Sony Computer Entertainment Europe (SCEE) and Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. (SCEI) have obtained a High Court judgment in the UK against online importer Lik-Sang.com, ruling that sales of the Japanese version of the PSP console to the UK and European Economic Area (EEA) are unlawful.
The court hearing took place on October 9th, without Lik-Sang's legal representatives attending or arguing at the hearing. It is unclear at this point if the ruling will also affect exports of other PlayStation-branded items, but it now seems likely that the precedent set will ensure that importing of other consoles, including the PlayStation 3, will also be found to be unlawful.
The legal battle began in August 2005, when Sony complained about sales of the PSP to Europe by the Hong Kong based company. The console was infamously delayed by six months from the North American launch and as much as nine months from the original Japanese launch, fuelling a buoyant “gray” import market.
Sony argued that its products were being sold "in a dishonest manner" and that offering the console for sale "unlawfully interferes with Sony's economical interests". The company also launched a separate lawsuit against Lik-Sang in the UK for selling PSP consoles to customers in Europe and the UK, and also for mirroring the freely available PSP user guides on their servers, alleging copyright infringement.
Although Lik-Sang argued that Hong Kong law permitted so-called “parallel trade”, since the company had no representation in the UK, the judge in the case found that UK law should also apply to Hong Kong exporters. Sony has also threatened Lik-Sang with another lawsuit to prevent the sales of PlayStation 3 consoles to Europe.
The retailer is currently exploring its legal options and analyzing the consequences of this ruling. "Fighting multiple lawsuits in different countries at the same time and paying high premiums to expensive lawyers is an overwhelming situation for a small company like Lik-Sang. Launching separate court actions with separate claims and different judges is completely unnecessary, except for the fact that it helps reaching one single target: outspend Lik-Sang to death. Pay beyond", said Pascal Clarysse, marketing manager of Lik-Sang.com. "And contrary to their claim, I don't believe they are suffering 'losses and damages' through Lik-Sang's activity".
Assuming the same restrictions are placed on other importers, and following the recent crackdown on eBay sales of the console, it now seems unlikely that PlayStation 3 consoles will be available in Europe this year in any significant numbers.