back to article Customs raids tech trade show

An intrepid Register Hardware hack was this morning stopped from looking around MSI's stand at the consumer electronics show IFA, in Berlin. The uniformed gents he mistook for overly officious security guards were in fact German Customs officers investigating claims of patent infringement. MSI security MSI security …


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  1. dervheid

    Armed customs officers...

    at trade shows?

    On the off chance that there 'might' be a patent infringement (a civil matter, surely, even in Germany)?

    Heavy handed or what.

    All this 'patent' malarky is getting well out of hand.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Slightly on the dramatic side...

    Much like in most countries, police are routinely armed with standard issue side-arms in Germany so the fact that it was an "armed" raid is actually quite non-controverial.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Could be fun at Infosec in London

    if I made lots of anonymous complaints that all the encryption stuff fell under the definition of "munitions. Which it does in the US. If only the US authorities had jurisdiction over the UK.

    Oh, hang on a minute...

    Mines the one with the McKinnon name tag in.

    But seriously, if every trade show is going to be raided at the behest of companies spoiling it for each other it makes them not worth going to, except to see saled droids squirm.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Hot Babes With Handguns

    The black stripe over her eyes just adds to the allure, wouldn't you say?

    Paris. Because she'd look good with a Glock, too.

  5. Mike Street


    It actually makes patent fees seem quite reasonable, if you get your own private police force in the bargain.

    Patent Infringement is much more dangerous than hoodies with knives, after all.

  6. James

    Discount for being raided?

    Perhaps, in future, Trade Show Organisers should offer discounts to exhibitors for being raided....

    Or maybe for those that aren't - sort of implies they are not at the leading edge somehow...

  7. Igor Mozolevsky

    Great way to encourage...

    ... more technology shows to be held in your country. How effective! ;-)

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Talk about over-reacting

    From the article it sounds like the customs guys have decided to go on the attack without any actual evidence of wrongdoing. That's not going to go down well with big business.

    If I were an overseas exhibitor I'd be reconsidering attending any future German events. I suspect CEBIT is going to suffer.

  9. SImon Hobson Silver badge

    Good way of suppressing competitors !

    Good ploy - suggest that your competitors are infringing your patents, Customs go in, keep out punters, take away kit. Even if the kit is later found to not infringe your patents, by the time it gets returned the show is over.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Great way to remove competition

    Thats a great way to remove your competitors shiny new products from a trade show!

    'Got nothing to show, worried your old products look bad?'

    'Call us now and we can remove your competitors products - 999-PatentRaid.'

  11. Mectron

    trolls in action

    it is amazing how parasite company who sole business model is to STEAL money (Sisvel) have enough resource to corrupt a whole country's custom....

  12. M

    Excuse me,

    What super powers do 'TEAM REGISTER' possess?

  13. Jodo Kast

    What an embarrassment

    Ever heard of letting the courts decide what is an infringement?

    Instead we have these gestapo tactics.

    History repeats itself over and over until we all vomit apparently.

  14. Steve


    ...are clearly a nasty piece of work.

  15. Chris Cooke


    Sounds like they're doing their best to move the trade shows to other countries.

  16. Anonymous Coward

    Hmmm... suspicious

    A spokesman for German Customs told us: "We've raided 69 companies today. We have seized equipment including flatscreen TVs, CD players, set-top boxes and MP3 players."..... and we're going to have a big ole party later with the drug enforcement unit, the blond customs agent will probably get her baps out as well.

    gimme a break it's friday and I'm mere minutes away from going home... the one with a gun in the pocket ;) okay I'll stop now

  17. Anonymous Coward

    And how many infringements did they find?

    "Customs raids at trade shows are nothing new - in March several stands at monster show CeBit were raided by German police and customs. They were acting on complaints from patent firm Sisvel which suspected that its intellectual property, or that of its clients, had been infringed."

    So these Sisvel boys seem to sick their attack dogs wherever they like, but the question is, how many infringements do they find?

