The German military’s contract with C. G. Haenel to provide the Bundeswehr with new rifles is up in the air after the discovery of a possible patent conflict in Haenel’s design. This comes on the heels of a leak showing that Haenel beat leading competitor Heckler & Koch for the contract on price.
The German army is still looking to procure up to 120,000 rifles to replace select Heckler & Koch G36 rifles currently in service. The G36 was first adopted in 1997, and while the design was advanced by ’90s standards, is showing its age today.
Many industry leaders were in the running for the bid earlier this year. It seemed like Haenel had the contract locked in last month when the Bundeswehr announced they would adopt their MK 556 rifle for duty.
Hechler & Koch, which was expected to win the contract, immediately responded saying the company would pursue any possible options open to them that could overturn the bid and bring H&K back into the running.
German officials haven’t publicized what exact patent the Haenel rifle allegedly infringes, but they have indicated that it’s a Heckler & Koch patent.
Whether it was due to intervention on behalf of Heckler & Koch or internal findings, the German army is halting the order, citing the possible infringing design used in the MK 556.
The Haenel MK 556 is an AR derivative, but it uses a short-stroke gas piston system, unlike the majority of AR-pattern rifles today. While the infringing components may be part of the gas piston system, it could be any number of other elements used in the design that is causing the hold-up.
This doesn’t put Haenel out of the running for the Bundeswehr contract. However, depending on how this possible patent dispute is handled, it may affect the bid while the German government reevaluates all of their offers.
According to leaked rumors, the contract for Haenel MK 556 rifles undercut Heckler & Koch by nearly 27 million Euros. Haenel’s offer came in at around 152 million while Heckler & Koch’s bid would run 179 million Euros.