+++ BREAKING NEWS +++ Update on the Heckler & Koch vs. Haenel patent dispute: ruling prohibits Haenel production and distribution of CR223s and obliges the manufacturer to recall and destroy all rifles

In its ruling, the Düsseldorf Higher Regional Court thus confirmed the infringement of patent EP 2 018 508 B1 held by Heckler & Koch by the breech design incorporated in the Haenel CR223. The breech system has "valve-free fluid drainage opening(s)" in the sense of the design protected by the above-mentioned patent. These openings serve to drain gases and liquids from the action and are intended to ensure the functionality and safety of the rifle after contact with liquids, in particular immersion or submersion in water. 

In addition to a ban on the manufacture and sale of the Haenel CR 223 rifle, the ruling also obliges C.G. Haenel GmbH to destroy all rifles still in its possession and to demand that its commercial customers return rifles already delivered in return for compensation. In addition, according to the ruling, Haenel must disclose to Heckler & Koch the profit made on the sale of the rifles to date, so that Heckler & Koch can assert claims for damages against Haenel in accordance with this information. 

The ruling does not allow an appeal to the Federal Supreme Court against the decision. Haenel now has only the legal remedy of a non-admission complaint to the Federal Court of Justice.

While the ruling is unlikely to have any direct impact on civilian end-users who have purchased a Haenel CR223 it could, however, cause further ripples among some state police forces that have purchased the CR223 as a mid-range weapon. The Saxony state police, for example, had ordered another 2,300 CR223 semi-automatic rifles and around 400 training sets most recently in 2020, after the first examples had already been procured in 2017, primarily for special units. 

What happened before: a brief overview of updates on Haenel and Heckler & Koch

Update June 22, 2022: According to Heckler & Koch, the Düsseldorf Higher Regional Court has rejected Haenel's immediate appeal and thus confirmed that Haenel's exclusion from the "System Sturmgewehr" contract award procedure was lawful.

Update March 4, 2021: In the last few days, a number of rumors regarding the award procedure have been circulating the net. Now the Federal Ministry of Defense officially announced that C.G. Haenel has been excluded from the award procedure for the new assault rifle of the German Armed Forces. Now the intention is to award the contract to Heckler & Koch.

Update October 9, 2020: As just announced, the BAAINBw (the Federal Office of Equipment, Information Technology and In-Service Support of the German Armed Forces) has withdrawn the award of the contract for the delivery of the new assault rifle.

As of Sept. 15, 2020: According to a press release from the German Federal Ministry of Defense (BMVg), the procurement office's awarding authority has decided in favor of the bid submitted by C.G. Haenel GmbH, as the successor model to the G36, in the "assault rifle" bidding process. It is not yet officially known which specific weapon is involved. According to reports, Haenel has offered a version of the MK556.

+++ UPDATE April 3, 2021 +++ Reasoning of the Federal Ministry of Defense for the exclusion of C.G. Haenel

"After it was determined that one of the bidders may have infringed patents, the process was returned to the bid evaluation stage.
This was followed by a patent law evaluation by an external patent law firm. As a result, the experts found that there was a patent infringement.
The company C.G. Haenel was given the opportunity to comment after the expert opinions were submitted. These were received in good time, examined in detail and included in the overall assessment.
Taking into account all aspects of public procurement law, the final conclusion was that the bid submitted by C.G. Haenel had to be excluded because of the patent infringements.
The repetition of the bid evaluation has thus been completed."

+++ UPDATE October 9, 2020 +++ The contract awarded to C.G. Haenel will be withdrawn and offers will be re-evaluated

After many rumors and heated discussions in various media in the last few days about the new assault rifle of the German Armed Forces and the awarding of the contract to C.G. Haenel, the Federal Ministry of Defence today published an up-to-date status report. Among other things, this report deals with possible patent infringements by C.G. Haenel and the cancellation of the contract to the Suhl-based manufacturer. Here is the statement of the Ministry of Defence in full:

"On the basis of the application for review submitted by the company Heckler und Koch to the Federal Cartel Office (Bundeskartellamt) on September 30, 2020 at the 1st Federal Procurement Chamber, the Federal Procurement Authority (BAAINBwBundesamt für Ausrüstung, Informationstechnik und Nutzung der Bundeswehr) has for the first time become aware of a possible patent infringement by C.G. Haenel GmbH in a verifiable manner.

The internal investigations initiated as a result have led to the conclusion that a corresponding patent infringement by the bidder C.G. Haenel GmbH at the expense of the bidder Heckler und Koch cannot be ruled out.

Against this background, the Federal Awarding Authority was required to cancel the information letter (§ 134 GWB) to the bidders on the intended award of the contract to the company C.G. Haenel GmbH.

