Bird & Bird successfully defends HP (Hewlett-Packard) to secure landmark copyright decision in German Federal Supreme Court

17 January 2008

International law firm Bird & Bird has successfully defended HP in a landmark copyright action brought by German collection society, VG Wort. The decision handed down by the German Federal Supreme Court in an oral hearing on 7 December has positive economic implications for the IT industry.

The ruling provides that HP will not have to pay license fees (copyright levies) to VG Wort to cover copyrights for printing of protected works from PC printers.

The absence of a harmonised European approach to copyright levies for IT devices in Europe means that they are applied under national copyright laws. In Germany this aspect of copyright law has not changed for over 20 years and is targeted at traditional analogue reproduction devices. Collection societies are now taking action against manufacturers of digital devices which are capable of reproducing and storing third party content. Typically courts have found in favour of collection societies and other claimants. This is the first case in which a German court has completely dismissed a copyright levy claim by a collection society against the IT industry.

It is expected that the ruling will have wider and positive implications for the IT industry in Germany; it is currently unclear whether copyright levies apply to many digital storage and reproduction devices including PCs, mobile phones and other multifunctional electronic hardware.

Fabian Niemann, a copyright and technology law Partner in the firm’s Frankfurt office led the Bird & Bird team. Commenting on the ruling Fabian said, “This is a landmark decision. Economically, it is very important and positive for the German IT and entertainment hardware industry. Due to the absence of harmonisation of copyright levies at a European level, copyright levies will continue to be a major legal and economic threat for producers, importers or sellers of devices which are capable of storing and or reproducing third party content – large parts of the whole IT and entertainment hardware industry.”

A full written judgement is expected to be handed down in the coming weeks. Bird & Bird worked together with the law firms Poll & Ventroni and Jordan & Hall on this case.

For more information please contact:

Ben Girdlestone, Head of Marketing Communications,

Tel: +44(0)20 7982 6470



Notes to Editors

About Bird & Bird

Bird & Bird is a full service international commercial law firm with an in-depth knowledge of chosen industry sectors. We focus on aviation & aerospace, communications, banking & finance, e-commerce, information technology, life sciences, media and sport.

With offices in Beijing, Brussels, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, The Hague, Hong Kong, London, Lyon, Madrid, Milan, Munich, Paris, Rome and Stockholm, we offer our clients local expertise within a global context, helping them to realise their business goals both domestically and internationally.

Bird & Bird was identified as one of the Top 50 Law Firms in the world that has “taken the greatest strides towards globalisation while maintaining quality”, in a recent survey carried out by researchers for the PLCWhich Lawyer? Yearbook.

About HP

HP focuses on simplifying technology experiences for all of its customers – from individual consumers to the largest businesses. With a portfolio that spans printing, personal computing, software, services and IT infrastructure, HP is among the world’s largest IT companies, with revenue totalling $104.3 billion for the four fiscal quarters ended 31 Oct 2007. More information about HP (NYSE: HPQ) is available at

More information about HP (NYSE: HPQ) is available at