AMSTERDAM — A Dutch court Thursday ordered LG Electronics to release 300,000 Sony PlayStation 3s seized on its behalf by Dutch customs officials earlier this month as part of a patent dispute case.
The summary decision by the Hague District Court was a short-term win for Sony, as it can now regain possession of the consoles and resume distributing them.
But LG's aggressive pursuit of its claim was a sign of the high stakes both sides have in their wider intellectual property war.
The court did not immediately publish a written version of its ruling, but details were reported by De Telegraaf, the Netherlands' largest newspaper, and several video game fansites who had reporters at the hearing.
Lawyers for LG said they would appeal the ruling and move to a full patent violation suit in the Netherlands in November, De Telegraaf reported.
The Netherlands became an unexpected battleground in the wider patent clash between the two companies after South Korea's LG quietly obtained permission from the Breda District Court on Feb. 28 to have all Sony PlayStation 3 console shipments in the Netherlands through March 10 seized.
LG claims the Blu-ray technology used in the Sony consoles infringes LG patents. Sony denies that claim.
LG convinced the Breda court that it had enough evidence for a summary judgment under Dutch law and asked for the seizure to take place immediately. If Sony had been warned ahead of time, the Japanese company might have quickly moved the consoles to a different European jurisdiction.
Customs authorities carried out the Breda order, which was published this week by the court, but Sony was only informed of the decision after the fact.
The seizures reportedly included 300,000 PlayStation 3s with an estimated market value of around $60 million — potentially a serious disruption of Sony's European distribution chain.
LG lawyers argued that Sony owes LG at least $150 million for patent violations, calculating around $2.50 in licensing fees for each Blu-ray containing device Sony has sold.
"The key reason for the court to lift the seizure order was that this kind of measure didn't seem fair given the history of negotiations between the parties," wrote Florian Mueller, who runs a blog about software patents, citing lawyer sources present.
"The ruling didn't only overturn the prejudgment seizure order but also told LG to inform the Dutch customs authority and ensure that no further confiscations would happen."
Sony and LG representatives could not immediately be reached for comment. A receptionist at Sony's distribution center in Tilburg, Netherlands, said he was aware of the court victory but could not comment further.
Sony has denied LG's claims of patent violations and filed counterclaims of its own. The two are disputing technology used in mobile phones, digital cameras, Blu-ray and several other products.
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