back to article Police raid CeBIT stands

German police raided 51 booths at the CeBIT computing show this week because of breaches of audio compression (MP3) patents. According to senior prosecutor Hans-Jurgen Lendeckel, several mobile phones, screens, sat navs and MP3 devices were seized. Italian firm Sisvel, which itself has a booth at CeBIT in Hall 19, filed patent …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    the world of consumer electronics is so mature.

  2. Sam


    ..Just added to my shit list along with sony.

    Sam's wallet says byee!

  3. Repo
    Thumb Down


    ...many rapists, murderers and human traffickers carried on "business as normal"...

  4. Steve

    Criminal offences?

    So infringing a patent is a criminal offence now is it? Not something that companies argue out in court.

    The police seem to be used more and more by various groups and organisations as private enforcers. Unless a court has ordered that these companies stop selling the product (ie issued an injunction) and they haven't complied there is no reason for the police to be involved at all.

  5. Dunstan Vavasour

    You don't just ignore patents

    There are lots of things you can do if your work cuts across someone else's patent. You can pay them royalties. Or you can do things a different way, so you don't infringe the patent. Or, if you think the patent is flawed, you can try to get it overturned.

    However, if you take none of these courses of action and just go ahead and sell infringing products, the patent holder will expect damages. Anybody remember how, among others, FSF under RMS very openly and publicly eschewed the .gif format because it was encumbered by patents? Well .mp3 today has a similar problem, and we have a ready solution with .ogg

  6. Anonymous Coward

    Oh please !

    If 180 police had their arses out on the street maybe they might see less crime on the streets ? Surely this would have been better dealt with through an EU complaint rather than a publicity stunt wasting police time. They are mostly Chinese and Taiwanese so are not really going to give a flying fart anyway.

    Oh and Philips thanks for sticking hdcp on my bloody dvd player and not telling me its there - arseholes ! Think i'll go for a nice Chinese rip off next time

    Jo punter having his pockets picked yet again

  7. frank denton

    I thought...... was mp3 encoding that required a license form the patent holder, not decoding?

  8. Tom

    Oggy oggy oggy?

    Oi! Oi! Oi!

  9. leslie
    Paris Hilton

    I can hear it now

    but not if its in mp3 at cebit....

    What a load of old, oh words just dont do this justice, its mp3, its a format thats used world over, and no one can own it, patent or not, its 'out there'

    its GIF all over again.

    When are these big patent businesses going to give in, it only harms creativity.

    PH as this is so stupid.

  10. Bruce Leyden
    Paris Hilton

    @ Sam

    You weren't aware that Philips spends an absolute fortune on R&D, from which huge amounts of real-and-lovely-money-generating IP are created? You weren't aware that Philips is a big multinational capitalist pigdog with a pack of slavering legal attack hounds on permanent standby to guard that income? Watch out, the world's a scary place.

    Paris cos she'd have the legal attack hounds rounded up and kitted out with fluffy pink booties in no time.

  11. Robert V

    Fine the patent holder and compensate the stall holders!

    Stupid. Patents are getting so silly nowadays. They really need to tighten up the rules about who gets a patent, and how general that patent should be.

    This whole situation should be thrown out and the stall holders compensated.

  12. dervheid

    It would have to have been in Germany!

    You can almost here the cries of "N**i B*stards!"

    Agree with Steve's comment.

    That'd never happen at a show in the UK. Would it?

    The home-made, patent-free one!

  13. Sam

    @Bruce Leyden

    My perception of them was as a bunch of no-knows who liked a schmoke too much to produce decent gear...I sledge hammered a Marantz, once.

    My uncle, God rest him, also helped liberate parts of Holland, and saw terrible things...and now they are using German police? Ironic.

  14. Anonymous Coward

    Too dumb to spell a simple name

    Right on, dervheid! Well, what do you expect from someone who cannot spell Jürgen (or Juergen).

  15. Dave

    ElReg Hacks - Your readers need you

    We need a quick summary on who owns what; What the patents involved are; who is claiming what;

    I count between 5 and 9 companies involved on the MP3 patent ownership side. Some may be divisions of others.

    Texas MP3 - Patent Troll that bought a patent in February

    Alcatel - Sueing somebody, or maybe not.

    Lucent - Possibly the same company as Alcatel

    Sisvel - The guys who called in the cops to CeBIT. Patent Arm of Phillips (?)

    Phillips - The guys that co-developed MP3 with Thomson. Owners of Sisvel (?)

    Thomson - The other guys that co-developed MP3 with Phillips.

    Fraunhofer - Parent of Thomson(?)

