Be wary of these potential Poke-hazards.

The possible legal hazards of Pokemon Go for business owners

July 15, 2016 1:22 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

Even if you aren't a particular fan of video games, by now most people have at least heard of the phenomenon that is Pokemon Go. The augmented reality game – which can be played on a GPS and camera-enabled smartphone or tablet – involves the user going to real world locations and collecting virtual creatures (Pokemon) and using the collected Pokemon to battle fellow players. 

"The game allows players to 'lure' Pokemon to a particular location."

To call the game immensely popular would be a wild understatement: According to TechCrunch, the game currently tops Twitter and Facebook as the most-used application worldwide. And since a fundamental part of the game involves users traveling from place to place in search of rare and elusive Pokemon – much like a scavenger hunt – many business owners have embrace the craze and are using it as a way to attract customers in store. The game allows players to "lure" Pokemon to a particular location, making it a "PokeStop," visible to other users. Some enterprising entrepreneurs have turned their stores into virtual PokeStops – or "gyms" where players can battle their Pokemon – as a form of advertising, in hopes of bringing in new customers and giving them a chance to shop while they play the game. Several businesses have reported significant bumps in sales through catering to players.

While this may seem like good clean fun at worst and a novel, inexpensive advertising technique at best, the truth may be more complicated. The game may in fact pose legal hazards for the business owners. Before you go converting your business into a PokeStop to cash in on the trend, consider the possible legal issues that could occur:

Liability for accidents, slips and falls
One of the major issues that numerous police departments and public health individuals have warned users about is that playing the game could lead to increased accidents caused by distraction and carelessness. Many players may end up walking around not fully aware of their surroundings as they search for Pokemon. This means that if a person injures his or herself while playing the game in your establishment, you may be held legally liable. 

Privacy concerns
When a player encounters a Pokemon, they have the option of taking a picture of the virtual creature and sharing the picture with their friends via social media. The Pokemon are superimposed onto real-world locations, meaning that a player taking the picture may end up capturing the image of someone else who does not consent to having their image broadly disseminated, or even go viral as many of these pictures already have. While ultimately the player who took the unauthorized picture is primarily liable for damages, the plaintiff could make a legal argument of shared liability for the owner if the business encouraged the playing of the game on the premises. 

Before you charge headfirst into a potentially expensive quagmire, talk to the legal experts at The Law Offices of Donald W. Hudspeth, P.C. about successfully establishing asset liability protection.

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