BREAKING: German Court Rules Haenel Must Recall & Destroy CR223s

    B&T 15 Haenel

    The Düsseldorf Higher Regional Court has ruled against C.G. Haenel’s appeal against the courts earlier decision that Haenel had infringed on Heckler & Koch’s patents. A statement was released by the Ministry of Justice of North Rhine-Westphalia that outlined the case and the courts ruling on 30 December.

    The case stems from the patent infringement suit brought by Heckler & Koch against Haenel which alleged that Haenel had infringed HK’s patent EP 2 018 508 B2. The patent protects HK416 and HK417’s breech design and how it allows water to be drained from the action. The Düsseldorf Regional Court ruled that the patent had been infringed in November 2021. This was subsequently challenged by Haenel at the Düsseldorf Higher Regional Court. On 30 December, a ruling against Haenel’s appeal was made by Ulrike Voss, the court’s presiding judge who also specialises in patent law.

    Haenel Selection & Rejection @ TFB:

    At the same time Germany’s Federal Patent Court also ruled in HK’s favour in late September. Haenel had originally won the Bundeswehr’s tender to provide a new service rifle to replace the HK G36. The Haenel MK556 narrowly beat out the HK416. The patent infringement led to Haenel’s contract award being revoked and a series of legal battles followed.

    We looked at the patent which was infringed back in June.

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

    The Düsseldorf Higher Regional Court’s ruling states [machine translated]:

    The defendant Haenel GmbH produces and sells a rifle with the designation “Haenel CR 223” (contested embodiment), the plaintiff Heckler & Koch GmbH is the owner of the European patent EP 2 018 508 B1 (patent in suit). The subject of the patent is the design of a weapon breech system, which is intended to ensure the functionality and safety of a rifle even after it has been immersed in liquids – especially water. The Senate has confirmed an infringement of this patent in suit by the design used in the “Haenel CR 223” rifle. The closure system has “valve-free fluid passage opening(s)” in the sense of the design protected by the patent in suit,

    Haenel’s MK556 (Haenel)

    It goes on to order that Haenel’s carbines be recalled and ‘destroyed’:

    Due to the infringement of patent rights determined in the judgement, Haenel GmbH is not only obliged to [not] manufacture and sell the “Haenel CR 223” rifle, but also to destroy all rifles still in its possession, to ask its commercial customers to return rifles that have already been delivered in exchange for compensation, and to to provide the plaintiff with information about the profit made from the previous sale of the guns. On the basis of this information, the plaintiff can then assert claims for damages against the defendant.

    The court’s ruling only refers to the CR223 by name, with no mention of the same weapon in other calibres nor the select fire MK556 variant which was submitted to, and initially won, the Bundeswehr tender. However, it seems likely all variants of the carbine will be covered by the ruling. This also raises questions for the carbines purchased by various German state police forces, including Saxony and Hamburg, will these carbines remain in service or have to be returned too?

    Haenel are owned by Merkel Jagd- und Sportwaffen GmbH, who are in turn owned by United Arab Emirates company Caracal, who also produce the CAR 814 and 816 carbines. It remains to be seen if the Caracal guns potentially infringe HK’s patent in a similar way, if the German judgement will impact Caracal or if HK will bring similar action against Haenel’s parent company.

    The court’s ruling is not yet publicly available but the Ministry of Justice North Rhine-Westphalia’s press release noted it probably would be in early January 2023.

    Matthew Moss

    _________________________________________________________________________ – Managing Editor – Managing Editor

    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. He also runs Historical Firearms, a blog that explores the history, development and use of firearms. Matt is also co-founder of 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: [email protected]