    SigmaTel - Guys who sold MP3 patent (Maybe to Texas MP3, maybe not)

    A. N. Other - May not exist, but if they did they'd have bought the MP3 patent from SigmaTel and sold it to Texas MP3.

    Can we have a cut out and keep guide to all of this, a bit like the league tables that the Sun and Shoot! (the footie mag) used to give away at the beginning of a season. That way your loyal readers will be able to track the patents without getting confused.

    The Conspiracy Theorist in me says that "The Man" has decided that since he can't stop file sharing, he'll make it impossible to find a device that will play said files.

  16. vincent himpe

    but meanwhile ...

    - they can continue selling toys with lead in it ( hey, after the mandatory lead-free requirement for electronics they have to get rid of their lead somehow ... just stuffing it in toys seemed a brilliant idea ... )

    - use glycol as a toothpaste filler

    - sell steel to europe that is radioactive ... ( they bought boatloads of scrap for russia , melted it , made steel bars, and sell these to europe . Customs even found radioactive music instruments ....

    don't believe me ? google for 'radioactive steel'.

    Whole ship loads were confiscated 3 days ago in Italian and Belgium harbours. All coming from the same chinese outfit....

    next thing you'll hear is that that silk shirt you bought 'made in china' is actually made of recycled toiletpaper...

    The least we can do is raid some geek funfair and confiscate some mp3 players...

  17. Nathanael Bastone

    here ye, here ye

    "Italian firm Sisvel, which itself has a booth at CeBIT in Hall 19, filed patent complaints"

    Hear that? Hall 19, Sisvel, go get em!

  18. kev conroy

    Tiny license fee

    Those companies would have been warned before they showed up, they chose to ignore it, hence the visit from the law. I'm sure the license fees aren't too bad, a cent per unit, ignoring the cost is stupid.

    That CD player you got..see the CD logo on it? That's the licensed unit. Most kit contains some form of patent kit. It's no great shakes.

    Definitely a case of "p*ssing on someone's chips" getting the rozzers to turn up at a trade show. Funny.

  19. A J Stiles
    Paris Hilton

    mp3 patents

    Since MP3 encoding and decoding are purely mathematical operations, they should by definition be excluded from the scope of patentability in both the EU and the UK.

    I think it's time we made a new reality TV show ..... "Life in the Public Domain". The contestants have to live together in a camera-ed-up house for several weeks, all without using anything which is copyrighted, patented or a trade secret. It should be easy, right?

    BTW, Philips DVD recorders (and possibly some other makes) can bypass Macrovision copy-protection! The machine only actually checks for the presence of the Macrovision signal when the record button is first pressed. If you feed in a suitable non-Macrovision signal, then quickly switch over to the Macrovision signal, the annoying "copy protect" message will not appear -- and if the recorder even has such a thing as an analogue AGC, its time constant is short enough to cope with the out-of-range peaks. Very handy if you find you have mistakenly applied Macrovision protection to your old home movies .....

  20. Cambrasa


    As far as mutinationals go, Philips is still one of the nicer ones. It doesn't pay its board members 6-figure salaries. Its employees get generous benefits all the way down to factory workers. Its corporate culture tolerates alternative lifestyles (such as gays) in high positions and it doesn't test its employees for drugs. It doesn't lobby the government to make stupid laws. Its business is focussed on creating real value with R+D and not on zero-sum games. It has a history of funding high-risk, long term research.

    As for enforcing its patents, you can't really blame them. Philips no longer makes very much stuff in Europe. Their patents are their most important asset these days, and if Philips didn't grab patents, their competitors would. Blame overly permissive patent law.

  21. Alan Penzotti

    Were these articles for sale at the show?

    The article never divulged if these impounded goods were being sold at the show or were for show (as prototypes/first articles) with sale/marketing details to be worked out later.

    If these were for show (and NOT for sale at the show), I hope that Sisvel is on the receiving end of some heavy (legal, extra-legal, and country-to-country) return fire.

    Perhaps the affected exhibitors at the show next year will higher some embassy staff as "booth bunnies" so as to inherit their diplomatic immunity.

    Finally, I believe that CeBIT should require all exhibitors to have their goons on stand-down during the show; couple that with a no sales on show site rule.

  22. Mectron

    @Dunstan Vavasour

    Patents holder = small time extortionist.

    Most of these companies did not even invent anything, they are just there to STEAL<== Yes STEAL it cannot be more clear then that! Money from anything that moves.

    Patents should only be allowed to the actual individual who invented it. And should NEVER include any software code of any kind in other world patent should only cover a PHYSICAL product and nothing else.

