Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Game Over?

"When there is a choice of either living or dying, as long as there remains nothing behind to blemish one's reputation, it is better to live."
Shida Kichinosuke


ElectricBirdLand
Limited closed its doors today.

ElectricBirdLand Limited, of which I was a Director, had been the target of legal action by the english arm of Sony Computer Entertainment. Sony alleged that ElectricBirdLand Limited had been infringing Sony's trade marks by parallel importing and offering for sale the products within the EEA (European Economic Area) without it's concent and demanded it sign a contract agreeing to provide Sony with all remaining stock, profits, customer data, supplier data, legal costs and damages amongst other things.

Though Sony sued ElectricBirdLand Limited, EBL had offered to stop selling PSPs on May 19th whilst the matter was investigated, Sony rejected the offer and on June 15h sued for £50,000 within 2 days of an article that ran on gamesindustry.biz that reported I was to hold a 'secret' meeting with independant retailers on the situation. Soon after the article a Private Invesigator was parked outside my home!

Sony are still yet to address the fact that ElectricBirdLand Limited received orders from divisions within the Sony Group of companies, SCEE employees and SCEE liscenees prior to, simultaneous with and subsequent to the the commencing of the legal action.

ElectricBirdLand Limited even delivered 6 PSP consoles to Sonystrasse in Austria on the day I faced 6 legal bruisers from Sony whilst representing ElectricBirdLand Limited at the High Court in London.

Of course it is the right of big companies to police their intellectual property rights, but in a global market that is a formidable and unenviable task. To run a multimillion pound campaign can to call it 'small beer' as a debt collection project is lunacy of the highest order. Importers and independent retailers are businessmen, not pirates, thieves, or criminals. Businessmen can be reasoned with in a sensible businesslike manner, there is no need for threatening and oppressive behaviour. Apply a little bit of the intellect next time.

Rome absorbed it's rivals, it didn't conquer them.

The only people that can benefit from any such action are the lawyers, the people that suffer the most are the customers. The considerable amount of money wasted by all parties could have been better spent on good causes.

Anti-competitive Market Segmentation and Price Discrimination will not be around forever.

ElectricBirdLand Limited had no interest in a Pyrrhic victory and ceased trading, on it's own terms

Sony have much more important battles to fight, hopefully verson 2.0 of the firmware will stop software piracy on the PSP. Considering software sales account for a large portion of Sony's profits and that of the Games Industry I sincerely hope that this stitches shut the hole that has been nibbled in its pockets by the pirates.

Releasing a cracked system on to the market in Europe would have been negligent but rushing a beta product on to the world market will inevitably cause damage to the Games Industry that could be significant but unquantifiable.

Am I bitter? No way. I don't drink beer either. I am not in business to litigate; I am in business to do business. I've made some really good friends - you can't put a price on that and none of them are on my payroll.

I'll call this episode adversial invoicing.

Say┼Źnara Sony.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Sony sues Lik-Sang


After rumblings and threats over the last couple of months in the games press and news last week in Hong Kong press, Lik-Sang, online retailer of import gaming finery and thorn of the gaming giants for many years announced today that it is being sued by Sony.

According to Lik-Sang

"Sony of Europe alleges that Lik-Sang.com has breached Sony's Trade Mark rights by offering the PlayStation Portable (PSP) for sale to customers in the UK, and seeks a court order that would prevent Lik-Sang.com from selling or offering systems, games and accessories to customers in the UK and the European Economic Area (EEA)."

I've not seen the claim but my understanding is that UK Trade Mark law does not have jurisdiction on HK. Further, HK's entire economy is based on import/export. The outcome will have massive repurcutions for businesses in the region.

International Legal Conflict

According to Trade Mark law in Hong Kong, the owners rights are 'internationally exhausted' once the goods have been placed on the market. Simply meaning that Sony cannot clobber retailers for selling to anyone outside Hong Kong. However, UK law does not subscribe to international exhaustion. What happens when two countries' laws conflict?

Joined up thinking?

Market segmentation is usually largely successful (for the manufacturers) in the games industry as they apply region encoding so only games you buy in Europe will play on European consoles. This whole problem has come about since Sony tried to mirror Nintendo's region free ideal. The problem is that the company does not act as one with the same goal of making money. Each region competes for profits but when you strip down the evil encrytion barriers the company ends up competing with itself. With just three weeks to 'European launch' i'm left thinking does the left hand know what the right hand is doing. I would deduce that there is something awry in the house of Sony.

According to the Lik-Sang Press statement:

"Lik-Sang's sales are an unlawful interference with Sony's economic interests", stated Sony's legal correspondence. The case relis on Sony's claim that Lik-Sang.com has advertised the PlayStation Portable products in a "dishonest manner". Lik-Sang.com will do its best to fight Sony's powers and appreciates any support from employees, friends and even customers.

If anyone said my business was trading in a dishonest manner it would sue them for defamation. Where's the acumen? Where's the nouse? It's all academic.

