Lawyers issue 'Pokemon Go' warning
It may only be a game – but players of the new smart phone phenomenon ‘Pokemon Go’ may find themselves in court for trespass, according to a Birmingham law firm.
Lawyers from Clarke Willmott LLP in Birmingham have warned people using the game – only released in the UK last week – to be aware of the potential legal consequences of it.
Pokemon Go is about capturing, training and fighting with various cartoon characters (the Pokemon), who can be found at different locations – they pop-up on mobile phone screens as though they are in the real world.
There have already been complaints about some of the locations where the the cartoon creatures appear, such as cemeteries and memorials.
And Clarke Willmott has warned that some Birmingham residents have discovered large groups of Pokemon hunters entering gardens and private land to hunt for the creatures.
Although the firm said that the occasional misguided trespass was unlikely to result in court proceedings, repeat offenders may find themselves catching an injunction, as well as a Pokemon.
Neil Ham, partner in property litigation at Clarke Willmott, said: “If there is a real and apparent risk that the regular mass gathering of Pokemon hunters could cause injury to property or people, there is a case law that suggests a landowner can obtain an injunction against ‘Persons Unknown’ prohibiting them from causing the threatened nuisance or trespass.
“It is unlikely that Nintendo, as the producer of ‘Pokemon Go’ would however be liable since it does not encourage trespassing and in that regard is in a similar position to the manufacturers of Satnavs, and to protect itself it also ensures that a prominent warning and disclaimer appears on screen at the start of the game.
“Landowners are well advised to ensure that accessways to their properties are secured as best they can be, to prevent unwanted intrusion.
“If someone discovers a Pokemon hunter on their property they should amicably ask them to leave immediately, and should they fail to do so, they should call the Police in the first instance.”
It’s not only the gamers who should be on their guard – anyone who discovers that their property has unexpectedly become a Pokemon location will also find that they have a duty of care to trespassing Pokemon hunters on their land.
Clarke Willmott’s Nathan Greaves said: “Landowners have a duty of care to trespassers on their land to prevent them from coming to any harm caused by its condition or activities on it. You should first of all ensure that means of access are properly secured, any hazards are clearly signposted, and obvious risks are mitigated in so far as is possible.
“Landowners should use this new Pokemon phenomenon as an opportunity to take stock of risks on their land and ensure they are adequately guarded against as a measure of good housekeeping.”
One place where the Pokemon have been discovered at a tram stop in Wednesbury.
Ben Ackroyd, Midland Metro director, said: “We did wonder why people were turning up, staring intently at their phones for a bit, then going away. But then someone explained about the new Pokemon Go game. Working in public transport, we’re used to groups of trainspotters and tramspotters collecting numbers, but this is a new one for us.
“Pokemon trainers can use our Midland Metro Group ticket - buy it on the tram for just £10 and five people can travel all day on the tram and on the buses catching Pokemon.”