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Pokemon Gene Renamed Following Legal Threat

Pokemon Gene Renamed Following Legal Threat

December 19, 2005 | By Nich Maragos

December 19, 2005 | By Nich Maragos
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More: Console/PC

Researchers at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York have changed the name of a gene found to cause cancer, due to legal pressure from Nintendo's Pokémon USA. The gene, which has the formal name of POK erythroid myeloid ontogenic gene, was previously abbreviated as POKEMON, leading to media reports that compared the game with aspects of the disease, albeit in a lighthearted fashion.

Scientific journal Nature reported that Pokémon USA, the subsidiary company of Nintendo established to control the Pokémon brand in America, threatened to sue the cancer research center on the understandable grounds that equating Pokémon with cancer was doing harm to the brand's image. Sloan-Kettering acquiesced to the company's demands and changed the gene's name to the more unobtrusive Zbtb7.

The incident is not the first time Pokémon has been linked to health concerns; prior to the inadvertent cancer associations, it was claimed that one of the episodes of the spin-off cartoon was triggering epileptic seizures in Japanese children. However, further recent warnings on these Pokemon-related health problems have been tempered by the fact that Southern Medical Journal researchers discovered only a small fraction of the children treated were actually diagnosed with photosensitive epilepsy.

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