Tens of thousands of PS3s were seized by customs officers last week in the Netherlands, the Guardian has learnt, in a dispute that centres on Sony's allegedly infringing use of Blu-ray technology belonging to LG. Sony, which imports around 100,000 of the consoles a week, is frantically trying to get the ban lifted. The Japanese company has the right to appeal to the European patents office.
LG meanwhile, could apply to the same patents office to get the 10-day import ban extended. Alternatively, the Korean company could apply for a court order to get the consoles destroyed but it is highly unlikely the court would grant a request to eliminate the warehoused goods.
LG argues that Sony PS3s infringe a number of its patents relating to playback of Blu-ray Discs. LG called for an investigation into the PS3's Blu-ray use in a filing with the US international trade commission earlier this month, and said it sought a "permanent exclusion order ... excluding entry into the United States" of the games console.
If Sony is found to have infringed LG patents, it could be forced to compensate the South Korean manufacturer for each PS3 it has sold around the world, which could cost hundreds of millions of pounds.
On a side note, I just chatted to star developer Tetsuya Mizuguchi (Rez, Space Channel 5) who is producing a 45 minute documentary about videogames for Japanese television network NHK. He swapped his GDC developer badge for a media one and has joined our ranks, at least temporarily. Great idea, I find. Unfortunately, he was unsure about the documentary being available online. It will air in Japan at the end of this month.
EDIT Regarding the temporary PS3 import ban is concerned, it has been lifted. The dispute, though, is not yet over:
"The latest ruling orders LG to pay substantial damages, however it does not mean Sony is off the hook. It will still have to defend the claims of patent infringement at a later date."