The Pokemon Company Wants to ‘Catch Them All’ In Its Hunt for the ‘Sword and Shield’ 4Chan Leakers

Published on December 13, 2019

The world of Pokemon started with just 150 Pokemon—now, we are eight generations into the Pokemon world and there seems to be a never-ending existence of these magical and animated creatures. As the Poke-world continues to expand, so do the number of lawsuits surrounding The Pokemon Company’s intellectual property, along with its developers.

On November 15, the eighth generation games of Pokemon were released introducing Pokemon Sword and Pokemon Shield to gamers. However, much to the company’s surprise, many images identifying new Pokemon were leaked prior to the games’ release, making its way across the internet.

On November 22, The Pokemon Company (Plaintiffs) filed its Complaint against Defendant’, John/Jane Does 1-3, with a Jury Demand, for allegations of trade secret theft in violation of both Federal and Washington state law.

Both the Defend Trade Secrets Act (“DTSA”) and the Washington Uniform Trade Secrets Act (“WUTSA”) protect trade secrets from misappropriation, which is the unauthorized acquisition, use, or disclosure of a trade secret.

Interestingly enough, the Complaint refers to the Defendants as “Does 1-3,” as it has currently hired private investigators to help uncover their names.

Grit Daily obtained and reviewed the court documents, with the most recent docket activity illustrating The Pokémon Company’s seriousness about uncovering the identities—filing its Motion to Expedite Discovery.

The Allegations

On or about November 1, 2019, Defendants began releasing pictures of Plaintiff’s unreleased Strategy Guide on Discord and 4chan, disclosing numerous never-before-seen Pokemon, including their special forms an attributes—information that Plaintiff’s consider to be a trade secret up and until it’s officially released to the public.

Discord, a free platform that provides text, image, video, and audio communications between users in a chat channel, allowing users to post their content anonymously, while 4chanm a controversial media platform that is seen as one of the darkest corners of the internet, allegedly worked together to post the first leaked images of a new Pokemon—Gigantamax Machamp, continuing over the course of 15 hours to post an additional 18 pictures from the unreleased Strategy Guide on the platforms.

Prior to the official release of the Pokemon Sword and Pokemon Shield, information about the games’ content is treated with utmost secrecy—where Plaintiff performs background checks on employees, stores game content files on secure computers, restricts access to game working files to a limited number of individuals (who can only gain access to files by entering a username and password), allows those individuals to transfer game files using only secured methods, uses digital measures to trace and mark files to prevent unauthorized access, and requires users with access to game files to sign non-disclosure agreements.

These measures, according to the Complaint, also apply to the Strategy Guide, which also binds every contractor who works on the Strategy Guide to sign an NDA.

Reacting swiftly to the leaks, TPCi identified over 300 URLs on dozens of platforms that linked to websites containing the leaked Strategy Guide pictures—eventually appearing on mainstream social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Imgur—including popular video game news outlets such as Polygon and Dot Esports.

Indeed, the company in efforts to mitigate the damage already caused from the Defendants’ leaks, TPCI submitted several takedown requests to all the platforms, ordering them to remove the leaked images.

In its Complaint, the Plaintiffs alleged:

  • Violation of the Defend Trade Secrets Act and
  • Violation of the Washington Uniform Trade Secrets Act.

The company is also seeking compensatory damages, monetary relief, punitive and exemplary damages, attorneys’ fees, and permanent injunctive relief to prevent Defendants’ from further using, disclosing, or misappropriating any of the Plaintiff’s confidential and trade secret information.

Why Aren’t There Named Defendants in the Complaint?

Welcome to the digital age! Since platforms like Discord and 4chan enable its users to post anonymously, users need only an email address to create an account, whereby they can then create usernames to communicate on the platform. A user can change their username associated with their account at any time, making it increasingly difficult to track a specific user.

It is for this reason that the Plaintiffs filed its Motion to Expedite Discovery back in November, having hired private investigators to locate and find the individuals from Discord and those with 4chan responsible for re-posting it and sharing the stolen content and images.

Earlier this week, Judge Marsha J. Pechman issued her Order Granting Plaintiff’s 3 Ex Parte Motion for Expedited Discovery.

Source: LexisNexis CourtLink

For more information on this case:

Case No.: 2:19cv1911, The Pokemon Company International, Inc. V. Does 1-3

Court: U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington

Judge: U.S. District Judge Marsha J. Pechman

Andrew "Drew" Rossow is a former contract editor at Grit Daily.

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