Natalie Bravo is an IPilogue Writer and a 2L JD Candidate at Osgoode Hall Law School.
DBrand, a Canadian accessories company notorious for its tongue-in-cheek marketing, taunted Sony earlier this year after launching an unofficial Sony PlayStation 5 (“PS5”) product. Unsurprisingly, Sony sent DBrand a cease-and-desist letter, which the Canadian company published online and used to generate marketing for a newer, allegedly “not illegal,” albeit similar, product.
In February of this year, DBrand released unlicensed PS5 Darkplates, which are essentially a different shell/casing for the console. The PS5, if you are lucky enough to find one, can only be found in white. Until Sony releases official options, consumers who want a different colour must resort to purchasing skins, painting their consoles, or buying a different casing altogether. In the past, other companies have tried to sell custom plates for the PS5. PlateStation5.com, for example, was forced to rebrand and stop selling PS5 plates after Sony threatened legal action over a trademark dispute. DBrand is apparently aware of Sony’s efforts to suppress these custom products, as they marketed their Darkplates with the tagline “Go ahead, sue us.”
The DBrand Darkplates were available in multiple colours and allowed for easy installation. They also featured a textured pattern that is reminiscent of Sony PlayStation logos: the circle, square, triangle, and X. DBrand itself stated the pattern was “a familiar-but-legally-distinct apocalyptic spin on the classic PlayStation button shapes.”
Until Sony caught on, the Darkplates quickly sold out and were placed on back-order. The cease-and-desist letter can be found here. The 7-page document expresses that DBrand is infringing Sony’s copyrights in numerous ways, notably by selling plates that replicate Sony’s protected design, featuring the Sony PlayStation family mark logo and shape symbols, and using the PlayStation name to promote their product.
Sony further stipulates that, under both Canadian and US Copyright law, they reserve the right to protect their goodwill and associated intellectual property. The letter refers to the tagline “Go ahead, sue us,” and requests a resolution from DBrand. In response, DBrand pulled the products in issue, published a rather negative statement on Reddit, and later re-released a new similar product: Darkplates 2.0, touted to circumvent any legal issues. The 2.0 model is a different shape, devoid of all Sony logos, and features brand new vents for increased air circulation. The marketing is riddled with references to legality and the conflict with Sony. Even on the DBrand website header, a scrolling text reads “FUND OUR LEGAL DEFENSE – FREE SHIPPING TO THE USA…” The new model’s tagline? “Checkmate, lawyers.”
Checkmate or not, DBrand’s transparency on the matter and relentless taunts are a curious marketing twist. Whether DBrand has closed the loop on their legal trouble with the brand-new design remains to be seen. Personally, I love the slimming effect of the design. I hope that Sony launches an official option soon.