Video Game Law Blog

December 19, 2005

A recent article in the journalNaturediscusses a cancer-causing gene that called the POK erythroid myeloid ontogenic gene.  The article refers to the gene as Pokemon (understandable when you look at the first portion of each word POK Erythroid Myeloid ONtogenic). Needless to say, Pokemon USA was not thrilled to see a rash of headlines in the vein of 'Pokemon causes cancer"?, and threatened legal action. The Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, whence the article came, has complied with Pokemon USA's demands and no longer calls the gene as Pokemon. The gene is now referred to as Zbtb7.

We wonder what grounds Pokemon USA could rely on to prevent researchers referring to a gene as "Pokemon" — arguably there is no copyright in a single word, and the cancer researchers were not using "Pokemon" as a trade-mark.  Even so, it's understandable why the institute thought it better to continue doing what it does (i.e., trying to find a cure for cancer) than get caught up in a dispute with a video game company.

Coverage at http://www.gamespot.com/news/6141487.html