Ramar Larkin Jones was in the middle of painting beach balls to look like Pokéballs when he got the news.
After throwing a Pokémon-themed party on the eve of the PAX Prime game conference in Seattle every year since 2011, Jones was surprised to find out he was being sued by the company behind the Pokémon brand for copyright infringement. He stopped decorating, and within two hours the party — which probably would have lost money anyway — was cancelled.
He had sold 200 tickets for the event at $2 each, all of which was refunded.
But five days later, Jones still doesn’t know whether he’s going to have to pay for what Pokémon’s lawyers call his “blatant and willful infringement.” Court records show the case against him is still pending and Jones said he has yet to speak to anyone from the company.
GeekWire has reached out to Pokémon spokespeople and will update this story if or when we hear back.
Even before the suit was filed, Jones said Pokémon never made any attempt to contact him.
“Unfortunately, there was never a letter, a cease-and-desist or anything,” Jones said. “We would have stopped it.”
GeekWire first uncovered the suit last week. The Pokémon Company International, Inc., which has its U.S. headquarters in Bellevue, Wash., filed the complaint in U.S. District Court in the Western District of Washington on Aug. 26. It was the day before Jones planned to host the “5th Annual Unofficial Pokemon PAX Kickoff Party” at 500 East restaurant and bar in Seattle.
The event was happening right as gaming fans from around the world were flocking to Seattle to celebrate their passion all weekend long.
“PAX is a huge thing for Seattle,” Jones said. “A lot of people get in on Thursday night and it’s just cool to have geeky gamer parties. That’s, like, what we do.”
The suit named Jones and bar manager Zach Shore — who Jones said wasn’t involved with organizing the event.
The complaint described signs that showed the party was going to feature an “AMAZIN POKEMON MASHUP,” “Pokemon themed shots and drinks,” “Smash Bros. Tournament with cash prize,” “Dancing,” “Giveaways,” “Cosplay Contest and more.”
One poster contained pictures of Pikachu and Snivy, two of Pokémon’s copyrighted characters. Pikachu’s image was also used to promote the event on Facebook.
Jones says this was the first time he ever charged money for tickets to the annual event, but all that money was going back to the attendees in the form of giveaways. There was no way he would turn a profit, he said.
He lost money on the party every previous year since 2011, but he kept doing it purely out of his love of the Pokémon franchise.
He said he was the kind of kid who got in trouble in middle school for playing Pokémon during class and he still cherishes his first edition Charizard card — which Jones said happens to be worth more than what the party’s ticket sales brought in.
He already had his Charizard costume ready to go for that night.
“I think the big miscommunication about this event is that we were making money,” he said. “I understand where [Pokémon] is coming from. I really wish they would have reached out with an email or something first. I think they saw something and jumped to the conclusion of, ‘Oh, there’s a person making money off Pokémon.’ That’s not the case. … I just think it’s something that got blown super out of proportion.”
As for if he’ll ever throw a party for fans like this again, Jones said he’ll make sure to stay clear of Pokémon’s brand.
“I think I’m going to go for Digimon next year,” he joked.