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Why WeeWorld v. Nintendo is Likely Not Over

Phoenix WrightWeeWorld is a company that offers online avatar creation currently used in AOL Instant Messenger. Before Nintendo released the Wii last year, WeeWorld filed a lawsuit claiming that Nintendo’s Mii system was an infringement of trademarks held by WeeWorld.

Last month, WeeWorld moved to dismiss the lawsuit to “use its limited resources to first seek relief in the United Kingdom.” WeeWorld is asking that the court dismiss the lawsuit without prejudice. Nintendo is opposing this motion, claiming that any dismissal should be with prejudice.

The difference between with prejudice and without prejudice? If a case is dismissed with prejudice, the party that filed the lawsuit is forever barred from re-litigating the same claim(s). When dismissed without prejudice, the same claims can be re-filed by the party who brought the lawsuit. Basically, Nintendo is opposing the motion because they want it to be dismissed with prejudice to avoid defending this case again.

Contrary to what some people are saying on other sites, dismissing an action with prejudice does not mean that the judge didn’t find any merit in the case. It’s pretty harsh for a court to forever bar a claim when the case has barely (if at all) progressed into the fact finding stage (“discovery”). In this particular case, Nintendo has an uphill battle to show why this lawsuit should be dismissed with prejudice. Frankly, at this point, nobody knows if the case has any legal merit.

For those who are interested, legal scholars and courts alike have adopted this view of dismissals,

The purpose of [the federal rule for dismissals] ‘is primarily to prevent voluntary dismissals which unfairly affect the other side, and to permit the imposition of curative conditions.’ Accordingly the courts have generally followed the traditional principle that dismissal should be allowed unless the defendant will suffer some plain legal prejudice other than the mere prospect of a second lawsuit. It is not a bar to dismissal that plaintiff may obtain some tactical advantage thereby. * * * Dismissal has been allowed to give plaintiff an opportunity to secure new evidence after he has found, by discovery or otherwise, that he cannot prove his present claim. * * * In exercising its discretion, the court will consider the expense and inconvenience to the defendant and will deny the motion if defendant will be seriously prejudiced by a dismissal.

Federal cases generally have adopted a liberal policy toward allowing a dismissal without prejudice where defendant’s position would not be unduly prejudiced.

My prediction, WeeWorld will either be given the dismissal without prejudice or be forced to continue to litigate its claim. The former is more likely since such dismissals are not uncommon. As for attorney fees if the case is dismissed? Extremely unlikely. Lawsuits are a normal part of life and business and WeeWorld certainly seems to have a reasonable claim. Whether it has any legal merit, we’ll just have to wait and see.

Now that you know the law, give your best Phoenix Wright impression and argue why WeeWorld or Nintendo should win this motion…

[Kotaku via Gamespot]

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    2 Responses to “Why WeeWorld v. Nintendo is Likely Not Over”

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    1. Derrick Schommer Says:

      GUILTY! :)

    2. Nintendo Objects to WeeWorld’s Request to Drop Mii Suit Without Prejudice at Video Game Law Blog Says:

      [...] GameSpot | GameStooge | Kotaku | | | Open Letter from [...]

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