  18. GrahamT

    Sisvel on both occasions

    If nothing is found, I hope they have the crime of "Wasting police time" on the statute books in Germany. At least the companies concerned should be able to sue for the German equivalent of "Defamation of character".

  19. Neil Hoskins

    Heavy Handed

    It seems incredibly heavy handed to us in Blighty, but then I suppose the Germans don't shoot you for being slightly dusky.

  20. Phil Hare
    Black Helicopters

    I really hope...

    ...that those companies that were raided and are found not to have infringed any patents sue Sisvel and the German government for everything they can. This kind of bad press sticks, and if the companies in question have done no wrong then an apology (which they probably wouldn't get) isn't enough.

  21. ian


    If you haff done notting wrong, you haff notting to fear.

    Armed you say? Geeks are far more violent than I knew.

  22. Bronek Kozicki

    possible course of action?

    organized pays fat compensation to raided companies and sues Sisvel for damages

    patent holders, my ass

  23. Richard

    Your name vill be added to ze list!

    Don't tell him Pike!

  24. Anonymous Coward

    Protoplasm doesn't make good journalism

    > From the article it sounds like the customs guys have decided to go on

    > the attack without any actual evidence of wrongdoing. That's not going

    > to go down well with big business.

    It sounds like that because the wankers that pass of as journalists for the Reg didn't do their homework. Courts have issued 51 orders, based on 69 complaints. Customs is just doing the legwork, executing the 51 orders. But properly reporting that, or at least getting the figures right, would probably have meant that the protoplasm claiming to be a Reg journalist would have to do a tiny bit of research in his alcohol induced haze.

  25. Ryan
    Dead Vulture

    And the solution?

    Just call ahead and make sure you aren't breaching any patents.. Simple!

    and also from their website "Besides, Sisvel is a member of AIRI, the Italian Association for the Industrial Research".

    I bet they are..

  26. Sam

    @ Neil Hoskins

    "It seems incredibly heavy handed to us in Blighty, but then I suppose the Germans don't shoot you for being slightly dusky."

    Last time I was in that dump (a good few years ago, Gott sei danke), the darkies were filtered into separate checking channels at the airport..

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Gates Horns

    Was the first raid by Sisvel...

    ...resulted in a discovery of infringement? If not, the authorities should seriously consider heavily penalizing Sisvel should it tries to pull the same stunt.

    Can you get anymore blunt about stiffling innovations?

  28. Anonymous Coward

    Jodphurs! Holy sh-t!

    But where' the riding crop?

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters


    Anyone notice the difference in reaction from these guys to being photographed with the reaction of Brit cops when they're photographed?

    Black helo obviously.

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Is branching out and going world wide. First these groups bought the police in the USA, now Germany. Watch out UK. You are next

  31. Homer

    Confusing Civil and Criminal Law

    Colour me confused here, but since when is it the business of the *government* to intercede in civil disputes, either with the police; the army; or any other government branch such as C&E?

    I know this word is bandied around so often that its meaning has become diluted, but surely this is a very literal indication of the rise of fascism ... again.

    Patent disputes begin and end with *civil* measures, and have zero to do with the government, so why are government enforcers raiding trade shows, like a gang of thugs sabotaging a competitors business? What has patents got to do with Export Duty or Dangerous Goods? Are patents being given the same consideration as *firearms* now?


    But then I suppose we could ask similar questions about why *our* government is interceding in the equally *civil* disputes involving alleged copyright infringements in the UK ... by mandating data retention laws ostensibly to counter terrorism, but *actually* in capitulation to the demands of MAFIAA® goons like the BPI.

    The disease of Intellectual Monopoly fanaticism has spread completely out of control. Frankly, if it were up to me, I'd declare any and all attempts to assert "property" rights on such ethereal things as illegal ... not the other way round. The "IP" industry is nothing but a bunch of gangsters, in word and in deed, and it needs to be shut down. Now. But who is going to do it? Certainly not the bent politicians who are in the MAFIAA's® pockets. By the will of the people? Not likely, we'd need a measure of actual *democracy* for that to happen. AFAICT the "will of the people" has been cast aside completely, in exchange for the will (and money) of a bunch of gangsters.

