Former Pokemon lawyer explains why Nintendo goes after so many fan games: "No one likes suing fans"

Detective Pikachu smiling and giving a thumbs up
(Image credit: Creatures)

A former Pokemon lawyer has revealed the process behind Nintendo shutting down fan projects, offering the useful reminder that "no one likes suing fans."

In an interview with Aftermath, Don McGowan - former Chief Legal Officer And Business Affairs at The Pokemon Company - talked about his time working at Bungie, Microsoft Game Studios, and the aforementioned Pokemon company. During the interview, McGowan was asked about the company's approach to Cease & Desist letters - specifically the process behind them and what is and isn't allowed legally. 

"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," McGowan explains. "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."

Exposure is just one step towards getting your project shut down though, as the legal professional continues: "But that's not the end of the equation. You don't send a takedown right away. 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."

There was a lot of discussion around the time of Palworld's launch due to its obvious Pokemon comparisons. At the time, The Pokemon Company revealed that it would  "investigate and take appropriate measures" with any games that may infringe on the company's copyright infringement rights but (at the time of writing) the only time Nintendo's lawyers have had to step in is when Palworld got a Pokemon mod.

Around the same time, Palworld developer Pocketpair released a statement that said "We have absolutely no intention of infringing upon the intellectual property of other companies." McGowan - who left The Pokemon Company in 2020 - also weighed in on this revealing that the Pokemon-like survival game "looks like the usual ripoff nonsense that I would see a thousand times a year" when he was working there. 

Take a look at our games like Pokemon list to find even more creature-collecting adventures. 

Hope Bellingham
News Writer

After studying Film Studies and Creative Writing at university, I was lucky enough to land a job as an intern at Player Two PR where I helped to release a number of indie titles. I then got even luckier when I became a Trainee News Writer at GamesRadar+ before being promoted to a fully-fledged News Writer after a year and a half of training.  My expertise lies in Animal Crossing: New Horizons, cozy indies, and The Last of Us, but especially in the Kingdom Hearts series. I'm also known to write about the odd Korean drama for the Entertainment team every now and then.