Friday, 4 March 2011

LG v Sony again: the Institute speaks

Now that hi-tech seizures are with us, importers are advised
to consider importing more low-tech play stations such as the one above ...
So much has been written about the (mis)reported seizure of Sony PlyStations in the Netherlands that it was only a matter of time before the UK's very own Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys (CIPA) added its tuppence-worth.  In a press release this afternoon (and Friday afternoon press releases are rare beast indeed, in the world of IP) the institute says:
Dutch move to seize PlayStations opens door to new tactics in patent disputes, say patent attorneys
The Guardian newspaper may have got a few facts wrong in its report of the latest move in the LG versus Sony patent dispute. But it does seem that this is the first time Border Protection procedures  - usually used to confiscate cheap imports of counterfeit goods like T-shirts - have been applied in a patent dispute involving high-value electronics.

‘This looks primarily like a ploy by LG to get Sony’s top management to take its patent dispute more seriously,’ says Ilya Kazi, a Chartered Patent Attorney and spokesman for the Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys (CIPA). ‘There is little realistic prospect that the dispute over Blu-ray patents will be conclusively resolved in the courts in the near future.  But LG’s tactic of involving border agencies in Europe appears to have been effective in getting widespread publicity for a dispute that, until now, may only have been the concern of a few lawyers.  The commercial grief this must be causing may speed up resolution of the patents spat – for example, through a mutually acceptable technology licensing deal – although in the bigger picture it may turn out to be a mere sideshow.’

According to CIPA, LG’s action in getting the Dutch authorities to enforce a short-term ban on PlayStation 3 imports may encourage other companies to look at more creative approaches to resolving patent disputes.

‘LG’s tactic in this case is unusual,’ Ilya Kazi explains.  ‘primarily because patent cases are rarely open and shut, often involving complex considerations of validity as well as infringement.   If you are not confident that you have a valid patent that is clearly being infringed, such an action can be a two-edged sword as damages can become payable if goods are wrongly detained or destroyed.  However, it is certainly effective in getting publicity and causing your opponent to take notice, which may in itself push the parties into a quicker, less costly settlement. 
‘IP is becoming an increasingly important part of overall business strategy and we may well see more companies using tactics like this as a way of showing they mean business with their patents.’

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