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German Police Raid 51 CeBIT Stands Over Patent Claims 191

Posted by kdawson
LeCaddie writes "Last week German investigators raided 51 exhibitor stands at CeBIT, the German information technology fair in Hanover, looking for goods suspected of infringing patents. Some 183 police, customs officers, and prosecutors raided the fair on Wednesday and carried off 68 boxes of electronic goods and documents including cellphones, navigation devices, digital picture frames, and flat-screen monitors. Of the 51 companies raided, 24 were Chinese. Most of the patents concerned were related to devices with MP3, MP4, and DVB standard functions for digital audio and video, blank CDs, and DVD copiers, police said." In the US there are no criminal penalties associated with patents, and such a raid could not be conducted, especially in the absence of a court ruling of infringement.
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German Police Raid 51 CeBIT Stands Over Patent Claims

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  • HA-HA (Score:3, Insightful)

    by megaditto (982598) on Sunday March 09, 2008 @04:20PM (#22694268)
    Guess that's the last time there'll be another IT fair in Germany.
    • Re:HA-HA (Score:5, Insightful)

      by arivanov (12034) on Sunday March 09, 2008 @04:26PM (#22694304) Homepage
      This is an annual event. Same as CeBIT itself. It is not the fist time, it is not the last time. And frankly as far as some manufacturers are concerned infringing until you get nailed is the way to do business so I do not quite see what does this change. So I will disagree. There WILL be another IT fair in Germany and there will be another bust there.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by XenonChloride (718512)
        Actually, i expect another raid during the IFA (consumer electronics show) in Berlin, end of august. And again, Roberto Dini of Sisvel will deny any responsibility.
      • somehow combines that activity with Patriot Act and border protection. Just a ruse is all takes to grab business intel on competition, or to deter some companies from advertising if their whole booth can be carted up and taken off. And, who'd be able to prove the "uniformed cops" were not imposters to screw over a company. Nahh, things like that just don't happen -- yet.
      • I think many people don't really regard infringing on an mp3 patent as something morally wrong.

        So just pay to display your products at a booth, get raided, hope you get some _extra_ publicity, $$$.
    • Re:HA-HA (Score:4, Informative)

      by Florian Weimer (88405) <fw@deneb.enyo.de> on Sunday March 09, 2008 @04:27PM (#22694308) Homepage

      Guess that's the last time there'll be another IT fair in Germany.
      It's been this way for years, it's kind of a ritual. Somehow I doubt it's contributed significantly to Cebit's decline.
    • Re:HA-HA (Score:5, Informative)

      by eggnoglatte (1047660) on Sunday March 09, 2008 @04:38PM (#22694384)
      I read another report that said it was about product piracy (fake iPhones etc.). I find that version easier to believe, since AFAIK patents are a purely civil matter across Europe. And you can bet your ass that if it was piracy-related, the same could happen in the US as well. Here in Canada/Vancouver, we had similar raids last summer on some open air markets where police were cracking down on vendors selling fake Prada purses and the like.
      • Re:HA-HA (Score:5, Informative)

        by Xelios (822510) on Sunday March 09, 2008 @04:58PM (#22694502)
        Yeah, from what I can gather from the various online German news outlets reporting on this the target of the raid was counterfit products, not patent violations. Booths belonging to Chinese companies were selling blatant iPhone ripoffs, like Meizu Technology's "MiniOne" [vvallo.com], and the police shut them down.
        • Hmm only $195 for a 4gb version? Where do i buy one? I could care less about any 'infringing' as i don't believe in IP rights.
          • Re:MiniOne (Score:4, Informative)

            by fastest fascist (1086001) on Sunday March 09, 2008 @05:34PM (#22694672)
            'course, you can probably also forget about things like warranties or safety testing.
            • by nurb432 (527695)
              In this day and age of shoddy products from most every manufacturer/importer, tell me why i should care?
              • Re:MiniOne (Score:5, Informative)

