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Wed, Mar 30, 2005 - Page 12 News List

Sony faces possible ban on US sales of PlayStation console


Sony Corp has been ordered to pay US$90.7 million and halt US sales of PlayStation consoles for patent infringement, but the trial judge granted a stay on the sales ban, pending Sony's expected appeal.

San Jose-based Immersion Corp sued Sony in 2002, claiming it violated two of its patents. A federal jury in Oakland decided in favor of Immersion in September and ordered Sony to pay US$82 million in damages. Last Thursday, US District Judge Claudia Wilken affirmed the decision -- tacking on US$8.7 million in interest.

Wilken also granted a permanent injunction that would bar the manufacture, sale or import into the US of any PlayStations, controllers and games that infringe on the two Immersion patents. Sony has already paid Immersion US$7 million in compulsory license payments ordered by the court and will continue to do so each quarter, based on sales of infringing products, until there is a reversal or settlement.

A Tokyo-based Sony official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the company plans to appeal. He declined to give more details because the lawsuit is pending.

"We have always believed, and continue to believe, in the strength of our intellectual property," Immersion Chief Executive Victor Viegas said on Monday. "We remain confident of our position in the appeals process."

San Jose-based Immersion was awarded far less than the US$299 million it sought in the suit against Sony Computer Entertainment and Sony Computer Entertainment America.

Immersion claimed Sony's PlayStation products infringed on patents related to "vibro-tactile" technologies that simulate the sense of touch in videogame play.

The suit specifically names the PlayStation consoles, Dual Shock controllers and 47 games.

In an interview on Monday, Viegas did not rule out a settlement with Sony, but said previous discussions have gone nowhere.

"We had numerous discussions but none of them have ever yielded a settlement, resolution or a solution to our problem," he said.

He added the appeals process could take 12 to 18 months.

Immersion, founded in 1993, holds more than 270 worldwide patents and has more than 280 applications pending related to software and hardware that use so-called haptic technology.

The company also develops touch technology for use in medicine and automobiles, as well as mobile phones.

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