Sony To Fight LG Tomorrow To Allow PS3 Imports, New Info Emerges

March 9, 2011Written by Sebastian Moss

*Update* To learn more about the ban and court case, be sure to read our exclusive interview with Florian Mueller here.

South Korean technology giant LG took everybody by surprise when they successfully managed to block the import of PlayStation 3’s into Europe for at least 10 days due to intellectual property infringement. With thousands of the consoles confiscated, and even more barred entry into the Netherlands, many predict that the continent will soon see PS3 shortages if Sony cannot lift the ban. With the 10 day ban now nearing its end, Sony has been given the chance to contest the seizure, with LG and Sony facing each other in court tomorrow.

Award-winning intellectual property activist, Florian Mueller has dug up new info on the IP battle between the two technology companies. In addition to customs action allegedly requested by LG two weeks ago under EC Regulation 1383/2003, a Brussels-based intellectual property lawyer has apparently given Mueller a copy of a Dutch court order that allowed PS3’s in Sony’s Tilburg European Logistics Center to be seized – something that was done on March 3rd and up to 2 times since. Mueller notes that all of Sony’s European PS3’s make their way through Tilburg, so the number of consoles confiscated could be considerable.

At 2 PM Central European Time, March 10th, Sony will contest LG’s action in the Netherlands, but were never given the chance to protest innocence before the seizures, as LG managed to convince the court that Sony would simply remove their PS3’s before action was taken. Mueller focuses on the Tilburg seizures, pointing out that the EU Regulation 1383/2003 – where products suspected of patent infringement can be seized by customs officers when imported into the EU’s Single Market (which, according to “credible sources” has led to three shipments being seized in Amsterdam) – is separate to the Tilburg confiscations.

The court order (in Dutch) highlights several interesting facts about the ongoing conflict. On February 25th, LG’s lawyers requested a prejudgment seizure order under the Dutch Patents Act of 1995 – a unique Netherlands law that allows action to be taken before court hearings take place. LG claims that 3 patents were infringed by the Blu-ray player in the PS3, and was willing to grant Sony a license on “FRAND” – that’s fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory – terms in accordance with the rules of the Blu-ray Disc Association (BDA). However LG reports that “Sony wants to [take a license] only if LGE and Sony also reach agreement on royalties in entirely different and unrelated technology areas (such as TVs, monitors and mobile phones).” LG was concerned that the position was not in line with competition law, and pushed for royalties on PS3’s sold.

Negotiations between the parties apparently failed in December, and “almost immediately thereafter” Sony lodged a complaint with the USITC to obtain an import ban against mobile phones sold by LG – something they have, as yet, been unsuccessful with.

If LG is proved wrong in The Hague court, they may be forced to reimburse Sony for any damages incurred, but if found guilty, Mueller warns that “LG will be in a strong position to obtain additional injunctions in the Netherlands”, where all Sony’s European PS3’s are imported.

PlayStation LifeStyle will keep you informed of the legal case, as it develops.