The Federal Awarding Authority will thus re-evaluate the offers taking into account all aspects."

+++ UPDATE September 21, 2020 +++ MK556 million deal with the German Armed Forces – A C.G. Haenel press release

In a press release dated September 21, 2020, C.G. Haenel itself commented on the award of the tender for the new Bundeswehr rifle. In its statement, the manufacturer emphasizes its competence in weapons manufacturing with reference to being part of the Merkel Group. With its 120 specialized and highly qualified employees, it would represent all core competencies. Managing Director Olaf Sauer comments: "In particular, barrel production as one of the essential factors for high quality is available at the Merkel Group's Suhl plant with the necessary capacities.

It is also emphasized that since the takeover by Caracal LLC from the United Arab Emirates in 2007, massive investments have been made in the Suhl plant. Whereby the companies of the Merkel Group would work economically independently and autonomously, ensuring a "Made in Germany" product.

With reference to the MK556 assault rifle, Haenel states that around 90 percent of the production is in Germany, which would also benefit the economic region of southern Thuringia.

According to the press release, Haenel, as a brand of the Merkel Group, started its business in 2008 with the development and manufacturing of hunting guns. Due to increasing export restrictions on hunting guns, the manufacturer then considered it unavoidable to expand into the government market.

The order from the German Armed Forces includes the delivery of 120,000 assault rifles.

Haenel MK556: the Bundeswehr's next assault rifle?

After various press reports and a press release by the Federal Ministry of Defence, it is clear: the awarding authority of the Bundeswehr Procurement Office has decided in favour of C.G. Haenel GmbH as the next supplier of the Bundeswehr assault rifle and thus as the successor to the HK G36. The Deutsche Presse-Agentur quotes from military circles that the choice fell on the weapon presented by Haenel for two main reasons: firstly, it was better tailored to the requirements of the military and secondly, it would also offer economic advantages. This had been established by extensive tests. C.G. Haenel GmbH was founded in 2008 as a new company in Suhl, Thuringia. It belongs to the Merkel Group, which in turn is part of the Tawazun Holding from the United Arab Emirates. The invitation to tender had already been running since 2017 and was designed for a quarter of a billion euros at that time. According to various reports, Heckler & Koch also took part alongside Haenel. The manufacturer from Oberndorf had submitted two offers: it was in the race with the HK416 and the HK433 models. SIG Sauer had originally also participated, but withdrew in the course of the proceedings. For the sake of good order, the BMVg points out that the defeated bidders still have the right to take legal action and that parliamentary approval of the decision is still to be obtained.

The manufacturer has confirmed which weapon is involved: C.G. Haenel has in fact entered its only known assault rifle into the race, the MK556 in .223 Remington caliber. This is a fully automatic rifle based on the AR-15 featuring a short-stroke gas piston system, which is considered to be more modern, instead of the direct gas impingement system. 

A semi-automatic version is also available for the civilian and law enforcement market – the Haenel CR223. The semi-automatic (civilian) version Haenel CR223 has already been tested by all4shooters.com.

Statement by Heckler and Koch on the award decision for the new assault rifle of the German Armed Forces:

(We quote from a HK press release dated September 15, 2020)

Heckler & Koch has been informed today that neither of its two offers will be accepted in the German Armed Forces' tender for assault rifles. "Subject to an extensive legal review, we regret this decision," says CEO Jens Bodo Koch. "At the same time, we are absolutely convinced of the quality of both the HK416 and the HK433. This quality has also been confirmed to us by the Bundeswehr in the course of this tender. We do not have to shy away from any competition with our products".

This is also shown by the still very well filled order books. "The number of orders from all over the world is higher than we are currently able to process and demand continues to be high," Koch continues. "Heckler & Koch is and remains a profitable company again." For this reason, in the view of the Executive Board, there are no direct consequences for the employees at the Oberndorf site. "After the change of the majority shareholder a few weeks ago, we announced that the jobs in Oberndorf are secure. Nothing has changed in this regard," explains CFO Björn Krönert.

The offer submitted by Heckler & Koch for the new assault rifle of the German Armed Forces was based on the company's extensive experience with orders of this size, on a realistic and conscientious cost calculation for a high-tech product and on the company's responsibility for maintaining 950 jobs at the Oberndorf site. The triad of tradition, know-how and corporate responsibility has resulted in Heckler & Koch products being in demand worldwide for more than 70 years.

For the Bundeswehr tender, Heckler & Koch has once again improved the already technically highly developed HK416 and demonstrably met all tender conditions. This rifle has become the European assault rifle since its market launch. It is in use in numerous NATO countries, on the one hand as a standard weapon in Norway, France and the US Marine Corps, and as an assault rifle among many others with the special forces of the USA, Poland and Great Britain. At present, the Special Forces Command of the German Armed Forces (KSK) as well as the combat swimmers are also introducing this weapon as the G95k.

