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Sony PlayStation 3 import ban lifted in Netherlands

A court order that barred importation of Sony PlayStation 3 consoles in the Netherlands has been lifted, enabling shipments of PS3 consoles to resume throughout most of Europe. Sony imports most of its PS3 consoles for the European market through the Netherlands, which meant the shutdown impacted supplies throughout the continent. Overall, reports place the number of PS3 consoles impounded under the court order at around 300,000.

At the beginning of the month, a Dutch civil court blocked importation of Sony PlayStation 3 consoles on the basis of a patent infringement complaint from South Korea’s LG Electronics, which claims the Blu-ray drives in the console infringe on LG patents for handling multiple data streams (like video and audio) and reading data off Blu-ray media. LG has filed similar complaints against Sony in the United States.

However, now that the importation ban on PlayStation 3 consoles has been lifted, LG is likely on the hook to pay substantial damages to Sony as a result of disrupting its PlayStation 3 business. While seeking to block importation of the consoles was a power-play move designed to get Sony’s attention in the licensing dispute, it may have backfired, creating an obligation for LG and inadvertently giving Sony the upper hand in any settlement negotiations. However, if Sony is eventually found to be infringing on LG patents, it may wind up owing significant amounts of money to LG.

The Blu-ray dispute can also be viewed in the context of larger intellectual property battles between LG and Sony over technologies used in mobile phones.