BREAKING NEWS: GSG & ATI Sue H&K. Claim H&K Does Not Own MP5 Design

GSG-5 as imported by ATI before H&K sued them and GSG.

In 2009 Heckler & Koch (USA) sued German Sport Guns GmbH (GSG), who manufactured the GSG GSG-5 .22 rifle, and American Tactical Imports (ATI) who imported the GSG-5 into the USA. They successfully argued that the GSG-5 infringed upon their design patents for the H&K MP5. They took court action soon after licensing the design to Umarex who were designing a competing MP5-patterned .22 rifle. GSG paid a settlement of $300,000 and agreed to modify the design of the GSG-5 so it looked less like an MP5.

But, things just got interesting! GSG and ATI are now suing Heckler & Koch GmbH (Germany) and Heckler & Koch (USA) for $16.5 million in punitive damages. GSG claims they now have proof that H&K did not own the rights to the MP5 design when they sued GSG and “forced GSG into a settlement”.


GSG-522P imported by ATI after the settlement with H&K. Note the design changes to the top photo of the pre-settlement GSG-5P.

The trial is scheduled for early 2015. As soon as we know more about this court case, we will let you know.

The GSG press release follows …

Ense, 5. September 2014 – German Sport Guns GmbH (GSG), a leading manufacturer of airsoft guns and small-caliber weapons and their US importer American Tactical Imports, Inc., have filed a lawsuit against the German arms manufacturer Heckler & Koch for infringement of design rights and fraud. GSG is suing Heckler & Koch for a total sum of USD16,5m in damages. The lawsuit also includes the assertion of punitive damages and is directed against Heckler & Koch GmbH in Germany, its American subsidiary Heckler & Koch, Inc., as well as the German CEO Niels Ihlhoff and his US counterpart, Wayne Weber.

The case is the latest episode of a smoldering dispute that has been continuing for years over the industrial design rights for the HK MP5, a sub-machine gun from Heckler & Koch that is especially popular in the United States.

In 2007, GSG launched the GSG-5, a small-caliber weapon with a design similar to that of the MP5. As part of the launch, German Sport Guns denied that Heckler & Koch is the owner of the respective design rights.

Nevertheless, 2009 saw a settlement between German Sport Guns and the US subsidiary of Heckler & Koch, in which Heckler & Koch, Inc. accepted a payment of USD300,000 from GSG. In return, GSG had been allowed to use modified design elements of the MP5.

However, later it was revealed that Heckler & Koch, Inc. did in fact not own the rights for the MP5 and had therefore wrongfully forced GSG into a settlement. In the meantime, a comprehensive discovery process aimed at the collection of evidence had already been completed.

“We are very confident that despite the considerable legal costs, we will end this protracted litigation in our favor,” said German Sport Guns CEO Michael Swoboda. “We have adhered to all agreements and will not accept a restriction of our business in this form.”

The date for a possible jury trial is scheduled for early 2015.

Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


  • jordan Hyers

    that would definently be a twist but i don’t know seems a little far fetched

    • allannon

      It does, but the peculiarities of the legal system have surprised me before, particularly where copyright and patents are involved.

  • jeff

    i feel bad for h&k they come out with a bad ass sub gun and everyone tries to copy it and then they get sued lmao what a legal system

    • oshaunal

      Whom are you feeling bad for? The MP5 was designed about 50 years ago by a few talented men who are probably dead by now. Sure, H&K gave them a legal and financial framework to work from, but H&K is just a name that has been bought and sold various times under various investors and leaders who may or may not have a legal right to hold the concept of the MP5 captive.

    • valorius

      Patents dont last for 50 years.

    • jamezb

      I suppose you think Armalite should be the only AR manufacturer and Colt should make all 1911’s, too…?

    • And it isn’t even that bad ass. It has its nice features, but so do other SMGs.

      Now days, you’re better equipped with an M4 than an MP5 in ALL respects. Which is why SWAT teams (even those buying guns out of their own budget, rather than DoD hand-me-downs) switched over to M4s and M4geries quite a while ago, by and large.

  • Marty Ewer

    This will be interesting. I wish GSG and Michael Swoboda the best.

  • mosinman

    I hope they win.

  • Icchan

    I wonder if this is related to the CETME, it’s what the HK 91 was based on as well as all their other roller-lock designs. If the CETME isn’t properly fully owned by H&K, then this case does get interesting – a company with a derived design suing another company with a derivative of same, for ownership of what’s arguably not entirely their intellectual property?

    Europe, never change.

    • Martin Grønsdal

      how does the “Europe, never change” sentence fit in here?

      before, or after, “caution, the beverage is hot”?

    • guest

      Roller locking does NOT come from CETME but from ww2 development of the Volksgewehr, and its for all instents and purposes a design who’s author is long gone.

    • Chipsa

      The plaintiffs are claiming H&K doesn’t hold the design patents. Design patents are for the look of something. Utility patents cover how something works. Even if H&K had a design patent, I can’t see how they’d still be valid, as the MP5 is a really old design, and design patents only hold for a little over a dozen years.

