Sony has used intellectual property laws to stop a Hong Kong-based website from selling Sony PSP games consoles to the UK that the electronics giant intended for sale in Japan only.
The High Court in England ruled in Sony's favour and against Lik-Sang, the trading name of Pacific Game Technology (Holding) Ltd, which sells video games consoles and accessories at Lik-Sang.com.
Lik-Sang sold equipment that Sony made available for sale only in Japan. Sony argued that Lik-Sang's website targeted the UK and Europe and that in selling into those markets Lik-Sang infringed its trade marks, copyright and registered design rights in the PlayStation Portable consoles and accessories sold by Lik-Sang.
Lik-Sang's sales to the UK are a form of what is known as parallel importing, where branded goods intended for one market are bought in another, taking advantage of differences in pricing and/or availability.
Lik-Sang applied to the High Court, arguing that English courts had no jurisdiction over the case, but lost. It did not submit a defence to the High Court in the case against Sony.
Judge Fysh said that the case rested on two questions: was Lik-Sang allowed to sell the goods inside Europe, and did the website target the UK and Europe as its market?
Fysh said that European Court of Justice precedent ruled that a rights owner's consent was needed in order for goods from outside of Europe to be sold inside Europe. "The ECJ has held that putting a trade marked product on the market outside the EEA does not constitute consent on the part of the trade mark proprietor to the product thereafter being marketed within the EEA," he wrote in his judgment.
He said that Lik-Sang could not be allowed to resell the goods simply because it had not specifically been told not to. "Implied consent cannot be inferred from the fact that the proprietor of the trade mark has not communicated to all subsequent purchasers of the goods placed on the market outside the EEA his opposition to marketing within the EEA," he wrote.
In considering whether or not the site constituted marketing in the UK, Fysh noted that the site was in English, that its default currency when accessed from the UK was pounds sterling and that manuals available on the website were in English and other European languages. He ruled that the site did represent marketing and sales in the UK and ruled in favour of Sony.
"It would make no sense if intellectual property rights in the EEA could be avoided merely by setting up a website outside the EEA crafted to sell within it. Were the acts of which complaint is made to have been committed physically within the EEA they would unarguably have been infringing acts. I cannot see how the electronic intermediary of a website which focussed at least in part on the EEA would make them any less so," he wrote in his judgment.
"The acts of which complaint is made have in my view been perpetrated not in Hong Kong but here in the EEA, and without Sony's consent," he concluded.