Pokemon Bulbasaur Look-Alike Planter Model Removed from Shapeways for Copyright Violation

Videogame companies just do not seem to get it. When the world switched from physical supports to digital downloads it took them years before they implemented efficient game downloading systems so that people could digitally purchase video games instead of pirating them.

Instead they legally pursued the violators before realizing that all they had to do was offer a better service. Now that the world is moving from digital 3D back to physical 3D they are still busy pursuing copyright violators, instead of embracing the new evolution in technology. After getting a Pokemon Inspired design removed from Shapeways’ shop, Nintendo has become the latest videogame company to slip into the old habit.

The first one I remember was Square Enix, another very large Japanese videogame publisher, when it had some amazing looking Final Fantasy inspired figures removed form the Dutch-American 3D printing service provider’s website. This time the target for Nintendo’s frustration (possibly also deriving from the rather disappointing latest sales figures) was Claudia Ng, who created a 3D printable model for Planter inspired by Bulbasaur (a character in Nintendo’s ridiculously popular video game, toy and merchanding Pokemon franchise).

1 Polygon reports that the design went viral after Claudia posted it on Reddit and Thingiverse (in fact I remember seeing it in my Facebook feed but did not pay much attention, as I have never been much of a Pokemon fan), and went viral again when she created an even better model and published it on Shapeways’ shop.

As Ng revealed, Shapeways received a cease and desist from Pokémon International for infringement. The company took the model down on Monday the 18th after receiving the notice on Friday. Ng also said she was asked for all the money associated with her model and was told Shapeways will not be printing or shipping any order for the past few days.”


Copyright law is extremely fuzzy and highly interpretable, with 3D printing opening up a potential Pandora’s box of tiny copyright infringement cases such as this, made more visible by Pokemon’s huge following.

“I thought that this would fall under the boundaries of derivative and transformative work,” Ng said. “I’m also not a lawyer, and I guess that is the least defined of rules and regulation … I just expected that they would go after people with more infringing designs.”


Although she might definitely have a point as to the already widespread availability of potentially copyright infringing models, she does admit to being inspired by her favorite “starter Pokemon”. “It’s non-generic-ness – she said – has been adored by people who are not Pokemon fans.

Whether it suffices as the base for copyright infringement will be determined by a judge and / or by an upcoming possible meeting between Ng and Nintendo’s lawyers. One thing I can say for sure: were it not for Ng and her 3D printing I would have no idea what a Balbasaur was.

As ever, she may be put in contact with Pokémon International, and she’s not sure if anything will come from that potential meeting — but maybe, just maybe, she can make them think ….?