Game Exporter: Sony Put Us Out of Business

A Hong Kong-based online retailer of computer game consoles and software says it’s closing down after losing a lawsuit brought against it in the United Kingdom by Sony Computer Entertainment (SCEI).

The lawsuit was filed at the London High Court in 2005 by SCEI against Pacific Game Technology, the company that operates the lik-sang.com website. It alleged that Pacific Game Technology had violated SCEI’s European trademark by selling the PlayStation Portable to customers in the United Kingdom and sought an injunction to prevent the site operator from selling any PlayStation consoles, games and accessories to customers in the United Kingdom and Europe.

Lik-sang.com is popular with gamers because it offers a wide selection of game hardware and software from Japan and other regions of the world. In the case of the PlayStation Portable, it gave gamers outside of Japan a chance to buy the Japanese version of the console long before regional models were released in local markets.

Earlier this week, the site posted a notice advising customers that it was "out of business due to multiple Sony lawsuits." It attacked SCEI in the notice and raised the likelihood that it would face lawsuits over sales of the PlayStation 3, which is due to launch in Japan on Nov. 11, and from other console makers about similar sales of their hardware or software to gamers worldwide.

"Blame it on Sony. That’s the latest dark spot in their shameful track record as gaming industry leader. The Empire finally ‘won,’ few dominating retailers from the UK probably will rejoice the news, but everybody else in the gaming world lost something today," the statement ended.

It also, perhaps somewhat embarrassingly for Sony, alleged that four senior Sony Computer Entertainment Europe managers had used lik-sang.com to purchase PSPs shortly after the Japanese launch.

Sony in Tokyo declined to answer questions on the issue, citing a policy of not commenting on pending or completed legal action.

In a subsequent e-mail sent to IDG News Service on Friday, Pascal Clarysse, marketing director for the website, said SCEI is demanding the payment of 100,000 pounds (US$188,000) in legal fees by Nov. 1.

"Sony should be proud of having such a die-hard import gamers community rushing to buy their products and supporting them with a passion. Instead, they march all over us," said Clarysse in the statement.

The conclusion of the court case comes with some irony. As SCEI succeeded in shutting down an unauthorized sales channel to European consumers, it was also revising shipment forecasts for PSP from 12 million units to 9 million because of lackluster demand for the game machine.

To lik-sang.com’s longtime customers, the situation might seem familiar.

Pacific Game Technology was created in late 2002 after the previous operator of the lik-sang.com website, Lik Sang International, was hit with a Hong Kong High Court injunction over sales of chips that allow games machines to circumvent the region coding system used on most games. The suit was filed by Microsoft, SCEI and Nintendo.

Lik Sang International abruptly shut down after the injunction was issued, but announced a month later that the website would continue under Pacific Game Technology.

-Martyn Williams, IDG News Service (Tokyo Bureau)

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