Supreme Court refuses to rule on Sony vs Connectix

Back to the lower court with you...

Sony took its copyright violation case against PlayStation emulator developer Connectix to the US Supreme Court yesterday, but found that body would not back its demand that Connectix's Virtual Game Station be banned.

The court ruled that Connectix may continue to sell its emulator, at least until a US District Court or the Court of Appeals judge Sony's claim that VGS represents unfair competition.

Sony took Connectix to court back in 1999, not long after it began shipping VGS for the Mac - a Windows version was released this year. Sony alleged copyright infringement, and a federal judge granted the Japanese giant's demand that VGS sales be halted until Sony's case could be judged. This year, in February, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed that ban.

Then the case went to court proper, and Federal Judge Charles Legge, who had granted the original preliminary injunction, threw out seven of Sony's nine allegations. He said that Sony could pursue its claims that Connectix was engaging in unfair competition, and had violated Sony trade secrets in VGS' development.

This next stage of the case has still to come to court. Monday's Supreme Court action was Sony's attempt to appeal against the Appeal Court riuling of last February. Sony sought to reimpose the injunction granted against Connectix by focusing on the unfair competition claim. It claimed Connectix was "using the protected work to develop a substitute far more quickly and inexpensively than the original".

However, the Supreme Court remained unmoved by Sony's advocacy, and it refused to rule on the case, leaving it to the lower court to decide.

For its part, Connectix argued that it wasn't engaging in competition with Sony at all, since it had created not an alternative to the PlayStation but a completely new market for the console's games.

Sony's unfair competition and trade secret violation suit will come to court next March. Connectix will also have to face Sony's more recently launched patent violation case. That suit was filed earlier this year after the Appeals Court noted that had Sony argued on patent infringement grounds, it would have upheld the preliminary injunction. ®

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