                by onefriedrice (1171917) on Sunday March 09, 2008 @06:55PM (#22695186)
                You're ignorant (no offense) if you think the quality of Chinese rip-offs comes close to the real products. I've spent the last two years in Asia, in a country where such fake products are plentiful. I bought a "Sony" discman for part of my stay there. It wasn't so bad since I could just take it to some local, hole-in-the-wall electronics shack and they could fix whatever electronic components had failed while I waited (which occurred fairly regularly), but there is no way any product like that would be put-up with by most Americans, with or without access to a cheap electronic repair outlet. I won't argue with you whether or not real, brand-name electronics have been reduced in quality over the past years (I think they have), but in no way do they approach the shoddy quality (both interior and exterior) of the fake stuff, believe me.
              • Re:MiniOne (Score:4, Funny)

                by ColdWetDog (752185) on Sunday March 09, 2008 @08:02PM (#22695696) Homepage

                In this day and age of shoddy products from most every manufacturer/importer, tell me why i should care?

                Let's see:

                Cheapo knockoff iPhone sits in your pants pocket, several inches away from your testicles.

                Cheapo knockoff iPhone has embedded in it a cheapo knockoff Sony Lithium battery that is even more likely to overheat than the real one.

                Cheapo knockoff iPhone has cheapo knockoff current limiters on the battery and cheapo knockoff components in the battery supervisor circuit.

                Next step left as exercise for the student.

                • by digitig (1056110)

                  Next step left as exercise for the student.
                  Profit? Doesn't sound right.
                • by bursch-X (458146)
                  I see it as part of the big plan of China taking over the world.

                  Just have millions of iPhone knock-offs explode in the pants of (male and geeky) Longnoses and they'll all be impotent. In another 20 years, China will make 50% of the population or so... They just forget that geeks never get laid anyway.
                • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                  by socz (1057222)
                  We can argue the same things for sony vaio's!

                  Let's see:

                  Expensive sony vaio sits on your pants (lap), several inches away from your testicles.

                  Expensive sony vaio has in it an expensive certified Sony rechargeable battery that is even more likely to overheat than an aftermarket one.

                  Expensive sony vaio has cheapo cooling heatsink and causes overheating issues including notebook shutdowns and has spawned many "freeze" sites to document problems.

                  Expensive sony vaio has customer service, but it is so bad it's better not to use them. Actually more expensive to use them than to just ignore the problem or replace device with another brand.

                  Next step left as exercise for the student.

                  I mean honestly, spending a few grand on a vaio i thought i was getting a quality product. Everyone said they were second to IBM (at the time) think pads. I had already learned my lessons through the years with all the junk they make (walk mans, cd mans, car cd mans, head units for cars, home stereos, tv's, radios etc etc) that has broken down on me. But i trusted everyones advice and ended up getting burned in the end.

                  So whats worse? buying a product y

                • by mobby_6kl (668092)
                  > Next step left as exercise for the student.

                  Cheap knockoff fire (not of that kind) in your pants. Obviously, this would never happen with an official 100% Apple certified iProduct, no fucking way. [engadget.com]
        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Booths belonging to Chinese companies were selling blatant iPhone ripoffs, like Meizu Technology's "MiniOne", and the police shut them down.
          Well, at least in the case of Meizu, the reason was apparently not the iPhone ripoff.

          http://www.engadget.com/2008/03/05/meizus-cebit-booth-shut-down-over-mp3-licensing-issues-not-the/ [engadget.com]
        • Re:HA-HA (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Belial6 (794905) on Sunday March 09, 2008 @05:53PM (#22694772)
          An item is only a 'counterfeit' if it tries to pass itself off as the original. So, if the MiniOne does not have the iPhone name or logo on it, it is not counterfeit. So, I have to ask anyone who has seen this product... Does it say iPhone, or have an Apple logo on it?
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by 1u3hr (530656)
            Does it say iPhone, or have an Apple logo on it?

            It runs Windows Mobile, it's a look-alike, not a counterfeit.

            It's about MP3 patents, not Apple.

            http://www.meizume.com/ [meizume.com] : "According to forum posts by Meizu CEO Jack Wong, the raid was initiated by Sisvel due to the lack of a Sisvel (patent holder of MP3 format) license."

