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Sony vs. Lik-Sang

What a horrible legal trainwreck this is. Can Sony ever avoid getting into a damaging war of words?!

For those unaware of what I am discussing, This week a British judge ruled that Lik-Sang, a Hong Kong based game exporter, had illegally sold PSPs to European consumers. Sony had made it clear to a group of exporters that they would be legally challenged unless they stopped selling the machines to European consumers in 2005.

At the time the PSP had been delayed in Europe by six months, (sound familiar?), so demand on sites like Lik-Sang and PlayAsia was high. PlayAsia took Sony’s threat of action seriously and pulled the product. Lik-Sang did not and that is what led to the lawsuit. On Monday the judge delivered his verdict; Lik-Sang had lost the case by infringing on Sony’s intellectual property rights. In other words, importing PS hardware, as a business, to the UK, is wrong.

And that is where it should have ended, in the interest of both parties. Unfortunately it has not.

Lik-Sang, clearly incensed with the decision and the costs they had to cover, have chosen to shut down their website. This is a terrible disappointment as Lik-Sang are widely regarded as one of the best companies to import from on the web, they have a huge range of stock, supply customers quickly and sort out any issues with speed. The message posted on their website placed the blame squarely on Sony, something I entirely agreed with.

Then they did something rather daft and odd; they revealed that Sony Computer Entertainment Europe personnel had imported their PSPs via Lik-Sang (and received chintzy freebies from Lik-Sang too). It highlighted the hypocrisy in Sony taking them to court, but it also raised questions over Lik-Sang’s privacy policy.

Then Sony released its own response which bought to light other details, namely that Lik-Sang did not contest the case, has not paid any compensation and that PSP consoles were bought by Sony employees for “investigatory purposes”. I don’t buy the last part one bit, but I do find it interesting that, despite not having paid Sony a cent, Lik-Sang is ceasing trading. It makes Lik-Sang appear unprofessional and Sony appear as a bully.

A legal wrangle that was meant to stop the “business” side of hardware exports and imports has actually closed the door on software sales. In my opinion Sony had the right aims here, some of these companies can be very dodgy, but they completely targeted the wrong group. Hopefully software exporters will not be too harmed from this, the rise of “region free gaming” makes them more important than before!

Put mildly, nobody wins from this. Sony gets the whole wrath of the hardcore gaming community for slamming the door on a well regarded import business, I have seen enough people calling this the “final straw”. Meanwhile Lik-Sang gets a tarnished reputation after years of building the business. What does this mean with regards to PS3 though is that importing hardware to Europe is out of the question unless you have a personal friend in Japan or the US.