Police raid CeBIT stands
180 officers launch patent crackdown
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 complaints in Hanover on behalf of big companies including Philips and France Telecom. The company says that through its agreements it can demand a licensing fee for consumer electronics devices sold in Europe.
Senior detective Oliver Stock led 180 police and customs officers during the biggest crackdown in the history of the annual fair. Companies from China, Taiwan, South Korea, Germany, Poland and the Netherlands were searched. Some of these companies were repeat offenders, according to Sisvel.
Sisvel has monitored CeBIT exhibitors for several years. In 2007 alone, 112 new license agreements were signed, including one with SanDisk and with the Chinese corporations Aigo and Huawei Technologies. Last year Microsoft acquired a patent license from Sisvel for parts of its Zune music player and Xbox 360.
In 2006 Sisvel took action against SanDisk at the IFA Expo in Berlin over the same issue, and last year Italian fiscal police seized SanDisk Mp3 players at an Italian outlet of French retailer Auchan. SanDisk insisted that it was not infringing any patents.
One company whose booth was shut down at CeBIT was Chinese manufacturer Meizu, which launched a "legitimate iPhone knockoff" called Mini One at CeBIT. However, it was its new portable Mp3 player that the police were after.
Although the MP3 format was developed by the Fraunhofer Institute in the late 80s, Philips holds patents for the use of 'padding bits' in a digital transmission system and for intensity stereo encoding and decoding.
Fraunhofer also launched a less aggressive licensing program together with Thomson of France. ®
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?
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 !
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.