German police swoop on Hyundai at IFA

German customs police raided South Korea’s Hyundai in Berlin on Saturday, seizing flat-screen televisions from its stand at IFA, the world’s largest consumer electronics fair.

A German court had ruled late on Thursday that Hyundai and other east Asian and European firms were marketing unlicensed patented technology at IFA and authorised 69 raids, a spokesman for Berlin’s customs investigation office said.

“Hyundai had the chance today to show us that it had paid for the licences - then we would have gone. But that was not the case. They could not prove they had paid so we took the devices away,” said spokesman Norbert Scheidhauer.

A Reuters photographer witnessed uniformed customs police removing Hyundai’s flat-screen televisions in front of the public and trade visitors, leaving an empty stand with wires hanging from it.

Scheidhauer said he was not permitted to name other firms affected, but said that around 170 televisions, 140 MP3 music players, 21 mobile phones and 57 DVD recorders had been seized at IFA so far. “This year is the biggest operation that customs investigators have had to carry out,” he said.

The theft of trade secrets by foreign companies is a sensitive topic in Germany, where the economy depends on a research-intensive export sector. Similar but smaller raids have taken place at other German technology fairs such as Hanover’s Cebit in recent years.

Hyundai could not immediately be reached for comment. Scheidhauer said the company could challenge the seizure in German courts or the state prosecutors who had asked for the raid following a complaint by another firm.

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