More Trade Show Booths Raided By Customs Over Patents

from the this-makes-no-sense dept

Earlier this year, we wrote about how a patent holding firm, by the name Sisvel, had German customs officials raid the trade show booths of certain CeBit exhibitors, having all their goods confiscated. At the time, someone in the comments noted that this is a recurring theme in Germany, as certain patent hoarders “target trade show exhibitors and demand what amounts to protection money to avoid being raided by the police in the middle of the show.” The companies just complain to customs, and get officials to raid the trade show booths in the middle of the show, even if the patents are bogus or don’t even apply to the goods on display. It seems like a huge protection racket.

And, of course, it’s happened again. Slashdot points us to the news that the booths of 69 companies at a tech trade show were raided by customs officials last week.

What’s still not clear is how this possibly could make sense? While German patent law apparently allows this, it’s hard to fathom why. Simply displaying a product, even if it infringes on someone’s patent, hardly seems like a reason to send in customs officials to confiscate the device. I can maybe understand suing — and even possibly suing for an injunction against selling the product — but getting customs to completely confiscate the products and shut down the trade show booth simply doesn’t make any sense, and clearly opens up the system to widespread abuse.

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Companies: sisvel

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Comments on “More Trade Show Booths Raided By Customs Over Patents”

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20 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

No…not really, BUT only so long as there is credible evidence that a patent is/has being/been infringed. A mere “Gee, I think it is” doesn’t hack it.

It is worthwhile to note, however, that in many such instances patentees have already had access to the allegedly infringing goods and are not proceeding on a “Gee, I think…” basis. I would advise any client to perform a thorough due diligence before embarking on such a course of action, and would expect other counsel would do the same. At the same time I would also advise them to think long and hard about initiating such an activity in a public forum. Matters like these are best handled via private communications. Ever try and work out a settlement with a really ticked off alleged infringer who has just been “outed” in a quite embarrassing manner?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

wow. are you really so blinded by the potential clients you’ll get from cases like this that you can not see the far-reaching implications that something like this can have?

seriously, someone not allowed to display stuff due to patent infringement? that is like having a gaming accessory that I made for myself (and that I’m not selling) being confiscated because someone things I infringed on their rights. currently there is nothing anyone can do if you show others how to make something that is patent or make something that is for personal use.

but if cases like this were to become more wide spread, companies could seize devices on a whim and effectively destroy the first sale doctrine. that Iphone you unlocked or ipod you made to work with linux? yeah, violation of patents, they get seized. selling your old car? oops the car makers hold a patent on that, you lose the car.

in no time we’ll have laws that specifically state what you are and are not allowed to do with something you purchase (oops, I’m sorry, that blender isn’t allowed to make smoothies, you have to buy the deluxe version to do that. or that computer is only allowed to have windows on it, if you want Linux you have to buy this one.) sure it seems unreasonable now, but just give it a few years, we already have the EULAs they enforce as copyright infringement…

Cygnus says:

I don’t see a problem confiscating articles being displayed that infringe the patent rights of another. After all, patent rights include the right to offer for an item for sale.

That said, this conduct bothers me because these actions are not predicated on a court’s determination of infringement but, rather, a complaint of probable (or even likely) infringement.

If we live in a world where the government can take based on an unproved complaint, then we live in a flawed world, indeed.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

displaying is not the same thing as selling. if I put a cool device in a storefront, it can just be used to attract people, it doesn’t have to be for sale. people regularly do this.

if you service fans or AC units, then when you are at a trade show you might take a unit that you don’t intend to sell, to show off repairs.

there is no law about patents that forbid someone from displaying things, nor should there be, it opens way too many cans of worms (I’m sorry, that TV that we hold a patent to is being displayed in a manner we disapprove of, it belongs to us now)

Cygnus says:

Re: Re: Re:

displaying is not the same thing as selling. if I put a cool device in a storefront, it can just be used to attract people, it doesn’t have to be for sale. people regularly do this.

if you service fans or AC units, then when you are at a trade show you might take a unit that you don’t intend to sell, to show off repairs.

there is no law about patents that forbid someone from displaying things, nor should there be, it opens way too many cans of worms (I’m sorry, that TV that we hold a patent to is being displayed in a manner we disapprove of, it belongs to us now)

Do you really believe your post to be applicable to the conduct complained of.

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