Mercedes-Benz has been banned from selling convertibles and roadsters equipped with its innovative Airscarf system in its home market of Germany over a decades-old patent dispute.

The German Federal Court of Justice says Mercedes' dealerships must disable the system on new cars being sold in Germany.

It isn't clear just how the automaker's retail outlets will have to disconnect the system, and if that could be immediately reversed. The good news is that the patent rights on Airscarf expire at the end of this year, so the system can be reactivated then by dealers.

Ruling only applies in Germany

Mercedes will face a €250,000 (about $283,000) fine from the German government if it does not disable the feature, which has a roughly 66 percent take rate in Germany, according to Automotive News (subscription required). When switched on, the Airscarf system blows warm air through the front seat headrests to warm driver and passenger necks in colder weather.

The hefty decision comes as a result of a dispute between Mercedes parent company Daimler and a patent agency. Mercedes first introduced Airscarf in 1998, but inventor Ludwig Schatzinger patented it himself in 1996. Schatzinger isn't directly involved in the lawsuit and has remained mum on the subject.

The ruling does not apply to Mercedes models sold outside of Germany, however.


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