German Police search 51 exhibitor stands at CeBIT
On Wednesday, German police, state prosecutors, and customs officials searched the stands of 51 exhibitors suspected of violating patents at CeBIT. Three state prosecutors and more than 180 police and customs officials began their searches simultaneously at 10 a.m. A total of 68 cardboard boxes were filled with confiscated material, including mobile phones, media players, navigation devices, and one LCD TV. Furthermore, the officials also confiscated accessories, such as memory cards and blank DVDs, along with advertising material.
Most of the exhibitors whose stands were searched are from Asia. As the police and state prosecutors announced on Thursday afternoon in Hannover, 24 of the companies are from China. A further 12 of the companies whose stands were searched are from Taiwan. However, nine German exhibitors also received a visit from the authorities. The Hanover police said that the campaign was "by far the largest ever search at CeBIT."
The police say that they took fingerprints and photographs of nine people, and a total of 20 people had to pay €1000 in bail. The staff operating the stands was "largely cooperative", with only one staff member "refusing to participate"; that person was taken to the police office at the fair. The man has since been released. Those found guilty of committing commercial violations of patent rights face up to five years in prison or a fine.
State prosecutors explained that the searches were a response to complaints filed by copyright holders. Chief criminal police officer Oliver Stock said the raid mainly concerned patents for data compression methods, DVB standards, and DVDs. Stock, who coordinated the campaign, said it had been "successful." Chief state prosecutor Hans-Jürgen Lendeckel said that the campaign was intended to send a signal so that such things do not happen again.
Lendeckel did not divulge the identities of the companies investigated. A lawyer representing Italian rights holder Sisvel told heise online that the raid focused on MPEG patents, though she also knew of some other plaintiffs. At last year's CeBIT, Sisvel also took action against product piracy. In addition to numerous Chinese products, some brand names, such as Sagem and Hyundai, were among the confiscated units present at the press conference.
When asked about the smartphone that resembled an iPhone at one of the stands visited by investigators yesterday, Stock confirmed that investigators had been at the stand and had "certainly had the device in their hands." However, Apple had not filed charges, so state prosecutors were not after the "Chinese iPhone" in that specific case. (vbr/c't) /