"We will now examine the decision in legal detail and exhaust all legal options," says CEO Jens Bodo Koch.

Technical background info: how the CR223 works – The civilian version of the MK556 from Haenel

New assault rifle Haenel CR223 
The Haenel MK 556/ CR223 is based on a indirect gas operating system.

Like the vast majority of all modern center-fire semi-auto rifles, the Haenel CR223 is a gas-operated gun with a rotating bolt. However, unlike a classic AR-15 design, the propellant gases tapped off in the barrel do not flow through a tube directly onto the bolt carrier (DI: Direct Impingement), but onto a short-stroke piston instead. The impulse of the piston then pushes the bolt carrier backwards, thus unlocking the locking mechanism. Much has been written and passionately discussed about the specific advantages and disadvantages of a short stroke piston system in general and its use in an AR-15 in particular. It remains undisputed that the piston systems are designed to carry less dirt into the receiver than direct gas impingement systems.

The Haenel CR223 at a glance

The bolt of assault rifle Haenel CR223 
Haenel protects the bolt of the CR223 semi-automatic rifle against corrosion with a Cerakote coating.

Improvements to an ordinary AR-15 system are also evident in terms of handling and safety: in the CR223 the safety can be activated in the uncocked condition and a firing pin safety device provides additional protection. One of its trademarks is the Dural handguard, which can be quickly removed via a lever for cleaning and maintenance. The images still show the older versions with the massive Quadrail design (interfaces: STANAG 4694) with continuous rails.

New assault rifle Haenel CR223 disassembled
Unlike a classic AR-15, the CR223 uses a short-stroke gas piston system. The Quadrail handguard can be separated from the receiver in seconds using a lever.

The components of the gun from Haenel in detail

Steel parts such as the cold-hammered barrel and the bolt assembly including the carrier make a high-quality impression. Even under the even anodisation of the Dural elements, the workmanship was noteworthy. Handguard and receiver presented cleanly machined surfaces, upper and lower receivers fit together largely without play. The single-stage trigger broke at just over 3 kilos, but felt much lighter due to its flawless, crisp characteristics.  Both the polymer magazine and the 6-position telescopic stock were made by Oberland Arms. The stock seems very stable, offers four attachments for a sling or sling swivel in addition to a thin rubber pad and had comparatively little play on the tubular receiver extension. For a play-free AR-15 telescopic stock you'll require an additional blocking mechanism, as it is typical for various telescopic stocks from Magpul. The UPG pistol grip is made by CAA. The grip offers interchangeable backstraps in different sizes. In view of the fine workmanship of the other assemblies, the factory-fitted sight may be a little disappointing.

New assault rifle Haenel CR223 
The CR223 in the short civilian, olive coloured "Commando" version.

Haenel offers these variants on the civilian market

The standard single-stage trigger is not bad for a military firearm, but Haenel also offers a fine trigger for an extra charge. The safety can be operated from both sides, charging handle and magazine catch for right- and left-handed users are also offered. Four barrel lengths are available: the longest version currently has a 16.5”/423 mm barrel with 1/9" twist. Only the extra short 10" version has a 1/7" twist. The semi-automatic rifle is available in three colors. It is not yet known whether the German Army will purchase corresponding configurations of the MK556.

With the CR223 with 16.5" barrel on the shooting range

For the 100-m range, a 3-12x magnification riflescope from Bushnell on a Milmont mount from MAK replaced the Aimpoint of the 16.5" version. There were no malfunctions during shooting, the gun cycled perfectly with all types of cartridges including partially jacketed cartridges and the Tulammo load with steel case. The magazines used in the CR223 came from Hera Arms as well as from Colt production, in addition to the Oberland Arms/Haenel magazines supplied. None of the magazines caused problems, regardless of the manufacturer. The best grouping circle of the day – five shots in 0.67”/17 mm at 100 metres – was achieved with the 52-grain Sellier & Bellot load, with the average grouping circle of this type being just over 0.78”/20 mm. Apart from that, the Haenel CR223 was completely inconspicuous when fired – the recoil remains pleasantly light, in keeping with the caliber. For use in conjunction with a large riflescope with a 56 mm lens diameter, the telescopic stock could subjectively be a little higher. But for use with open sights or an optic with an appropriate height, everything was right. Accuracy, features and workmanship left a good impression.

Further information about the rifles by C.G. Haenel from Suhl, Germany can be found on the manufacturer's website.

all4shooters has already reported on other armament projects. For example, the purchase of a new machine gun in Russia, the RPK-16, and a new US acquisition, the SIG Sauer MG 338.

Supplier of the Bundeswehr's new assault rifle: www.heckler-koch.com.

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