Court battle over 'Page 3' board game

The Sun reneged on a deal to market a “Page 3” board game and claimed that the product, which offered players the chance to win a glamour model photo shoot at the newspaper, was “bordering on the pornographic”, a court heard today.

In one of the more unusual cases to be heard in the august wood-panelled surroundings of London’s High Court, Mr Justice Eady was told that Britain’s top-selling daily title abruptly cancelled a deal with a company specialising in adult board games to jointly produce and market “Page 3 Idol” – a product designed to give participants a taste of “the glitz, the graft and the giggles of the glamour world””.

Double G Communications Ltd, which describes itself as Britain’s “number one adult leisure games company”, is seeking damages from The Sun’s owner, News Group Newspapers, over its decision to rip up a licensing deal for the game in May 2008.

The court heard that The Sun, which originated the idea of a daily picture of a young semi-nude woman with a pun-heavy caption in 1970 and owns “Page 3” as a trademark, had been initially enthusiastic about the project and signed an undertaking to promote the board game in the newspaper and on its websites.

But when the product was launched in February 2008, Double G began to market the game without being told by NGN that it had already decided to terminate all but one of its outside licensing deals for The Sun.

The games company claims it generated significant demand from retailers, including erotica chain Ann Summers, for the board game, which involved players answering questions about celebrity and glamour modelling before the winning player was crowned with a “Page 3 sash” included in the box.

The Sun-branded product, examples of which were provided to the judge along with Double G’s explicit core adult game called Nookii, also included details of a website where players could upload photographs of themselves wearing the sash to win “the ultimate glamour prize of all” – a makeover and photoshoot at the newspaper.

NGN, which failed to run any of publicity material it had promised, eventually told Double G in May 2008 that it had cancelled their agreement and asked for all existing copies of “Page 3 Idol” – named after an annual beauty contest run by The Sun – to be pulped.

The court heard that since the commencement of legal proceedings, NGN had changed its opinion of the game and stated: “This game is bordering on the pornographic.”

Andrew Hunter, counsel for Double G, rejected the claim as “ludicrous”, saying the game was not sexual in nature and some of the questions were at most “slightly risqué … in the bawdy ‘Carry On’ style”. He added: “There is no nudity in this game. There is nothing in the imagery which is sexual… It is bizarre that this allegation finds itself as part of NGNs case.”

NGN is disputing the level of losses suffered by Double G, saying that Page 3 Idol would have sold just 4,000 copies over three years. Double G claims it would have secured orders for 6,000 copies in just the first three months of the deal.

The case continues.