    I challenge the governments of the "civilised world" to disprove that theory.

  32. Alan Penzotti

    Show management should 86 Sisvel

    If I were show management, I would be sending Sisvel to the door sans their exhibitor (and all other) badges and have the labor pool pack up their booth post haste; especially if there were no retail sales allowed at the show.

    Any event that happens to be sponsored by them, as show management, I would claim credit for these "generous donations" as coming from an "anonymous sponsorship."

  33. Jean-Luc Peurière

    the true question

    is are the customs female officers issued the bullet-proof bra the reg reported earlier ?

  34. Echo 5

    USA, Germany, UK..

    Quick, everyone submit immigration papers to Russia. We'll all be safe there.

  35. E

    Oohhh Errr!

    That lady of the law in the second pic could search me for contraband!

  36. andreas koch

    The 'whateverinfringement' patrol


    Anyone been to sisvel's website? That company is an agent for other companies to 'protect and exploit' patents in the CE sector, so they are just doing their job, like MPAA and RIAA (which will surely learn from this). So hopefully we will be seeing Zoll and Bundesgrenzschutz (German version of the 'Feds': just so that you Register guys don't mistake them for playground supervisors...<g>) at concerts next, to confiscate instruments from the bands because they played a riff that 'the artist formerly known as 'the artist formerly known as Prince' once used.



    That the Zoll guys carry pistols is quite normal. In Germany you usually find all policeforce armed. Which, I think, is not all that bad, because there is a much higher resistance to shoot someone than to club, mace or taser him; also more persuasion to stop when told for the guy beeing chased, if he knows that he won't be out of range 6 feet away. I know policemen who haven't taken out their pistol other than in the shooting gallery for ten years. And that was Duisburg, not the exactly the quietest place.

    BTW, @ 'Hot Babes With Handguns': probably not Glock, usually SIG Sauer or Heckler & Koch.

    Mine is the heavy one with the tiles in it...

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Sisvel should have to the the salaries of all 200 customs officers...

    if nothing is found. As well as, any court costs and assumed loss of revenue that any of the companies affected can even suggest that they lost.

    I am curious about what the laws in Germany are concerning copyright infringement. Is it a civil matter or a criminal matter?

  38. Antony Riley

    The problem with the legal system.

    Is that lawyers have far too much influence on it.

    There's an English translation of the appropriate law here:

    The criminal patent infringement stuff is in section 142, it's a little crazy and somewhat hard to read being translated legal speak.

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Lovely patent mess

    Is it time to move CeBit someplace else?

  40. Narlaquin
    Paris Hilton

    Not wishing to tamper with a winning formula, but...

    I think blacked-out-eyes customs lady would make a fantastic character for our regular Playmobil Friday cast. I reckon she'd be able to handle Optimus Prime with skill and flair.

    Without wishing to make any sort of slight upon her character, but if there were a mutiny aboard the HMS Martina Navratilova, she would end up their new captain. Or nemesis.

    Of course El-Reg readers will now leap forward to strike down my ideas as being so wrong. Just watch.

    And can we have a Playmobil Friday icon too please? Although Paris is pretty close to being plastic.

  41. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects
    Black Helicopters

    SSe anSSver iSS in SSer name

    >>Neil Hoskins

    It seems incredibly heavy handed to us in Blighty, but then I suppose the Germans don't shoot you for being slightly dusky.<<

    But they do seem to have the same dubious regard to those in the electrical industries.

    Any reason the company name is an anagram of Evil SS?

    Krystalnacth 2?.

    In the 1930'ss sse RAF vere adwertissing sser ssplendourss of sserwing in Iraq and bombing camel herderss; all sser vhile missssing sse point that Chermany vass getting ready for sseir holidayss in Francce oncce again.

  42. Les Matthew
    Black Helicopters

    @Neil Hoskins

    "It seems incredibly heavy handed to us in Blighty"

    I think you'll find that customs in the UK can be equally heavy handed. The expression "law unto themselves" springs to mind.