      • Icchan

        Considering you’re going from, I understand, a rollerlocked centerfire select-fire rifle to a blowback rimfire semiautomatic, they’re going to have an interesting time proving a utility patent infringement. But stranger things have happened…

        • Chipsa

          Any Utility patent would have expired long ago. But that’s not what’s claimed in the article. That claims it’s a design patent (which also would have expired) *shrug*

    • DiverEngrSL17K

      Great comment with interesting insight. CETME in all probability has had an agreement with H & K to allow the latter to use the roller-delayed blowback action that was first seen in the CETME 7.62mm battle rifle and later, in the H & K G3 battle rifle that had an uncanny resemblance to the CETME original ( for obvious reasons ). I have not come across any documentation that CETME ever took H & K to court over possible patent infringement, which supports the supposition that both companies had an agreement in place right from the beginning. Also, the fact that German firearms designers and engineers did emigrate to Spain and work for CETME in the immediate post-war years may possibly have had some influence ( depending on who had what connections to whom ) in this process.

      In other words, the roller-delayed design originated in Germany, was taken up by CETME in Spain courtesy of the immigrant German engineers and designers who had retained connections to the old German firearms industry, and was ironically “re-licenced” back to a new German company, Heckler & Koch, which was officially founded in 1949 by compatriots who were probably part of those very same connections. This would also have been a way for H & K to get off the ground at a time when the Allies had imposed draconian post-war restrictions regarding domestically-generated weapons design and production.

      • Technically, the production rights to the CETME design were licensed to the West German government via the Dutch firm NWM. The West German government then farmed out G3 production to both HK and Rheinmetall. HK and Rheinmetall later worked out a quid pro quo agreement where Rheinmetall would stop making G3 if HK stayed away from producing MG3.

        • DiverEngrSL17K

          Thanks very much for the additional information, Daniel. It helps to clarify things a good bit, and also illustrates some of the complications involved in the business end of the firearms industry.

    • Very interesting concept. They can’t (unsurprisingly say) right now why they don’t think H&K owns it.

  • Julio

    I’m not sure how GSG can claim that they were forced into a settlement. If it had gone to court, fair enough, but if H&K simply succeeded in bluffing them into recognising H&K’s right to the design specific features that GSG consequently agreed to change, then the fault for any loss would seem to me to be their own.

    • MattW

      If HK knew they didn’t own the design rights, but still used that argument to obtain a binding settlement, then it is still considered fraud.

      • valorius

        Patent trolling.

        • scw

          Welcome to modern business world.

  • FourString

    Hope H&K brings the Fuck You sledgehammer down on them.

    • Alex Kovalev


    • jamezb

      The same one they use on US gun buyers?

      • iksnilol

        No, it’s the German govt that prohibits them from importing scary guns.

        Seriously, educate yourself about things. Sure, HK is expensive and don’t have the best customer service all the time but they don’t hate you.

        • Collin Iams

          Well, that would make sense, if they had to import them. But, they don’t. They have a US facility where, if they were so inclined, they could produce any number of firearms.

        • jamezb

          Importing is bringing a product into a country,
          selling a product overseas is called exporting.

          Seriously, educate yourself.

    • thebronze

      F*CK HK!

      • Hey ease up with the language. We have some youngsters that read TFB.

        • Wolfsbane

          Hey, they have to learn to be adults somewhere. Butch up buttercup.

  • BryanS

    call me comfused, but is this not more about the trade dress of the design, since the GSG is, as used to call them in paintball, a 22 JABB (just another blow back)?

  • J.T.

    I thought HK’s suit was on trade dress and not about patents? I don’t see how a blowback .22lr gun would use patents from the MP5 (which would probably be expired anyway).

    • Rusty Shackleford

      If that is the case, it must be about how much the target company is worth, or a half-dozen or so manufacturers in America would be sued by HK for the same reason.

  • Michael

    If the lawsuit is successful maybe we will see an inexpensive semi auto 9mm

    • valorius

      That would be awesome… mp5s are enormously over priced.

      • M

        I’ve always wondered though, will it? Norinco Clones and Paki Clones are also pretty pricey…
        Although I agree with you, a mass produced, stamped weapon should be so expensive

        • TV-PressPass

          My $400 M14 and $500 14.5″ AR-15 disagree with you! Chinese clones may be many things, but pretty pricey is not one in my books.

          • echelon

            the 9mm “sub gun” market is pretty niche so yes even the clones command quite a price on the market. ARs are dime a dozen and if you got a Chinese Polytech M14 for $400 then you got it for a steal…

          • I suspect he’s in Canada, by the 14.5″ Chinese M4.

            Yes, the Chinese guns ARE still pretty cheap in Canada, and their SBR rules are rather different than ours (thus, a 14.5″ M4 isn’t as big a deal — the *AR* part of it is a bigger deal than the *barrel length*.)

