Pokémon GO creator Niantic is suing rogue developers for allegedly selling a tweaked version of the popular augmented reality mobile game, where players capture Pokémon they find in the real world.
As first reported by Business Insider, Niantic filed the lawsuit last Friday in California seeking a preliminary injunction against Global++, a group it describes as “an association of hackers.” Global++ created the popular apps PokeGo ++ and Ingress ++, which are tweaked version of both of Niantic's mobile games that gave players various cheats and other advantages. Niantic alleges that Global++ violated its intellectual prop[erty rights by releasing competing derivative works based on Niantic’s own code.
“Defendants hack Niantic’s apps to access and copy Niantic’s Client Code, then modify and adulterate the Client Code to create what they call ‘tweaks’—i.e., unauthorized, hacked versions of Niantic’s apps,’ Niantic said in its lawsuit.
With hundreds of Pokémon out there, players have invented several clever ways to speed up the process of capturing and taming Pokémon GO’s wide array of beasts. The PokeGo ++ app makes the process easier by speeding up the evolution of specific Pokémon, for example, as well as allowing players to get more items from PokéStops and spoof GPS locations to get rare location-specific Pokémon.
According to the lawsuit, Niantic believes that Global++ have sold “hundreds of thousands of subscriptions” for its products and made millions in profits.
The injunction would stop Global++ from doing business while the lawsuit is ongoing. After Niantic’s lawyers filed the lawsuit, some of Global++ 's website—as well as its Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube pages—went offline. One of its Wikis remains online, as does a Patreon page linked from the main website before it went offline.
The Patreon is soliciting donations and promising that the funds will go towards future ventures. “You are now supporting the good fight my brothers and sisters!!” The Patreon page says. “We’re here now to make a stand with you!!”
Global++ also offered a hacked version of Ingress, a game similar to Pokémon GO where players compete for resource nodes in the real world while learning about a vast alien conspiracy. Ninatic has developed Harry Potter: Wizards Unite, another augmented reality game launching this year. The beta version of Wizards Unite became available in New Zealand in April, and Global++ quickly released its own tweaked version.
“Defendants released the first version of Potter++ less than one month after Niantic debuted the beta version of Harry Potter in New Zealand,” the lawsuit said.
According to court documents, Niantic sent several cease and desist letters to Global++, but it ignored them. Niantic filed its preliminary injunction against Global++ to immediately stop the company from selling its products ahead of a trial aimed at recovering damages.
“In the last 12 months, Niantic estimates that its employees have spent more than 2,000 hours, at a combined estimated cost of approximately $1 million, to investigate and respond to defendants’ misconduct,” the lawsuit said. “Niantic has also had to expend significant effort to respond to user complaints about the Cheating Programs.”
Niantic’s lawsuit is demanding a jury trial and seeks damages related to both its own costs, and “any gains, profits and advantages obtained by defendants,” court documents said.
“Among other things, defendants’ schemes undermine the integrity of the gaming experience for legitimate players, diminishing enthusiasm for Niantic’s games and, in some cases, driving players away from Niantic’s games altogether,” Niantic claims.