Legal Issues and Pokémon Go

20160727_135932Okay, I admit it. I’m playing Pokémon Go. It’s frustratingly addictive.

For those who don’t know, Pokémon Go is an app for smartphones; the app is free, but players can make in-app purchases. The idea is for each player to “catch” creatures known as Pokémon, which the player does by “throwing” what is called a Pokéball at them. Once you catch the creatures, each of which has its own special powers and abilities, you can “evolve” them into stronger, more powerful creatures and you can go to gyms to “battle” other players.

Pokémon Go uses GPS to figure out where a player is located and presents the player with that “map.” Pokéstops (where players can go to get free goodies they need to play the game) and gyms are represented on the map as actual places, usually public places like parks, sculptures, or churches. To get to a Pokéstop or to battle at a gym, a player needs to physically move herself to that location. For example, the Marquette University campus is full of Pokéstops—e.g., a few sculptures on the southeast side of campus, one of the signs for the Alumni Memorial Union. Dedicated players certainly get some exercise.

Pokémon Go is also interesting because of how it mixes your real-life location with the mythical creatures. When a creature appears, you can take its picture, as if the Pokémon is right there in your real world. (See the pictures in this post.)IMG_20160722_084109

But Pokémon Go has been at the root of a number of accidents and incidents and it raises a number of interesting legal issues.

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Silicon Valley’s Challenge to Intellectual Property Law


Ted Ullyot titled his Helen Wilson Nies Lecture at Marquette Law School on Tuesday, “Innovation, Disruption, and Intellectual Property: A View from Silicon Valley.” He made it clear which two of those three elements are looked on favorably within that bastion of high-tech culture: innovation and disruption. That leaves one not looked on so favorably: intellectual property law, if you define that as protecting creative work through patents, copyrights, or trademarks.

Ullyot has gained great insight into what goes on between technological visionaries on one side and corporate lawyers on the other. From 2008 to 2013, he was general counsel of Facebook. That covered a period in which Facebook grew at an amazing pace, its stock went public, and it was sued by Yahoo! for patent infringement. Ullyot described the Yahoo! case in detail in his lecture, including the way that many of the leading figures in Silicon Valley who had no connection to Facebook were rubbed wrong by the Yahoo! suit because the culture of innovation was so oriented against asserting intellectual property rights.

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