Is CETME Why GSG Doesn’t Think HK Owns The Rights to The MP5 Design?

If you missed our last post on the subject, H&K are being sued by German Sports Guns and American Tactical Imports. GSG and ATI claim H&K did not own the rights to the MP5 design patent (that is the look of the gun, not the operation/internals) when H&K sued them for infringing on it with the GSG-22.  They are suing H&K for the same amount that H&K sued them back in 2009, a cool $16.5 million.

German Sports Guns told TFB that they will prove in court that H&K does not have any rights to the design of the the MP5 and the G3. Until the court case we can only speculate as to why GSG does not believe this to be true.

One of our readers, Icchan, wrote in the comments that maybe GSG’s reasoning is related to the CETME Rifle, designed by the Spanish government organization CETME in the early 1950s. The CETME itself was based on the Germany StG 45(M). The H&K G3 was in turn based on the CETME and the H&K MP5 was visually inspired by the G3/CETME look, as well as using an action based on the same roller delayed blowback technology. Take a look at the design evolution below …

StG 45(M), designed in 1945

StG 45(M), designed in 1945

CETME Rifle, designed during 1950

CETME Rifle, designed during 1950


H&K G3 designed in the late 1950s

H&K G3 designed in the late 1950s


H&K MP5, designed in the early 1960s

H&K MP5, designed in the early 1960s

I am not a lawyer and have no idea which organization owns the rights to this design. The court case will decide this.

This is what the German press are saying about the lawsuit (translated from German, so ignore any grammar mistakes)

GSG now told that Heckler & Koch is being sued along with the U.S. importer for infringement of design rights and fraud to $ 16.5 million. GSG CEO Michael Swoboda admits that it is basically a counterclaim, because H & K demanded just as much millions since 2011.

GSG-Chief Swoboda says openly that the pressure on H & K is being increased to achieve readiness to talk.

In other words, GSG want to settle as soon as possible. The primary problem for H&K is that they would lose rights to the MP5 design if they lose the lawsuit, which would end royalty payments from all licensees of the design as well as open the floodgates to clones.

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.


  • BryanS

    Would drop the price of clones … but not the price of parts kits.

  • jamezb

    I’m up for the mass cloning the CETME and its descendents … after all, look at all the AR companies.. HK’s marketing decisions have left me with no love for the company and it’s elitist trademark, but I do like the guns…

    • John

      As long as its not done by Century… Who thinks they can fix bolt gap by grinding on it…

  • Phil Hsueh

    Speaking of grammar mistakes, grammar is spelled with 2 As and no Es.

  • Slim934

    ……they can actually own the LOOK of the rifle after the patent expires? That seems kind of retarded.

    • Jeremy Star

      Trade Dress.

      • Slim934

        Which I still submit is retarded. The purpose of trade dress is to act as consumer protection from products attempting to masquerade as an original. It seems to me that as long as they slap an non H&K manufacturers marking then there is no issue. If just the exterior characteristics are included under this then it seems to me the law is retarded and its only purpose is to limit product competition.

      • Shanghaied

        Yep, and that is the reason why we won’t see a chain of hamburger restaurants with a red and yellow theme, and a “W” formed from two arches as its logo, for example.

        • Cymond

          I’m pretty sure the McDonald’s “M” is a trademark. This is more like if McDonald’s sued another company because their hamburgers look too much like Big Macs.

    • John

      The Coca-Cola company owns a trademark on the Coca-Cola glass bottle design. It’s not far-fetched at all.

  • Guest

    HK adapted a Nazi designed rifle. CETME was brought to fruition in Franco controlled Spain. Sorry, I can’t feel sorry for a company that exists solely because it was able to retain Nazi technology and resell it post war as the G3 and MP5.

    • Shanghaied

      And the US government brought 1500 German scientists to America after WWII….

      • Ergo

        Would you prefer those 1500 minds go to Joe Stalin?

      • dasfsdf

        Since when does “German” mean “Nazi”? What do you think would have happened to those possibly former Nazi scientists if they refused to work for the regime?

        “Nah, I’m cool, Mr. Gestapo, I don’t want to come work in your factories. I’m just gonna leave the country; say hi to Hitlie fer me!”

    • John

      M60, jet engines, long range rockets, Sarin gas, HEAT/shaped charges, the M9’s action, are all things we adopted from Nazi tech (oh, and operation paperclip).

      • bucherm

        Man the British invented jets before the Nazis did. And by 1945 we were fielding engines with more thrust than the “superior” Nazi jets.

        • That and checking shaped charges look up the Monroe effect.

        • Auto

          Which doesnt really matter because british engines were designed differently from “Nazi” jets to make use of the poor metallurgy of the time. Contrary to the German design which used a design with more potential for power but ignored their material ability. Modern Jet engines are more closely related to “Nazi” jets than British jets due to advances in material science.

        • John

          Yeah they did, but it was never who invented it first. It was who was able to first field it in an effective manner that made other countries want to copy them.

          If the US knew how to utilize the shaped charge they would have done it by then. If the Brits knew how to properly field jet engines the ME262 wouldn’t have caused so many countries to scramble to get its blueprints.