  43. Rno
    Black Helicopters

    right move too

    Sisvel seizes court. Court assesses case and decides to investigate. Customs carry out court order. Judicial process will follow its natural course.

    Everything is fine, nothing to report.

    If everyone is so unhappy, instead of complaining, why not act as grown up citizens and helping rewrite the law? Can't do because there is X factor on TV or Football season starting?

  44. Anonymous Coward

    @Neil Hoskins

    Our British Customs and Excise chums have the right to enter any premises in the UK, by force if needs be, without a warrant.... They are some of the nastiest bastards around. They can strip a car at the port and leave you to put it back together again.

    "There's a half empty bottle of vodka at the back of this bus and until I know who it belongs to you're not going anywhere" - Dover Customs Thug.

    True story, I was there with 12 others...

    Oh, er, even though that was a few years ago I'm staying AC.

  45. Marco

    Heavy handed German police?

    How many taser related deaths were there in Germany this year? Or last year? Heck, the last five years?

  46. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Of course the customs agents were armed. Dont you know that everything anyone does thats even slightly wrong these days is due to terrorists.

  47. Cyfaill
    Black Helicopters

    Perhaps a spelling error - Sisvel

    I was noting the first thing that came to mind, at seeing the action and it came to reason that there may be a spelling error on the name Sisvel

    Perhaps evilss would be more fitting.

    Don't take it to seriously but this is what the encroachment to freedom to information looks like.

  48. Tom

    Going to court too much trouble

    And you need stuff like proof. Most Inconvenient when you are trying to extract money for a dodgy patent. Just another trick to make it easier to pay the extortion then fight.

  49. Anonymous Coward

    Corruption at work

    Of course, all this is probably due to EU-level legislation against "teh piratez", enforced aggressively by the German authorities. Fat brown envelopes were presumably handed round at the European Commission to get that directive through, although some of the culprits are probably stupid enough to buy into the whole competitiveness argument about having companies buying up patents and "licensing" them being a pillar of the new economy of Europe.

    I believe there's a political ideology based on getting branches of the government to act of behalf of corporate interests at the expense of those of the general public...

  50. Anonymous Coward

    re: Heavy Handed

    >It seems incredibly heavy handed to us in Blighty

    clearly you have never delt with those b*****ds at the Inland Revenue

  51. John Murgatroyd
    Thumb Up

    Who Cares ?

    "clearly you have never dealt with those b*****ds at the Inland Revenue"

    It no longer exists.

    Inland revenue has been replaced by "Her Majesties Revenue and Customs"

    Noting that visits from the tax and/or vat people were feared across the length and breadth of England and Wales (Scottish people just laugh at them) the .gov decided to combine the worst of the best into a single entity of terror. HMRC.


  52. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    @andreas koch

    Check the grip on the gent's firearm; it's clearly a Glock (probably a G-17 from the length of the holster) as neither Sig or H-K use grips with "finger" spaces quite like that.

    Must dash, they've come to get me as I clearly have Knowledge Of Use To Terrorists (I can tell what a real gun looks like with more accuracy than the average Politician)

  53. Will Godfrey Silver badge


    Funny that, every time I see IR, I think IRA

  54. kain preacher

    Anonymous Coward

    clearly you have never delt with those b*****ds at the Inland Revenue.

    Hmm lets compare your tax man to ours . If Bin Lauded owed baxck taxes the IRS would found him in 48 hours.

  55. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects

    HMRC - Hired Monkey Readies Consequences.


    So I can get a look at the terrorist's cook book with no recriminations?

    HMRC? Hidden market research cashiers? Her Majesty's recycled currency? Hidden mattresses re covered?

  56. Giles Jones Gold badge

    Steal an advantage

    Go to trade shows, steal competitors soon to be released products. Claim patent infringement (even though there's probably prior art), steal all their good ideas (early demonstration and development products may be easier to copy as they can have debug information in the code or on the PCB).

  57. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Stop going to CeBIT

    Trade show is expensive. The choice of timing is a shame. Even if nothing is found, the whole show will be over by then. It's a lost for everyone. Certainly, customers will think twice to go to CeBIT again.