  23. Anonymous Coward


    Ok, 10 years after mp3 became the standard, and I see this? Looks like that GIF debacle so many years ago...

    IIRC some years ago my favorite linux player (xmms) was nerfed in the basic installations of RedHat9 with a placeholder plugin showing "no longer support mp3 for patent problems"... huh? I didn't even *know* there was a patent for that.

    Hm... I'd send some 'nice' boys with clubs to the Sisvel stand every time they call the cops ... maybe they'll just stop that ;)

  24. f00bar

    End of an era

    You couldn't make this up, 180 Police officers acting as the private army of an alleged rights holder to shut down stands and cart exhibitors off to the clink!. I guess CeBit was already starting to wane, but this has to be one of the final nails surely.

  25. StopthePropaganda

    patents are like music

    you're not paying the inventor, you're paying the company that owns the patent. Just like when you buy a song, a pittance goes to the "creative" force that made it.

    Some patents are shite, some have real purpose. The hard part is not throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

    Plus, when a company with millions of dollars in fabrication and production hardware starts selling devices, there's no "accident" involved. These are companies *deliberately* trying to produce knockoffs. Or, even worse-they are the *same * factories that make the "legit" product, but factory managers keep their wage slaves working after hours to produce extra product that's just re-stickered, selling these thru organized crime fences or whatever to make a little extra profit off of the "round eye's" designs, expertise and materials.

    Would all the folks decrying the enforcement as a waste of time feel the same if the exact chinese clones of iPhones showed up?

  26. heystoopid

    words of a song ring in my ear

    "And in the streets: the children screamed,

    The lovers cried, and the poets dreamed.

    But not a word was spoken;

    The church bells all were broken.

    And the three men I admire most:

    The father, son, and the holy ghost,

    They caught the last train for the coast

    The day the music died."

  27. Anonymous Coward


    "Would all the folks decrying the enforcement as a waste of time feel the same if the exact chinese clones of iPhones showed up?"

    With 180 officers? You can bet your ass we would.

    Philips have the money and legal power to sue anybody out of existence if they want, but no no, that isn't enough, you also have to show that you have local police force in your pocket.

    With taxpayers money, of course.

    And what is the patent infinged? A no-brainer addition to a mathematical formula, a thing, that shouldn't be patentable at all.

    Copying a formula is not same thing than copying a product, so the situation is actually the exact opposite of your example of ipod. Not a single part was or is copied, so there can't be a patent infringment. Software isn't patentable in EU. No matter how hard EPO is trying to tell people it is.

    ... and it's absurd that police force can be used as a private army for enforcing ridiculous patents without court order.

  28. alun phillips

    Ogg's the answer

    this kinda heavy handiness is the reason, plus the better quality for file size, that I swapped to Ogg! imagine the inconvenience when Fraunhofer really start to tighten the screws and you have to convert all your digital music to Ogg

  29. mike
    Thumb Down

    how not to make friends at cebit....have them arrested.

    i bet they don't get invited back next year.

  30. Anonymous Coward

    Patents Deny Standardisation

    The problem is that Patents restrict standardisation.

    The original patent holder should benefit from their invention. Agree.

    The consumer wants standardisation on the best technology. Agree.

    If the patent is held by one company, then a proprietary standard is developed rather than an industry standard. Disagree.

    As soon as a standard emerges, based on a patent, then the licensing needs to move so that anybody using the standard pays a royalty, and the patent holder(s) get their money.

    IMO Patent law needs to be changed to stop patents being owned by one source, and blocking innovation and standardisation Patents need to be available to all as long as original holder is compensated.

    Off course lawyers will get involved and screw the whole thing up...

    Great ideas make this world a great place - petty companies, blocks to innovation and capitalism make it unbearable. Let's just enable these technologies rather than disable.

  31. S
    Thumb Down

    CeBIT is going down...

    We're exhibiting at CeBIT again this year, and let me tell you - it's starting to feel more like a bling street market that a business focussed ICT fair.

    Behaviour like this is only going to turn off more exhibitors (already some of the larger halls are closed this year). This should have been pursued in private - not at a public fair.

  32. Bruce Leyden
    Thumb Up


    Hence my (slightly sarcastic) point. A friend worked for Philips in Eindhoven doing, amongst other things, materials research for circumaural headphone earpads. As you say: "real value R&D" from which they make good money licensing - income they can and should protect.

    The impression of Philips as "just a manufacturer of run of the mill consumer electronics" couldn't be further from the truth. If that were the case they would have disappeared long ago.

