European customs officers have been ordered to seize shipments of Playstation 3s after LG won a preliminary injunction against Sony in an acrimonious patent battle between the two Asian electronics giants. The ruling by the civil court of justice in the Hague means that all new PS3s have to be confiscated as they're imported into the UK and the rest of Europe for at least 10 days.
Tens of thousands of PS3s were seized by customs officers last week in the Netherlands, the Guardian has learnt, in a dispute that centres on Sony's allegedly infringing use of Blu-ray technology belonging to LG.
Sony, which imports around 100,000 of the consoles a week, is frantically trying to get the ban lifted. The Japanese company has the right to appeal to the European patents office.
LG argues that Sony PS3s infringe a number of its patents relating to playback of Blu-ray Discs. LG called for an investigation into the PS3's Blu-ray use in a filing with the US international trade commission earlier this month, and said it sought a "permanent exclusion order ... excluding entry into the United States" of the games console.
If Sony is found to have infringed LG patents, it could be forced to compensate the South Korean manufacturer for each PS3 it has sold around the world, which could cost hundreds of millions of pounds.
A spokesman for Sony Playstation said: "We're currently looking into this matter, and cannot make any comments at this point in time." LG declined to comment, although sources close to the company confirmed the current legal position.