        • by cyfer2000 (548592)
          My German news [heise.de] said it was not because of the miniOne.

          "Later today, a representative of Meizu told German press agency dpa that the police had not come by because of the mobile phone, but another of the company's products, a portable MP3 player. There had been "discussions" regarding licenses, she was quoted as saying. According to dpa, Meizu staff opened the stand again and again displayed the smartphone late this afternoon, with the MP3 player missing from display."

        • Not counterfeit (Score:3, Insightful)

          by nephridium (928664)
          According to one of Germany's reputable news sources Spiegel Online [spiegel.de] (in German) early reports suspected counterfeit claims by companies such as Apple, but it has since become clear that the Italian company Sisvel has filed suit over MP3 patent infringements and thereby caused the raid of stands offering mp3/4 players et al.

          There have since been further confiscations of GPS/navigation systems too.
      • by PFAK (524350) *
        How can you even compare CeBIT and Richmond Night Market, they are completely different kind of things!

        CeBIT is a computer fair to show off new products etc, while Richmond Night Market is primarily for selling knock off goods ..
  • Most of the patents concerned were related to devices with MP3, MP4, and DVB standard functions for digital audio and video, blank CDs, and DVD copiers
    I thought software patents were illegal in Europe
    • by Colin Smith (2679) on Sunday March 09, 2008 @04:25PM (#22694300)

      I thought software patents were illegal in Europe
      Europe isn't a country...

       
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        Considering the EU has a Constitution, free travel from member state to member state, free trade within I would say it could be considered a country.
        • by Colin Smith (2679)
          Europe isn't a country...
        • by Jugalator (259273)

          Considering the EU has a Constitution
          And so have the countries that make up it.

          Different ones at that.

          In short, I think you're oversimplifying things a bit. ;-)
          • by LordKazan (558383)
            each individual state in the US has a constitution

            not saying that his statement wasn't lazy.. but at least don't stupid
          • Hate to break it to you but...

            Each state of the United States has its own constitution. Different ones at that. So what was your point?

        • by Sique (173459)
          The EU doesn't have a constitution. The attempt to give the EU a constitution was derailed when the people of France and the Netherlands didn't agree to the proposed constitution.
          Now there is a newly formulated EU base contract all the rage, but this one is not even through the parliaments of the member states yet.
      • What does that have to do with anything? If something can be illegal, then it can be illegal in a country, in a continent, on a plane, in a box, under a table, while in a moving vehicle or while eating ham sandwiches, unless something specific about the law rules that particular situation out.
    • Most of the patents concerned were related to devices with MP3, MP4, and DVB standard functions for digital audio and video, blank CDs, and DVD copiers

      I thought software patents were illegal in Europe

      This is mainly about actual devices, not about mere software. MP3 is kind of interesting because a second essential[*] patent pool has established itself, completely separate from the Fraunhofer/Thomson pool that everybody has licensed.

      [*] Essential for portable MP3 players and similar devices.

      • This is mainly about actual devices, not about mere software.
        Nonsense. MP3 is a data design and an algorithm.
        • You mean like cd's and tv, where data arrives in a stream and needs to be decoded into actual sound/images ?
        • by rucs_hack (784150)
          Why use mp3 in a situation where you might be in trouble over patents? There are plenty of other codecs out there, ogg for one. Most ripper programs hat I know of can rip to ogg, and there are conversion tools. It wouldn't be hard to set up a conversion system.

          How long is it until mp3 is out of patent anyway?
          • by shark72 (702619)

            "Why use mp3 in a situation where you might be in trouble over patents? There are plenty of other codecs out there, ogg for one. Most ripper programs hat I know of can rip to ogg, and there are conversion tools. It wouldn't be hard to set up a conversion system."

            Sadly, there's not much of a market for Ogg-only players. I'm perfectly aware that Slashdotters would have not the slightest issue with purchasing a FLAC-only or Ogg-only player, but we're the very tippy-top of the market. The Chinese knockoff v

          • by Dogtanian (588974)

            Why use mp3 in a situation where you might be in trouble over patents? There are plenty of other codecs out there, ogg for one. Most ripper programs hat I know of can rip to ogg, and there are conversion tools. It wouldn't be hard to set up a conversion system.

