CEBIT: Companies raided on show floor for patent infringement

Local customs and police officers confiscated products from the stand of at least one exhibitor at Germany’s Cebit fair on Wednesday on suspicion the devices infringed on MPEG audio patents, a patent licensing agency said.

“It’s the second time we are at Cebit and last year we already had some actions regarding infringing products,” said Thomas Hartmann, senior manager at Societa Italiana per lo Sviluppo dell’Elettronica SpA (Sisvel), in an interview with IDG News Service. The company analyzes the exhibitor list of Cebit and other trade fairs before it begins to identify exhibitors that might have products that are infringing on MPEG audio patents, he said.

“So normally the day before the fair we run through all the halls, see what products are on display and on the first morning when the fair starts we do the same thing again so if there are obviously products which are unlicensed then we possibly have to file a criminal complaint,” said Hartmann.

The company licenses a portfolio of patents used in MPEG1 and MPEG2 audio. This typically includes MP3 players, MPEG2-complaint set-top boxes, DVB satellite receivers, PDAs and computer sound boards.

Sisvel wouldn’t name the companies raided or those believed to have infringing products. However Mele Digital Technology Co. Ltd. was targeted on Wednesday, according to a source.

The company’s stand, which is close to that of Sisvel, was bare on Thursday and a company spokesman, who didn’t identify himself, refused to entertain questions about why no products were on display.

“I think you know,” he said.

The raids might not be over yet and other exhibitors could be getting visits by customs officers, said Sisvel’s Hartmann.

“I cannot make any statements about how many companies or which companies but certainly I have a list of targets and I know the list is not fulfilled yet, which means there might be something happening soon,” said Hartmann.

It’s not the first time that companies have been at the receiving end of such raids in Germany. At last year’s IFA show in Berlin Sandisk saw MP3 players confiscated by customs officers as a result of a complaint by Sisvel.

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