Sony goes legal on grey

by Johnny Minkley
Sony has launched legal proceedings against a number of retailers as it fights to control the grey importing of PSP hardware in the UK ahead of the PAL launch.

MCV can reveal that Sony solicitors have issued Cease and Desist orders to several companies which have been importing PSPs – a practice Sony deems illegal.

Sources have revealed that SCEE held a post-E3 presentation where retail was told importing would be met with legal action.

“We informed trade accounts of our position in a letter in April. Now we're following through and enforcing our IP rights,” an SCEE spokesperson told MCV. “The law is clear and the activity of parallel importing of PSP products from the US/Japan is unlawful. It should be clearly understood that under no circumstances does SCE consent to such activities.”

Play.com immediately withdrew PSP from stock after receiving the order. But not everyone is complying. Gadget site Firebox.com disagrees with Sony’s position and is taking legal advice:

“We have been in contact with Sony and we are working with our lawyers to establish the issues surrounding the sale of PSPs at this time,” a spokesperson said. “Legally speaking it is a grey area and what we are doing at present is acting responsibly and establishing whether Sony has the basis of a case. We will then make a decision accordingly.” Importer ElectricBirdLand is also refusing to budge, blaming Sony for delaying the PAL launch.

“All we offer is the one thing Sony has failed to do - to give the customer what they want, when they want it,” offered MD Dan Morelle. “Even if we’re forced out of business, parallel importing will continue.”

But the vast majority of specialists are playing ball, fearing an impact on allocation at launch if they go grey. “If you don’t play by the rules you don’t get stock,” one chain boss said.

Others, however, we’re quick to point out the short-termist damage importing could inflict.

“A genuine concern is that money, and the future investment this represents, is being lost to the UK games industry,” said HMV games controller Neil Martin. “The only motive here, surely, is to make a quick profit on the back of a very favourable exchange rate.”

Importing of PSPs is a particular problem for Sony as there is no region lock on software.

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