            Because regardless of its merits, Ogg's usage is extremely rare outside of geek circles. Even amongst Slashdot readers, I'd guess that although most of us are aware of it, only a small proportion actually encode their music using it.

            It's the old critical mass chicken-and-egg thing, and I'm not convinced that Ogg Vorbis will ever reach that breakthrough point.

            As for conversion... frankly, most people would ask *why* they should bother converting their music to another format just to listen to it on some

          • by Cheesey (70139)
            Portable music player chipsets already include MP3 support, partly in hardware and partly in firmware. It would now actually be more expensive to build a player without MP3 support, since you could not use off-the-shelf components to do it. Patent royalties are a very small part of the total cost of the device. Really, it is a non-issue.
          • by LingNoi (1066278)
            OGG is more CPU intensive compared to MP3 so it requires a faster CPU then a device that uses MP3 would need... and probably runs the battery out quicker.
          • by kent_eh (543303)
            If you mean US Patents, anywhere between 2007 and 2017 [tunequest.org] depending on which related patent you are talking about.
    • Re:Software patents? (Score:5, Informative)

      by gweihir (88907) on Sunday March 09, 2008 @04:31PM (#22694336)
      I thought software patents were illegal in Europe.

      It is not about software patents. It is about embedded devices (hence not "computers") with a specific functionality profile. At least German law enforcement has not yet grasped that a phone can actually have software downloaded into it and so not all functionality is "hardcoded". Also a device can be in violation of "Musterschutz" (something like the "look" part from "look and feel"), by closly following the design of an other device.

      Side note: MP3 as a method or as an encoder/decoder is not protected, but the parameter set used is (as far as I understand this). As to the CDs, these were likely counterfit, i.e. claiming a different manufacturer. That is trademark infringement. DVD copier could be classified as "circumvention device" for copy protection shemes, which are illegal in Germany. (I know, I know, lawmakers with no grasp of technology...)

      My guess is that this raid will actually result in no or very little prosecution. But the displays have been removed, so the patent holders are satisfied. Unfortunately it will be very difficult to get any compensation for the damage done, even if equipment was seized in error.
      • 945 ZPO (German Civil Process Order) provides for damage compensation in such cases.
        • by gweihir (88907)
          945 ZPO (German Civil Process Order) provides for damage compensation in such cases.

          Yes, but will this be adequate for loosing the mess exposure of a product, which can go into millions and more and is very hard to estimate?
    • by Splab (574204)
      No, illegal would make it criminal to have one.

      Software patents are not honored by the EU patent court nor honored by most member countries. (Which means anyone being challenged about a software patent can get it to European court where such a suit would fail.)
  • by thisissilly (676875) on Sunday March 09, 2008 @04:28PM (#22694314)
    In the US there are no criminal penalties associated with patents, and such a raid could not be conducted,

    I'm sure our lobbyists and politicians will get right to work on fixing that.

  • dept.? (Score:2, Funny)

    by Xogede (1064902)
    So, is this from the police dept.?
  • by postbigbang (761081) on Sunday March 09, 2008 @04:41PM (#22694408)
    The Fraunhofer Institute, who invented the MP3 and makes similar formats, is likely a source of information about the violators of at least the codec IP infringement. MP3 and many other formats aren't in the public domain in the GPL sense. They're likely behind part of this.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by jeti (105266)
      No. Thompson manages the patents for the Fraunhofer institute.
      They have nothing to do with this. Sisvel manages another stack
      of patents that they claim to be relevant to the mp3 format.

      Apparently, the most important of those patents is for a padding
      bit. The idea is to add zeros to a VBR file so that a CBR only
      decoder can handle the file.
      • So Thomson, a French company (if memory serves) is serving the interests of the Fraunhofer Institute? This would seem to make sense despite whose managing the IP-- it's an EU venue.
    • by no-body (127863)
      They're likely behind part of this.

      That's very speculative, any source or quote would eliminate that.

      And - Nope - it's those guys:

      http://www.sisvel.com/ [sisvel.com] pushing the events.