          • The Brigadier

            If your M14 is one of Polytechnic clones it is a metric M14. That company was a Taiwan China manufacturer who bought the machinery from the U.S. manufacturer and made conversion parts to metric. Its a “sort of” clone and that’s why the rifle so cheap. Very few MIA, L1A1 parts, and after market parts will fit it and that makes it undesirable for so many buyers.

    • MR

      Do want! I’d like carbine and pistol versions, myself.

    • Burst

      More likely, a less quality controlled one.

      There’s a big gap between genuine HK product, licensed copies (POF & PTRs),
      and “pioneers” (Coharie and SW). An inexpensive MP5 would likely be crap.

      • Danmaku

        H&K quality is not some magical standard that other companies cannot attain. Many have surpassed H&K in innovation and quality. H&K has survived recently only on hype. I cant wait for other companies to make a cheaper (somewhat) and superior product. (MPX, I’m waiting for you!)

  • Gwolf

    I own the H&K MP5A5 .22 version. It’s great and a tremendous amount of fun to plink with. Never shot the GSG but I expect they are good too.

    Just saying. 🙂

    $16.5 million seems like a lot. Be interested in where they got the figure from.

    I like how they hedged their bets in the statement “a design similar to that of the MP5”.

    • You never get more than you ask for. I don’t expect the final settlement will be close to that, but the parties all know this already.

  • Mystick

    Interesting, considering the MP5 is a 45 year old design…

  • thebronze

    I hope GSG wins. HK sucks balls.

  • steveday72

    I hope HK loses, even if its only to spite them for being so greedy over the years.

  • Grindstone50k

    Wasn’t this kind of case already settled with the whole MForgery debate?

  • Walter Ruf

    Well, the MP5 is based on the G3 Series. Which in turn, other than public believe, is not an invention by HK, but by CETME, from which the german goverment(!) licensed the G3, since the german goverment wanted the G3 for the german army been build in-country.

    Later HK negotiated rights for the G3, which was theire smotthest move ever. But for exports, still they had to talk with CETME.
    But the real head behind the system was Ludwig Vorgrimler, who worked on the StGw44 and 45 project of the german army in WW2 for Mauser/Oberndorf. After the war, he worked for CETME on the new service rifle for Spain, using knowledge from his work for Mauser.

    Mr Heckler and Mr Koch (both former Mauser employees) started HK as a company for stitching machines in the old, demilitarized Mauser Facilities. Later they made small production runs of StGw45, MG42 and P38 for the “Detachment Blank”, the predecessor for the german MOD, for the Border Guard (predecessor of the german army). When Franco approved the CETME, it was also made in Germany, by HK, for Spain.
    After deciding to swap the G1 (FN FAL) for the CETME, the MOD bought the manufacturing rights (not the ownership) for the CETME and HK startet producing the CETME as the G3. The manufacturing rights were owned (and licenced to other countries, like Pakistan) by the german MOD. Not HK!

    So legally, all G3 family (rolling block receiver) weapons, belong (inventionwise) part-time to Mauser (now Rheinmetall) and CETME. None of the characteristics of the G3/MP5 are owned by HK, the system comes from Vorgrimmler and Mauser, the unique Look from CETME (and the 308 calibre of the G3 from the US).

  • smartacus

    Mostly cops buy H&K anyway…

  • Xyz

    Try selling some think that looks very much like the very old mr M Mouse and see how long it take the Disney lawyers to come down on you like a ton of bricks!!!!!

    • Cymond

      Mickey is a copyrighted work of art, not a patented machine.

      • xyz

        But in this case it is the look that is a issue. The inside of the 22lr is totally different to the MP5

        • Cymond

          Yeah, I know it’s a trade dress case, but the argument here is that the appearance of the MP5 is based on the older CETME, which HK has no claim to.

          Also, I don’t think anyone has posted where HK actually filed a copyright on the appearance of the MP5. It’s just that it’s so old that they’re basically claiming no one else can make anything that looks like it.

          Unless they’re trying to argue that their guns are so elegant that they ARE works of art …

  • Leigh Rich

    I have one of the pre suite version pistols…cool

  • kingghidorah

    So HK got 300 grand. Did that even pay for their legal bill?

  • dave

    Another ploy to destroy. The fire arms industry and major manufactures

  • Christopher Ati-importmanager

    September 16, 2014

    Dear Valued Customers,

    This message from the staff of American Tactical is to confirm that American Tactical and
    German Sport Guns are involved in an ongoing lawsuit with Heckler & Kock
    for infringement of rights and fraud.

    American Tactical, along with our partner and family at German Sport
    Guns has been involved in this ongoing lawsuit for some time and at
    considerable expense to both of our companies.

    We appreciate all thoughts and concerns from our customers regarding
    this current situation.

    As this is alawsuit that is still in process, American Tactical cannot provide any further
    details outside of the release from our friends at German Sport Guns.

    Thank you all for your continued support of American Tactical and German Sport Gun

  • Secundius

    I think its going to cost GSG, Far more to Re-tool and Re-design. And that why there going too try to BLUFF there way through the Courts.