Home Europe Germany’s assault rifle saga continues

Germany’s assault rifle saga continues

Soldier with a G36 rifle
German defense ministry file photo of a soldier with the G36 rifle that is currently in service.

Germany’s quest to buy next-generation assault rifles will be further prolonged after one of the companies that was excluded from the contest over alleged patent infringements is now contesting the decision.

To remind, the German defense procurement agency (BAAINBw) selected C.G. Haenel, a part of Caracal International, which is a company of the United Arab Emirates state conglomerate EDGE Group, to deliver over 120,000 of its MK556 rifles under an estimated 250 million euro ($300 million) contract.

The MK556 was supposed to replace the Heckler & Koch-built G36 that has been in use with the German Armed Forces for over 30 years.

Immediately after the decision was announced in September 2020, Heckler & Koch – who had offered its HK416 rifle for the competition – protested the decision claiming patent infringements.

This led BAAINBw to launch a review of the process and ultimately decide to exclude C.G. Haenel GmbH from the program over two separate patent infringement claims earlier this month.

The first infringement includes Heckler & Koch’s patents related to the so-called “over the beach” capability, which allows for the rifles to be operated even after they spend time under water. The other is related to a patent held by US company Magpul and concerns certain characteristics of the rifle’s 30-round magazine.

C.G. Haenel GmbH had already dismissed the infringement claims and pointed out that there was no legal dispute related to the patents between itself and Heckler & Koch. The company also added that the second “alleged infringement” was not relevant to the German tender as the company never made the spare magazine a part of the offer.

As was expected, the company is now disputing the decision with BAAINBw in a first step. It further said that it was ready to file a complaint with the German Federal Cartel Office in addition to a possible lawsuit at the Higher Regional Court in Düsseldorf.

It is worth noting that the company is now also demanding that Heckler & Koch be excluded from the competition. C.G. Haenel says Heckler & Koch behaved unfairly by deliberately using the alleged patent infringements throughout the entire award procedure in order to get rid of C.G. Haenel as a competitor.

“The fact that Heckler & Koch was never concerned with the prosecution of the alleged patent rights in the matter is already clear from the fact that the alleged rights were not prosecuted for years, in order to then specifically warn C.G. Haenel in 2018 – on the day the applications for participation were submitted – with patent law allegations regarding a weapon that is not relevant here (CR 223),” C.G. Haenel said.

“We are extremely disappointed with the BAAINBw’s decision to exclude C.G. Haenel from the award procedure and to award the contract to H&K. Throughout the tender process, Haenel has conducted itself in a professional manner and sought to address any questions in respect of its bid in a transparent manner based on facts and away from the media spotlight. Most recently, we submitted comprehensive responses to the allegation made against our company, which were supported by an expert report prepared by one of the leading firms in Germany. Our responses and the expert report leave no doubt that all the allegations made against Haenel, including allegations regarding patent infringement, are unfounded and that the exclusion of our company from the award procedure based on these allegations is unlawful,” C.G. Haenel said in a statement.