Is Germany's Rifle Nightmare Finally Over?

Matthew Moss
by Matthew Moss
HK416 & HK433 (Concamo)

The Bundeswehr launched their program to select a new service rifle to replace the G36 in the spring of 2017, since then there has been a hard-fought selection process followed by court proceedings but it appears there may finally be an outcome. Following a ruling by the Düsseldorf Higher Regional Court, it now seems that the Bundeswehr will select the Heckler & Koch’s HK416 A8.

The original winner of the selection process was to provide 120,000 new service rifles. The program was launched in April 2017 and suffered a series of delays but in September 2020, C.G. Haenel’s MK556 rifle was selected. However, Heckler & Koch announced that they would “ exhaust all legal options” and in October, the order was withdrawn following an appeal filed by Heckler & Koch which subsequently an investigation by the Federal Office of Bundeswehr Equipment, Information Technology and In-Service Support (BAAINBw). BAAINBw announced that they “first became aware of a possible patent infringement by the company C.G. Haenel GmbH in a verifiable manner [therefore] award of the contract to the company C.G. Haenel” was cancelled.

Haenel Defence MK556 (Haenel Defence)

C.G. Haenel launched a lawsuit to overturn the German government’s decision to rescind the original order. This suspended the program contract award process until the case had been settled. During the court case at the Düsseldorf Higher Regional Court, Heckler & Koch reportedly provided a video showing that components from Haenel’s CR223 could be interchanged with those of the HK416. This would seem to support Heckler & Koch’s claims that Haenel’s design infringes on their patents and intellectual property. The patent in question is EP 2 018 508 B1.

A diagram from HK's patent (EP 2 018 508 B 1) which the courts have ruled Haenel infringed (European Patent Office)

In March we reported that the selection of the HK416 A8 had been suggested and that at a German Parliament Defense Committee meeting Parliamentary State Secretary for Defense Peter Tauber was reported to have said that the bids for the tender have been re-evaluated and an independent investigation of the alleged patent infringement had confirmed Haenel had infringed Heckler and Koch’s patents. Yesterday, the court in Düsseldorf also ruled that Haenel has infringed their competitor’s patents.

HK416 A8 (Heckler & Koch)

Finally, on 22 June the Düsseldorf Higher Regional Court dismissed C.G. Haenel’s lawsuit, the court released a press release saying:

The respondent [the German Ministry of Defence] rightly excluded the applicant [Haenel] for serious professional misconduct in the form of an alleged patent infringement. Through the expert opinions it obtained, the respondent has proven an infringement of European patent EP 2 018 508 B 1, the owner of which is the summoned party [Heckler & Koch], by the MK 556 assault rifle offered by the applicant.

The ruling clears the way for the Bundeswehr to begin final negotiations with Heckler & Koch around the contract and delivery of new rifles to replace the G36s currently in service.

TFB will continue to monitor the story and update accordingly.

Matthew Moss
Matthew Moss

Managing Editor: & Overt Matt is a British historian specialising in small arms development and military history. He has written several books and for a variety of publications in both the US and UK. Matt is also runs The Armourer's Bench, a video series on historically significant small arms. Here on TFB he covers product and current military small arms news. Reach Matt at:

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