          • Shaped charges entered US and British use NOT via the Nazis, but rather via the guys who were traveling around Europe trying to sell their “secret explosive that directed the blast”. Engineers looked at the shape of the warhead samples Henry Mohaupt (Swiss) was trying to sell them, and realized it was a variation on the Munroe effect (and there is actually an American patent on true shaped charges from 1886)

            The No68 HEAT rifle grenade (British) was the first shaped charge weapon in actual service, although the shaped demolitions charges the Germans used a few months later in Belgium ran a close second.

    • Graham2

      Something isn’t ‘Nazi’ just because it was designed in Germany whilst the Nazis were in power! Firearms designers were just designing firearms for the war effort, a war they may not actually have agreed with; some may have been Nazis but how do you know what their allegiances were?

      CETME was clearly funded by German money in a fascist country but that probably had more to do with production capabilities than any ‘Nazi’ ideology.

      • Well, and Spain sure as Hell wasn’t going to extradite them.

  • Andrew

    “Is CETME Why GSG Don’t Think HK Own The Rights to The MP5 Design?”

    Clunkiest grammatically incorrect headline ever. Company names are collective nouns. When all members of the group are acting as a unit, they always take SINGULAR verbs. They only take plural verbs when needing to show members of the group are not in agreement.

  • KestrelBike

    Oooooh the irony would be rich indeed if that last part happened. I’d laugh all the way to my LGS and buy a clone semi-mp5 haha.

  • dp

    This may sound like ‘clever’ exploitation of legal kinks pertaining to who actually owned the original Mauser design by the time the Deutsches Reich ceased to exist (forget CETME, that was just a way how to get around post-war restrictions.) This company (Mauser) was located in Oberndorf which happen to be same location as is for HK today. It can be therefore construed that HK is direct legal descendant to one time Mauser Waffen. The problem may be around political transitions implications between years 1945-1950 and this may prove to be a very messy affair.

    On the other hand, if the GSG design is pure blowback, it should not bear any relationship to MP5 (appearance is irrelevant – just look at appearance of cars or motorcycles) and the original legal action by HK might prove to have utterly undesirable consequences. They could have though about it in hindsight; but apparently they did not.

  • dp

    Perhaps just to add: the funniest part is that this roller half-locking technology (part of MP5 and PSG1) is on its way out. So who benefits, really? They are nuts and as such they deserve to sue hell out of each other. Lawyers will reap the benefit.

  • dp

    This may be helpful reading:
    This man was at beginning of roller-half-lock breech at Mauser in 1945, but did not work for HK. However, his creation the Cetme rifle, was adopted by Bundeswehr. Later, it was licensed by recipient of rights, the German government for production to HK who did some further development and made G3 out of it. That could happen only after post-war restrictions ceased to exist. (Just before, for short period of time German military used FAL re-named to G1)
    So, there is one and continued lineage – HK is the champion in this fight. But being a champ does not automatically mean a winner. We shall see.

    • The ONLY part of the HK guns that is reasonably *visually* significantly distinctive from the CETME guns is the rear sight. That is about the only part of the design HK could reasonably base its “trade dress” case on.

  • snmp

    Simply CETME sold the righ/patend to West Germany who transfert it to H&K. Armalite sold the AR10/15 Design to Colt.

  • justanotherrifle

    if H&K don’t own the MP5, then glock don’t own the rights to their design.

    • David Sharpe

      The Glock design is pretty much original, there are no previous “safe action” pistols that Glock based his design off of.

      H7K based their design off of the CETME, so technically they don’t own the rights to the “look” of it.

      • snmp

        Simply, they buy it to CETEM, thta’s wy they own it. In plus MP5/MP69 is design build by H&K

  • Leo

    Honestly my gsg522 is garbage in quality and design, not sure who copy what but I have to literally replace all screws in this rifle, repair every mag, get tape inside stock because it is shaky etc. Cleaning is nightmare! Only good thing it is cheap and pretty accurate to shot.

  • erwos

    My understanding is that this is not about patents (long expired), but rather about trade dress (which is a trademark issue).

    Here is what I presume is going to be GSG’s line of attack: CETME _licensed_ the West German government to produce their customized version of the CETME (aka, the G3). The West Germans had Rheinmetal and H&K produce G3s; eventually, due to screw-ups on Rheinmetal’s end, H&K wound up with basically the whole contract. Later on, the West German government basically handed all of THEIR rights over to H&K.

    The “problem”, so to speak, is that CETME never gave up their rights. Indeed, the Spanish were using roller-half-locked 7.62×51 CETMEs for quite a long time, with their own set of improvements.

    So, I see two possible ways that H&K could be hit:
    1. The license that CETME gave to the West German government never included trade dress rights. I doubt they’ll argue this, but, hey, I don’t know German trade dress or contract law.

    2. H&K can’t claim trade dress rights because the CETME looks the same, and therefore the G3’s looks are not distinctive. That is to say, the trade dress isn’t trade dress, because it’s not distinctive to H&K exclusively. IMHO, this is much more likely to be the case argued, and I think it’s a pretty reasonable one.

    The little flaw in my logic is that I don’t see how this saves them on the MP5 front; the G3’s trade dress may not be distinctive, but the MP5’s trade dress sure is. Maybe GSG discovered that H&K had accidentally not covered trade dress considerations in their foreign licensing contracts?

  • Jason C

    The CETME was designed by German engineers, who left Germany, during the war. Some years after the war was over, they moved back to Germany. They took their rifle design, and moved to HK. From my understanding, HK holds the rights to the designs.

  • Adam

    So why doesn’t H&K go after NORINCO?