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.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 2nd, 2008 @ 11:33am

    Makes as much sense as the RIAA rent-a-cops we were hearing about a few years back.

     

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  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 2nd, 2008 @ 11:44am

    Makes you wonder how long it'll be before the trade shows start getting moved to countries that won't mess with the exhibitors.

     

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  3.  
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    David, Sep 2nd, 2008 @ 11:44am

    Wow!

    Patent Gestapo for Hire! Scary thought...

     

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  4.  
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    pir8, Sep 2nd, 2008 @ 11:48am

    Re:

    Arrrr, ye beat me to it!

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 2nd, 2008 @ 12:08pm

    In the immortal "word" of Cheney:

    "So...?"

     

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  6.  
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    Thomas, Sep 2nd, 2008 @ 12:16pm

    It won't be long before it happens here. Himmler would be proud.

     

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  7.  
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    Matt Bennett, Sep 2nd, 2008 @ 12:21pm

    Of course, the thing is, Capitalism has the answer. Eventually, people will just be unwilling to exhibit at trade shows in Germany, which means people won't host trade shows in Germany. Fini.

     

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  8.  
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    John, Sep 2nd, 2008 @ 12:45pm

    Sounds like a plot...

    ... by other countries to give German trade-shows a bad name. If companies risk having their product confiscated in Germany, then how long until they don't do any more trade shows there?

     

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  9.  
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    Mike (profile), Sep 2nd, 2008 @ 1:15pm

    Re:

    In the immortal "word" of Cheney:

    As an IP attorney, you don't find this a troubling abuse of patent law?

     

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  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 2nd, 2008 @ 2:40pm

    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?

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 2nd, 2008 @ 3:44pm

    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...

     

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  12.  
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    Cygnus, Sep 2nd, 2008 @ 9:03pm

    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.

     

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    Brian.Postal, Sep 2nd, 2008 @ 10:03pm

    So...if you could patent this type of abuse you could sue the patent firms when they do raids such as these? Hmm.

     

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    Ulle, Sep 3rd, 2008 @ 3:40am

    the really sad part is that this is the same stuff that the nazis did 70 years ago

     

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  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 3rd, 2008 @ 7:33am

    Re:

    but atleast the nazis were honest enough that they didn't try to hide behind Patent and Copyright law?

     

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  16.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 3rd, 2008 @ 7:37am

    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)

     

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  17.  
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    Cygnus, Sep 3rd, 2008 @ 8:08am

    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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  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 3rd, 2008 @ 10:36am

    Re: Re: Re:

    I think it the AC example is a direct parallel, they were seized for displaying things, not selling them. as for hte TV example, if things like this become standard I give the law a month (at best) before it is abused in that fashion

     

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  19.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 3rd, 2008 @ 2:12pm

    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.
    Maybe you should read the article before popping off about it because that's exactly what's happening.

     

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  20.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 3rd, 2008 @ 6:51pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Do you really believe your post to be applicable to the conduct complained of.
    You really can't understand the underlying principle?

     

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  21.  
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    Trade Show Exhibits, Oct 4th, 2010 @ 4:52am

    Trade shows are a great place to meet and interact with many people. An attractive trade show display will lead more people to the booth.There are some people who underestimate the usefulness of trade shows. They don’t know how helpful these shows can be....

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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