  33. Nick


    After reading this article, and the comments associated with it, I now just have an image in my mind of some of the smaller traders at CeBIT 2009 trading out of suitcases, and scarpering when the rozzers show up in a 3 wheeled yellow vehicle.

  34. Orochimaru_Sannin

    Media coverage of Cebit raid overexaggerated...

    The otherside of this story from Meizu googlelated.

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I still don't get how it (mp3 format) was patentable.

    It's not an invention.

    It's not hardware.

    It was just a way of making one large audio file into another small audio file... hardly an original concept.

    And I'm pretty sure it's software.

    As an aside - there's nothing wrong with free market capitalism - it's the second most powerful motivator for innovation there is (the first being war between powerful nations). Sadly we arn't living in a free market capitalist society, due to odd patents, subsidies and levies. A company makes coffee in Europe from beans bought in a south American nation, they sell the coffee without levies against them, and make a good 10 to 20 times profit on the price they bought the original beans for. Now if the South American Nation were to have a company that made coffee and tried to sell it to Europe their product would be battered by levies so much as to make it a very undesirable prospect. Same with most agricultural products, the only time this isn't the case is if the company making the coffee in the small South American nation is actually a European country, in which case they get to make it even cheaper. Either way the population and economy of the South American nation suffers.

    And lets not take a close look at the price fixing enforced by the media and tech companies, because that's so full of non-free market forces it beggars belief. A nice fuji UMPC costs $1200 not including sales tax. it also costs £1200 ex vat. Hmm magic numbers. Costs of software, music, electronic goods and more or less everything else are fixed. God forbid a company in Hong Kong or Singapore try and sell the cheaper Asian hardware in the west - as that's against the law... but price fixing isn't evidently. While the corporate (say sony or Apple) are allowed to exploit cheap Chinese or Indian labour. The closest comparison was Mercantile (1400AD to 1800AD) but even that isn't right.

    Either way we're in an economic model that stifles innovation and competitiveness and it isn't the fault of capitalism because well we arn't free market capitalists. Maybe fascist? Governments run for large corporates.

  36. The Other Steve

    Tiny licence fee ?

    Try 75 cents per unit for decode only, and five dollars per unit if you want a full codec.

    Not so tiny for high volume/low margin manufacturer.

    Of course, you can avoid this gouging by paying a USD 60,000 one time fee, which is nice.

  37. Igor Mozolevsky
    Paris Hilton


    I thought there were not software patents in the EU?..

  38. Anonymous Coward

    What's all this then?

    We have come to arrest err, Mr, err, Mr M.P Free. Is Mr M.P Free here? Come quietly the jig is up and all !

  39. Tim Bates

    Re: Tiny licence fee ?

    Not to mention that if you don't actually intend to charge for your product, it becomes extremely uneconomical real fast.

    MP3 encoding is still a bit of a back alley affair these days because of that patent... Mind you, I haven't had the need to download an MP3 encoder for years, since I just use Ogg.

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    <no title>

    True it isn't hardware, but surely it isn't software either, since anyone could write software from scratch to perform the translation from one data form to another. Is mp3 not just a definition of the final data form ?

  41. scott

    I really object

    This would be laughable if it wasn’t for the seriousness.

    We’ve already (ab)use of European Secret Sevices to get at teenagers allegedly reverse engineering code (which was quite legal in the nordics). We have scores of police in various countries turning up at computer fairs to “bust” those selling CDs and DVDs without Big Music’s ludicrous gravy-train levies. Now we have a small army of armed coppers paid for by the local taxpayer doing the bidding of copyright holders.

    I’ve no major problem with people defending their copyright, as long as it’s proportional – and the cost isn’t foisted on us Europeans who already pay a ridiculous amount of tax for mostly sub-standard police services.

    We have very serious problems with small groups of individuals wanting to kill large numbers of us. We also have large numbers of “petty” criminals robbing, mugging and generally making life miserable for the vast majority of us. Yet *we* are paying for tens thousands of man-days of expensive police time for *copyright infringement*. The cost isn’t just in money – it’s in the tens of thousands of man-days those cops *aren’t* on the streets doing their *real* jobs.

    The organisers of CeBit could have dealt with this easily, with the help of 4 or 5 civilian staff. Any stallholder found to have products which infringed said copyright would be told to remove the products – or be ejected without refund.

    Or – the other alternative, and which is forced on those who run LAN parties in most EU countries. The organisers of CeBit become legally responsible for what goes on at the expo as far as copyright infringement is concerned. If a bunch of 18 yr old Counterstrike fans can be threatened with multi-million euro fines and years in jail for organising the hall space for others – then why not the likes of CeBit?

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