      They did it last year as well.

      Apparently patent trolls - from their web site..

  • It looks like... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by magunning (1177371)
    ..a police station just got new kit on the cheap.
  • by Mr. Bad Example (31092) on Sunday March 09, 2008 @04:52PM (#22694470) Homepage
    The booths in question were from firms based in Poland, Hungary, and the former Czechoslovakia. It was just force of habit.
  • Today. Give the IP conglomerates a few more years of buying votes/laws and that may change. And just think, your tax dollars will be used to fund the raids on what should be a civil issue.

     
  • by Qbertino (265505) on Sunday March 09, 2008 @05:47PM (#22694736)
    This was mostly about cheap-ass asian style 'product piracy'. iPhone lookalikes with clear intent to be confused with the iPhone (right down to the packaging), 100% iPod shuffle ripp-offs and implementation of commercial MP3 decoders from companies who weren't paying the licencing fees to the Frauenhofer Institut.

    The chinese ripping off IP is a big issue in Germany. They order a machine, dismantle it and copy it exactly, down to the last bolt and then sell cheap low-quality knock-offs of it back to Europe.

    My cousin (engineer at Airbus) tells me there even is an Airbus 320 that went to China some time ago. That was it's only flight and it never appeared again. He suspects it's lying around somewhere dismantled and analysed.
  • by Yvanhoe (564877)
    This was about counterfeiting, not patent violation. Quite ridiculous as well if you ask me, but the Polizei does not raid yet for patent violations.
    • by kju (327) on Sunday March 09, 2008 @07:13PM (#22695294)
      No, actually you got it wrong. It was acknowledged by law enforcement officials that the raid was about patents. From http://www.heise.de/newsticker/meldung/104657 [heise.de]:

      Auslöser für die Aktion waren den Angaben der Staatsanwaltschaft zufolge Strafanzeigen der Rechteinhaber. Bei der Razzia sei es vorwiegend um Patente für Datenkompressionsverfahren, DVB-Standards und DVDs gegangen, sagte Kriminaloberrat Oliver Stock, der die Aktion koordiniert hatte und sich über einen "erfolgreichen Abschluss" freute.

      Bad translation (by me):

      According to the public prosecutors office complaints by holders of rights were reason for the action. Law enforcement senior councillor Oliver Stock who coordinated the action and was glad about the "successfull completion" said target of the raid where mainly patents for data compression, DVB standards and DVDs.

      There were some initial (wrong) reports that reason for the raid was counterfeiting (iPhone look-a-likes) but these reports were later corrected, see for example http://www.heise.de/english/newsticker/news/104591 [heise.de] (in english).
    • Well, but the Zoll (Customs) does.
  • The patents claimed are the ones of Sisvel, a Philips proxytroll, who is suing every MP3 manufacturer for royalties.

    They have a list of 3 or 4 software patents which belongs to the MPEG1-layer3 ISO standard, be it implemented in hardware of in software:

    http://www.ipeg.com/_UPLOAD%20BLOG/Sisvel%20patents%20overview.pdf [ipeg.com]

    The German police is using the criminal procedure to seize counterfeited goods, despite the fact that those patents could be challenged in court for validity.

    If there are some MP3 manufacturers
  • In the US there are no criminal penalties associated with patents, and such a raid could not be conducted, especially in the absence of a court ruling of infringement.
    All I have to add to that is "...yet..."

    Didn't something pass recently creating an "IP Police force" or something along those lines? Sounds to me like they're preparing to do exactly that.
  • Down the rabbit hole we go....
  • by EEPROMS (889169)
    The laugh is many of these companies (including Meizu) would not have had any legal issues if they had used the free and open source ogg format. Many games now use ogg rather than put up with the patent trolling nightmare that is MP3.
  • In the US there are no criminal penalties associated with patents, and such a raid could not be conducted, especially in the absence of a court ruling of infringement.


    Sometimes the Slashdot editors can be frustrating, but this is a good example where a quick sentence added on to the submitted summary was informative, and probably headed off a large number of misguided posts. Kudos.

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