  58. TeeCee Gold badge


    While we're on the subject, the lads with guns have all got "ZOLL" written on their backs, "ZOLL" is an anagram of "LOLZ", so this is clearly a practical joke. MSI and such obviously lack a sense of humour.

    The guns aren't Glocks, they're Glugs - a well-known glockalike water pistol.

    Yup, the one with the whoopee cushion and can of shaving foam in the pockets please.

  59. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why not?

    Why not expediate the whole process somewhat and just let the companies shoot directly at one another? People would be a whole lot less inclined to patent troll if they thought intel para-legals were going to break down their doors and murder them.

  60. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Use this to our advantage

    and produce a certificate saying the bible has been patented and storm the scientology office.

    Paris as she knows about domination

  61. Daniel Wilkie


    Close but no cigar ;) It is a H&K P7 Pistol. I don't think it's used outside of germany - it was developed specifically for their Police Force. It does look very similar to a Glock 17 though, but the finger indentations are wrong, as is the shape of the grip.

  62. The BigYin
    Thumb Down

    Time limit?

    Did Sisvel invent these patent ideas? Do they actually manufacture anything? If not, then they should lsoe all rights to their patents within (say) 2 years. The ideas become public domain.

    Other companies (such as ARM) who do invent and then license their tech still need to be protected somehow (maybe the fact they need to create the prototype would count as "manufacture"), but there has to be a way to stamp out the other parasites.

    They are stifling free trade and innovation. Isn't that what the EU bleats on about protecting?

  63. Neil

    @ El'Reg

    "Darkies" and "Duskies"

    Does anyone moderate this? I'm all for a giggle on the comments boards but not racist remarks, even if they are a poor attempt at humour.

  64. Sarah Bee (Written by Reg staff)

    Re: @ El'Reg

    I moderate this. When I'm not moderating it, others are, but I'd like to think we all have an understanding of the usage of words in a satirical manner, often to highlight the prejudices of others rather than express their own.

  65. Sam

    Bang on

    @ Sarah; Absolutely correct.

    @ Neil; It really happened, it was at Frankfurt am Main some years ago...all the non whites were filtered into one customs channel. I get stared at by customs people as well these days, I've got black hair, a beard and my skin is slightly swarthy.

  66. This post has been deleted by its author

  67. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    US patents

    Hmm, i would be interested to find out which patents were said to have been infringed, and in what way. AFAIK exhibiting products is not infringement, unless you're selling them off the stand then it doesn't matter what's in them. therefore the (nice-looking) goons should not seize anything other than boxed product.

    another matter is the territory of the patent, the "noddy" american system routinely issues patents for devices that would be ruled "obvious" or "prior art" in the EU, and products based on these obvious ideas may not be legal for sale in the US, but should be exhibitable in the EU.

  68. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Move the show to another country

    This show should be moved to another country which doesn't pander to the needs of some patent hungry company..

  69. Nile Heffernan

    Another power is gained by the Minister

    If I were the organiser or promoter for for IFA and - especially - for CeBit, I'd be suing Sisvel and ZollAmt for every last penny. Because it would *be* my last penny: barring some serious high-profile apology and a statement of policy from the Chancellor's office, this latest raid on a major tech trade fair is probably the end of the line for CeBit.

    At the very least, CeBit's no longer permitted to be a cutting-edge technology showcase with the movers and the shakers in attendance: I doubt that any such thing will ever be hosted in Germany again.

    Trouble is, German law (and English law, for that matter) offers very little scope for compensation for losses, direct and indirect, incurred when your property is seized as part of a Police or Customs investigation. And they've only got to find one or two *arguable* patent violations in order to demonstrate that the search and seizure was 'reasonable'.

    I could be wrong - it should be noted that I am not a lawyer and that you would be wise to seek advice from a qualified legal practitioner in your own jurisdiction - but it looks like trade shows and exhibitions cannot be protected against this kind of thing at all. Particularly in a federal nation-state: CeBit and IFA's organisers are locally influential, and would have an effective veto over such an action by local police, but *this* act of sabotage reflects political lobbying at the level of national policy, and the skilful cultivation of public officials at Federal level.

