niantic reportedly made $3.6 billion in global player spending. These accomplishments were “made possible by Niantic’s illicit and unauthorized use of the proprietary technology set out in Plaintiffs’ Asserted Patents,” the complaint contends.

The plaintiffs claim that the defendant’s use of AR capabilities like “object recognition and location tracking,” infringe on various aspects of their patents. These include the creation of the AR games’ real-world platforms, location sensor technology, and a “Map View” capability that shows “real-world location around the mobile device running the Pokémon Go App.” The plaintiffs also argue that the games improperly make use of a process that allows two players to engage in an in-game transaction, geospatial detection and analysis that enables translation of real-world to game-world depictions, and the “association” of AR content objects, which enables them to appear in an in-game scene.

For the alleged infringement, the plaintiffs, represented by Diamond McCarthy LLP, seek to “stop Niantic’s free - riding on their patented technologies,” in addition to damages and other relief.