WHAT DO YOU get when you cross Apple, Siemens and Sisvel with the German police at CeBIT? Raids of course, with lots of police, lawyers, and people stripping booths clean of everything electronic.
Walking around Hall 17 at CeBIT a few hours ago, there were several German police walking hurriedly through the crowd, talking into walkie-talkies. Where police are agitated, stories are likely to be found. Sure enough, when the police got to their destination, there were about 15 more of their colleagues surrounding a 5 by 10 meter booth of a netbook and e-reader manufacturer who explicitly asked not to be identified.
Since we don’t know the legalities surrounding taking photographs of the German police, we have blanked out their faces, and also the company name as requested. Most of the police were moving among the crowd, and several were off the the right side of the booth. There were at least two police officers for every booth employee.
How to put on a show with police backing
The police were keeping people out, with several unnamed individuals talking to some very agitated Chinese electronics vendors in the booth. Most people had thick stacks of paperwork in their hands, you can see some in the police officer’s hand above.
Once I started taking pictures, two police hurried over and then noticed my press badge and stopped. They huddled and started talking hurriedly in German, the only word I got was “press”, then they turned and walked away. The entire time, a man was methodically walking around taking everything off the shelves and boxing it up.
Booth teardown the Apple way
Asking the police what was happening got no answer, as did requests for who to contact later about the situation. In all fairness, they probably did not know, but were likely just there to keep the crowds away. Then again, they didn’t take my contact information for later contact. One of the officers asked bluntly if my camera was on. When I said yes, and pointed out that I was press, he scowled. Message sent. Pictures long since taken, I went on my merry way.
Nothing in stock, sorry
Coming back to the booth an hour later, the place was cleaned out. The man pictured above took everything, including the personal computers of the booth staff. The shelves were totally empty, but the employees were still trying to make a go of things, handing out literature to passer’s by.
Asking what happened, one person in the booth said that yesterday, some lawyers came by and said that the company had something on its web site that violated some Apple, Siemens and Sisvel patents. The company was asked to pay 10,000 Euros for this violation.
Representatives from the company claim they asked for specifics as to what products were in violation, and what was being violated. They claim that such evidence was not given to them, and the lawyers left. That was all they heard until the police raid today when their booth was cleaned out. Although it is only one side of the story, it has all the hallmarks of a fear-inducing shakedown.
Anyone know who he is?
While we were talking to the booth staff, a meeting started at one of the few things not taken, a table in the middle of the booth. The man pictured above is said to be an Apple lawyer. When asked for his card, he said “No”. When asked to confirm that he was representing Apple, he said, “No”. Then he turned away and started ‘negotiating’ with the firm again. Although it is only anecdotal evidence, his warm attitude to the press is quite Apple like.
In the end, we have one side of the story, the manufacturer’s. The other side declined multiple requests for information, and would not give any contact information about who to talk to. The only hard documentation we were able to see were some German legal papers that had the company’s name on it, and Siemens’ as well. These were in a stack about three inches thick, and not shown explicitly to SemiAccurate, we just noticed them.
The company claimed several other Chinese manufacturers were raided as well, and we will attempt to find them later today. We will also try and get the official word as to what happened, but given the utter reluctance of anyone on the other side to talk at all, we don’t think there is much chance of that. Stay tuned.
One open question is why CeBIT allows this kind of PR stunt raid to happen. Last year, they annoyed several Taiwanese vendors, and now this year it is the Chinese. One has to wonder if they are actively trying to drive vendors away. If so, based on the attitudes of the Chinese contingent today, they are doing an exceptionally good job.S|A