    Or so a cynic might think. ZollAmt officials and the judicial office-holders who issued the warrants are, of course, dedicated and impartial professionals acting to uphold the law by their own best judgement. They gave - and will continue to give - the proper weight, no more and no less, to the advice of trustworthy experts in industry. I am certain, and I am sure that you will all take care to agree with me *explicitly* in your comments, that they did not give undue weight to the advice or information of any one particular company or special-interest group in this or any other case. I am equally certain that no individual or company influenced them unduly, that there is absolutely no question whatsoever that any individual or company sought to do so improperly, and I have every confidence that your published comments will be entirely in agreement with me on this particular point.

    Organisers of similar events in the USA would be well advised to take note: there are lobbyists in Washington and legal advisors with a presence in all the competent courts in the individual states, who will maintain a watching brief for this kind of thing: but they are expensive, far beyond the reach of all but the largest companies. You have, at least, the consolation of knowing that the TSA and Homeland Security have shown themselves to be commercially-impartial in their overbearing offensive and occasionally- thuggish assaults on commerce, technology and the free exchange of ideas. Patent trolls backed up by federal marshals might be another matter. And yes, it *is* a federal matter if the infringement crosses state lines, or the trolls get a ruling that one or more of the (alleged) infringements involves a 'dual-use' technology with armaments and aerospace applications.

    Who else will take note?

    Far Eastern companies will view this whole affair with alarm: for some, it will have a familiar ring, a sense that the Minister, the Party Secretary and Chief of Police should be consulted advised and assisted in the usual way... They will also see our talk of 'impartial' and 'incorruptible' public administration as the sham it has clearly (in their eyes) been shown to be. And, as they haven't established a reliable way of getting people un-arrested over here, they will only ever send expendable junior employees out to exhibitions and trade fairs in Europe. Worse, there is absolutely nothing, bar common sense, to stop them 'advising' their own officials that *our* stands on trade fairs in Taiwan, Japan, Korea and - especially - China are now fair game.

    You might want to take note of this, too: try telling a customs official or a district court that the economically-dominant Work Unit, Chaebol or Zaibatsu that owns everything and everyone in the host city isn't the victim of a patent infringement. Or that they shouldn't lock you up forever, declare all forty containers of your products contraband and extinguish your copyrights and patents - locally, at least - unless you pay the fines in full right now.

    Closer to home, it would be nice to think that the proprietors of Kensington Olympia, the NEC and EdExcel would take note, too: hosting CeBit in the UK would be a major commercial coup. Trouble is, we've got patent trolls in the UK, too: technology fairs are now subject to an effective veto-by-decree as no-one will commit the money without an explicit and *public* ministerial guarantee that the show will be permitted to open and operate without being raided.

    At least they don't take bribes here... But ministers and senior civil servants can be briefed, and frequently are, by people whose interests do do not correspond at all closely with the common good, and their ignorance of the consequences of their actions occasionally frightens me. And, as I've hinted in the title, we've taken the second big step in Rule by Fiat: not only does the minister have the power to forbid an assembly, he must now be petitioned in advance for an assurance that his minions won't shut it down after all the money's been committed.

    So far, this is hypothetical: raids on trade shows are only happening in Germany... Aren't they?

  70. Monkey

    @ Iain's 'Acthung!' comment

    "If you haff done notting wrong, you haff notting to fear."

    I find that very offensive, your stereotype is all wrong. My wife is German.

    If you're going to take the piss it goes like this...

    "If you haff done nussing wrong, you haff nussing to fear. Ja?"

    (and yes my tongue is wedged in my cheek at the expense of my wife!)

  71. Pyros


    Think they're just there to score free tat at the booth owner's expense, using "copyright infringement" as a convienent excuse?

    Mine's the one with the SPIE's Defense & Security Synopsium exhibit pass on the security officer's jacket...

  72. sondatch

    trade show raid

    While German patent law apparently allows this, it's hard to fathom why.

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