Germans sued for misuse of patent/Abmahnwelle?

(From Handakte WebLAWg):

At least six Germans have been sued recently for using domain sites like this:

Sport is a subject area, erh stands for Erlangen-Höchstadt – in this case an abbreviation used on car number plates, but the name of a town or Land or district would also qualify.

An article in (see also this blog: blog ) reports that the software patent EP0001163612B1 was registered in December 2001. At that time there was a plan to introduce a kind of ‘local Yahoo’, and the owners of the patent would have wanted to use these names. However, the plan came to nothing, and it appears as if they are trying to make at least some money out of the patent.

I mentioned this kind of behaviour in connection with the Impressum recently. Aas long as people are prepared to sue en masse to get fines, it is worth having an Impressum that sticks to the letter of the law. There is a website called where victims can exchange stories to combat these actions. To look at the forum without joining, just press ‘go’ under ‘Eingang’, without entering anything in the form.

6 thoughts on “Germans sued for misuse of patent/Abmahnwelle?

  1. >As long as people are prepared to sue en masse to get fines, it is worth having an Impressum that sticks to the letter of the law.<

    Which law? When does a site need to have an Impressum conformant to German Law? When the text is in German? When the domain is “.de”? When the domain is located withing the territory of the FRG? When the person responsible is domiciled in Germany? Which law applies if the site is entirely in English and not primarily addressed to Germans – and says so? If it is located on a server outside the FRG? If the site is purely private and not offering goods and/or services for a consideration? Must the person responsible have an address within the FRG/be within the jurisdiction of a German court? What is the applicable law in the US and the UK? No answers to these questions on! This seems to be a much bigger subject than I thought! My weblog has an “.ag” domain and I don’t even know where that is!


  2. Since I wrote the comment above, I have had a look around and knocked together an emergency Impressum/General information on the basis of your previous entries, Margaret, and some of the information to which you have provided links. I haven’t yet caught my breath but I must say that I find the entire English terminology related to this matter to be totally revolting, starting with “information society service”. Why “society”? “Information service” seems adequate to me.

    I don’t feel confortable with your “Contact information”, which is not used anywhere in the Directive as far as I can see, and have opted instead for “General information” which IS used in it (heading to §6).

    I have already had a brush with a large German translation company because I mentioned their name (an attribution – and I thought I was doing the right thing!). They apparently have somebody continually searching the Internet to detect instances in which their name has been used without authorization. They gave me 6 hours to remove it or else!


  3. Derek, in resply to your first question, I doubt there is really much danger of our being sued. But I think the risk is to anyone living in Germany, and I can’t see any difference between commercial and private sites, when it comes to being sued, because even if you can show your site is not commercial, it will still cost you money to do so. However, I really spend very little time reading this stuff and am certainly not an authority on it. I notice a number of the German law blogs say ‘This is a private site’. This may be so they aren’t seen to be offering legal advice online, and certainly they wouldn’t want to have their website seen as a Gewerbe. Probably I should make it clearer that the blog is private.

    I’m more worried about being sued in Germany than England, so it’s the German ‘Impressum’ I am concerned about. When I started, I had a very simple one, in two languages, which I liked. But after hearing about these lawyers who issue warnings willy-nilly, I decided to change.

  4. I understand what you are saying but to me it doesn’t hold water. As a non-lawyer I see it this way. If your site, or any site to which you have links, is breaking some law or other then it doesn’t help you to put in a text saying: “This site and all the linked sites strictly observe all current laws”. Likewise, it doesn’t help you at all to write: “This site is private” (especially when you proclaim your “Berufsbezeichnung” in the same sentence!) – the EU Directive does not distinguish in word or spirit between private and commercial sites. IBM could head their site: “Private site” but it wouldn’t get them off any hooks. The only condition is that you are providing an “information society service” (it does say for remuneration) and for your site that is undeniably the case.

    It also doesn’t help you to say that you are not providing legal advice if you are demonstrably providing it, any more than it would help a bank robber (please excuse the comparison!) if he hands out pamphlets saying that what he is doing is testing the security arrangements and it is not to be construed as robbery.

    The statement that you dissociate yourself from the content of the sites to which you provide links does not help you either because it is just that: a statement that you dissociate yourself from them. But by linking your site to theirs you demonstrate that you associate yourself with them, not dissociate. Claiming that your association with them is, in fact, a dissociation is worse than futile – if they are breaking any law then the dissociation claim suggests that you were aware of the offense and were trying to hide your culpability. The only credible dissociation is removing the link.

    I love playing lawyer!



    In my Comment of October 22, 2003 09:37 PM, end
    of first paragraph:
    Strike: “(it does say for remuneration)”
    Replace with: “(it does not say for remuneration)”


  6. There’s not much point discussing this with me – you need a practising lawyer. I can only say I’ve seen these kinds of Impressum on the sites of German lawyers. Having heard about the lawsuits, I decided it wasn’t merely belt and braces, but possibly a sensible caution. Some lawyers make a big distinction between weblog (private) and site (for business), to the extent of not using their real name on the blog and not linking the two. I should think it depends on what the courts have tended to decide in these kinds of cases whether it makes sense to say ‘this is private’ or not. I don’t know what the situation is, but I believe there are a number of factors the court would take into account, not just two that cancel each other out.

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