Sony is underfire for insinuating in patents that it makes superior products to its rivals. While it shouldn’t be particularly surprising for a giant corporation to back its own output, boilerplate terminology discovered in a slew of PlayStation applications has sent the Internet into a frenzy on this otherwise tame Easter weekend.
The story started a few days ago, when GameRant discovered pretty standard documentation for a universal controller-like device, in which it referred to rival “home entertainment systems” from “different albeit inferior manufacturers”. The paper doesn’t specifically mention any other platform holders by name, but it acknowledges consoles like the PS4 and PS3 earlier in the sentence, so it’s probably safe to assume who it’s aimed at.
This sent patent expert Florian Mueller into a furore, where he pointed out in a strongly worded blog that this is far from the first time the Japanese company has used the terminology, and described it as “childish”, “unprofessional”, and even “stupid”. It should be noted that Mueller, in his blog’s biography, lists Microsoft as a client, although we’ll allow you to determine whether that’s relevant to the story or not.
“It’s amazing that no one has discovered this ‘tradition’ before, and that no patent office told them a long time ago to stop doing that once and for all,” he said of the wording. “Patent applications are not meant to be propaganda instruments for console warriors.”
In the frankly unbelievable blog post, Mueller goes on to outline the correct etiquette for patent applications, suggesting that it’s acceptable for organisations to discuss why their inventions may be superior to other products, but “calling competitors generally ‘inferior’ is gratuitous, stupid, childish, and unprofessional”.
He adds: “This is not attributable to pride in inventorship. It’s just insane. If a small company went to the same patent attorneys and wanted them to file patent specifications that contain such an outrageous passage, most patent attorneys would decline to attach their names to it. If Sony wants to engage in comparative advertising, it can do so elsewhere. Gamers are not going to make purchasing decisions based on the language Sony uses in its patent applications.”
Personally, we think this may go down as the biggest storm in a teacup in video game history – and there’s been no shortage of stupidity over the years. While we’d generally agree that the specific wording here seems somewhat unnecessary, we’re struggling to grapple with the absolutely absurd overreactions on some forums and social media.
Is it also problematic that PlayStation describes its platforms as the “best place to play” – or is this simply billion dollar corporations painting themselves and their products in the best possible light?