This action will have far reaching implications. Lik-Sang are well established in the global games arena often exporting hard to find software and hardware aswell as defeating the segmented market ideal of the corporations. If the corporations want to discriminate on pricing they have to expect customers will look elsewhere for a better deal, if it exists. It's obvious that Sony wants all these 'better deals' out of existance.

Support

Earlier last year Lik Sang announced their 100,000th customer. No doubt the public sympathies will be with LikSang. The court of public opinion is the most important one when you're in business, the rest of the industry are just scratching their heads at this whole thing.

I was speaking to a lawyer friend the other day who confirmed to me that companies tend to sue more frequently when the economical climate is not looking too hot. Perhaps this is just viewed as another revenue stream.

Businessmen find solutions. Lawyers find arguements. Everybody wants to make money. The answer is not litigation.

Ho hum.

"It breaks down like this: it's legal to buy it, it's legal to own it and, if you're the proprietor of a hash bar, it's legal to sell it. It's legal to carry it, which doesn't really matter 'cause -- get a load of this -- if the cops stop you, it's illegal for them to search you. Searching you is a right that the cops in Amsterdam don't have."
Vincent Vega, Pulp Fiction

Friday, August 05, 2005

That Yellow Bastard and all this 'God willing' crap

Evil mad mullah scum bag terrorist and cave dweller al-Zawahri, right hand man to Bin Ladin condones the bombings in London:

"As for the British, I tell them that Blair has brought you destruction in central London, and God willing, will bring more destruction."

By the way, Mel Brooks is in town and he said isn't scared "I don't use the subway". So for the time being, like Mel I will be using taxies when I visit London.

Next court date is August 17th. See you all then.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Dig Your Own

Gameindustry.biz today ran an article entitled Sony wins PSP import case against Nuplayer, Online retailer responds by taking European PSP pre-orders at below RRP

Kamal Sharma of Nuplayer Limited is reported to have said "Sony has no right to stop us selling PSPs obtained from sources in Europe. The same law Sony used to stop us selling PSPs is the same law we're using to legally sell European products".

It appears Nuplayer intends on supplying the PSP by hook or by crook but with obvious bitterness he goes on to say "If Sony offered to make me an official distributor now, I would categorically say no, because I would have to sell at the RRP and would only receive a small allocation."

Regarding the enforcement campaign against import imported PSP Consoles and Games, the article also reported action apparently proceedings outside the UK, citing Lik-Sang as another target: "Sony has declared its intention to take action against the retailer, telling GamesIndustry.biz: "We have contacted Lik-Sang regarding imports as other infringers."

"We are actively considering legal remedies available to us and are approaching all known importers in the same way.""

Who is profiting here? Lik-Sang must be doing well considering Sonys attention to domestic competition. And who manufactures these products again?

Meanwhile the action against ElectricBirdLand Limited is ongoing and the next Court hearing date is scheduled for August 17th.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Judgement Day

Sony today won it's claim in the High Court against Nuplayer Ltd.

Nuplayer had been selling the imported Japanese PSP Console and games prior the 1st September.

Sony claimed Nuplayer were infringing their trade marks by selling the The Products without it's consent.

Mr Justice Lawrence Collins ruled that Nuplayer had no argueable defence and Summary Judgement was given.

Nuplayer have been ordered to pay substantial Costs and Damages to Sony for bringing the case against them and hand over it's remaining stock, details of sales, profits, supplier data and some customer data.

The Nuplayer website has been taken down, it says "Sorry site down for maintenance, please check back later - the Nuplayer team".

I wish the Nuplayer team the best of luck for the future.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Reserving Judgment 2

A verdict was expected yesterday about Nuplayers Injunction but the judge stated that the case was still under further review. The ruling is now expected on Thursday.

This verdict has far reaching implications according to Sony:

"If the Defendent is not injuncted pending a final determination of this action, the message given to the market will be that the Claimants [Sony] have lost their legal action. Further, if this Honourable Court refuses to accept the Claimants' application, it is difficult to see circumstances in which the Court will allow the Claimants to seek interim injunctions against others."

So Mr Sharma, the Gretailers are watching. Give 'em a spinning bird kick for all of us.

tic toc.

Monday, July 11, 2005

The incredible shrinking spacemen

Japan. Always making things smaller.

I used to have this recurring dream about these astronauts that used to shrink until they disappeared.


I'm really looking forward to the GB Micro. Nintendo never cease to amaze me in the way they truly bleed every last penny from a product. It doesn't bother me. Each time they Dr Who their devices they improve it in some way, strip it down not beef it up.

There will never be another iPod phenomenon.

Sometimes hi-tech is not what the customer wants. Accessibility is also about affordability.

I use a mobile to make phone calls. I recently downgraded my star trek communicator to a Sony Ericsson T300. Oh I did of course change all the LEDs to blue ones but still the talk time is better than my thermo-nuclear-neo-dylithium walkie talkie (sure it doesn’t transmit my global coordinates to the mother ship or astral project my ass) and it looks cool. A phone is for making phone calls.

All this convergence crap just does not cut it for me.

And what the hell am I talking about? It’s the heat my friend, it is cooking me brain!