Nintendo Fears Relaunch of Pirate Site So Asks for Legal Protection

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Nintendo won a $2.1 million summary judgment against the operator of the pirate site RomUniverse last month. The California federal court denied a permanent injunction, however, noting that the site had already shut down. Nintendo now asks the court to reconsider this decision, as there are signs that RomUniverse may relaunch after all.

romuniverseNintendo regularly takes legal action against pirate sites and services. The gaming company has sued several sites that offer pirated games, including RomUniverse, which it took to court two years ago.

The download portal, which also offered movies and books, was accused of massive online copyright infringement. Even worse, Nintendo’s complaint said that the site also charged users for access to premium features.

RomUniverse Fought Back

The site’s operator, Los Angeles resident Matthew Storman, clearly disagreed with these allegations and without an attorney decided to defend himself in court. In his view, the site wasn’t breaking any laws so he asked the court to dismiss the case.

Nintendo picked this defense apart and found the court on its side. This meant that Storman had to face the copyright infringement charges, as well as millions of dollars in potential damages.

The RomUniverse site initially remained online but last summer, after discussions with Nintendo’s legal team, the operator agreed to shut it down. But that didn’t end the case.

$2.1 Million Judgment

Nintendo was pleased to see RomUniverse offline, but the lawsuit continued. The gaming company moved for summary judgment and demanded millions of dollars in damages.

Last month, US District Court Judge Consuelo Marshall ruled on the matter, largely siding with Nintendo. The court granted a $2.1 million summary judgment against the RomUniverse operator, for infringing the game company’s copyrights and trademarks.

Nintendo didn’t get everything it was after. Judge Marshall denied a permanent injunction against Storman, as Nintendo failed to show that it was suffering irreparable harm. Additionally, the fact that Storman had already shut down the site showed there was no imminent threat of further infringements.

Nintendo Asks Court to Reconsider

New court filings reveal that Nintendo isn’t planning to let the permanent injunction go just yet. The company has filed a motion for reconsideration arguing that, under the recently implemented Trademark Modernization Act, there is a ‘mandatory’ presumption of irreparable harm for trademark infringers.

Perhaps just as crucially, Nintendo is worried that RomUniverse hasn’t shut down permanently and could make a comeback in the near future.

In a signed declaration, Nintendo’s lawyer William C. Rava says he spoke with Mr. Storman over the phone earlier this month. At the time, RomUniverse’s operator didn’t rule out a comeback. However, he did offer assurances that this would be without any Nintendo titles.

Nintendo Fears a Comeback

Still, this potential relaunch has the Japanese gaming giant worried and it believes that a permanent injunction preventing such a comeback is warranted.

“Defendant’s threat to continue to operate RomUniverse to distribute videogame ROMs, using the same website he used for the past several years to mass-infringe Nintendo’s copyright and trademark rights, necessitates the entry of an injunction,” Nintendo informs the court.

In addition, the motion highlights that Mr. Storman has already disregarded previous legal obligations. The court previously awarded sanctions that required a monthly $50 payment, but this money has yet to come in.

“This failure to make even the modest $50/month payment, an amount that he proposed and agreed to, demonstrates that Nintendo has no adequate remedy at law for Defendant’s past or future infringement and underscores the need for a permanent injunction.”

RomUniverse Wants Damages Scrapped

Nintendo’s concerns are not the only remaining issue, Mr. Storman himself has also filed a motion for reconsideration.

According to RomUniverse’s founder, the court erred in awarding $2.1 million in damages. Mr. Storman contests that Nintendo suffered actual damages and also questions whether game copyrights were registered on time.

Both motions are opposed by the other side, so it is ultimately up to the court to decide who’s right and wrong. At the time of writing, however, the RomUniverse website remains offline.

A copy of Nintendo’s follow-up to the motion for reconsideration is available here (pdf). We also have a copy of Storman’s motion for reconsideration (pdf) and Nintendo’s reply (pdf)


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