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Sony to challenge block on PS2 sales

Will keep selling PlayStation 2 while it appeals court ban on sales of the console and order to pay $90 million in license fees.

Sony will continue to sell its PlayStation 2 in the United States while it appeals a court-ordered ban on sales of the market-leading game console, the company said Monday.

Judge Claudia Wilken of the U.S. District Court for Northern California issued the order late last week in a patent infringement case filed against Sony Computer Entertainment by Immersion, a San Jose, Calif.-based developer of "haptics" technology. Among other applications, the technology can generate force feedback in games so that the game controller rattles in response to events during play.

Immersion claims that Sony's implementation of force feedback in its PlayStation 2 and the original PlayStation consoles infringes on its patents. Microsoft paid the California company $26 million two years ago to settle similar claims regarding its PC joysticks and other products.

Sony has fought those charges and suffered a setback late last year, when a jury sided with Immersion and ordered the console maker to pay $82 million in damages. Enforcement of the verdict was delayed, pending the judge's ruling on post-trial motions.

Judge Wilken's latest ruling entered judgment against Sony and ordered it to give Immersion the $82 million laid down by the jury verdict, plus $8.7 million in interest.

In a separate order, Wilken consented to Immersion's request for an injunction barring Sony "from manufacturing, using and/or selling in, or importing into, the United States the infringing Sony PlayStation system." The injunction further instructed Sony to pay licensing fees to Immersion for PlayStation hardware already sold in the United States.

It also covers 47 games that the jury said infringed on Immersion's patents. Most of the games, including the smash hit "Grand Theft Auto" series, aren't published by Sony, possibly complicating enforcement.

The judge agreed to stay enforcement of the injunction, however, citing "the strength of Sony's showing that it is likely to succeed on the merits of its appeal."

A representative for Sony Computer Entertainment America declined to comment on the case, except to confirm that Sony plans to appeal the ruling and will continue to sell PlayStation products in the meantime.

Immersion CEO Victor Viegas hailed the orders as a validation of the developer's claims. "The court-ordered permanent injunction to stop the shipment and sale of infringing products in the U.S. is an important indicator of the strength of our case and the potential risks involved in this litigation," he said in a statement. "We have always believed, and continue to believe, in the strength of our intellectual property. We remain confident of our position in the appeals process."

Sony's new PlayStation Portable system, which does not employ force feedback, is not included in the suit.