Vehicles & Transport Team of the Year: BMW

The lightning pace of the auto industry provides plenty of challenges for the guardians of the BMW brand. Based in Munich, a small team of lawyers – supported by paralegals – looks after three of the industry’s most popular makes: BMW, Mini and Rolls-Royce. All told, the portfolio comprises tens of thousands of trademarks, designs and domain names around the world. The past year has seen the group expand its focus on markets beyond Europe and North America, as well as assisting with the launch of a new BMW sub-brand – BMW i – for electric cars and mobility services.

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Jochen Volkmer (BMW), Ekkehard Stolz (Lichtenstein, Körner & Partners), Aimee Gessner (BMW)

Collaborating closely with other departments such as the anti-piracy unit and in-house legal teams at BMW’s national sales companies, the trademark group enjoys strong support across the corporate structure. “BMW as a company has always had a strong focus on brand definition and brand development, so there is no doubt that the work we do for the company has value,” group head Jochen Volkmer explains. “This is an advantage and a great basis for performing our legal work concerning our brands. BMW has efficient structures and a centralised strategy with respect to its product and brand developments, so it helps us that IP strategy is also centralised in Munich and allows us in legal to have a consistent and centralised approach for our activities worldwide.”

Unlike many of its rivals, BMW has managed to retain a true in-house team, observes senior legal counsel Aimee Gessner: “We still do a lot of prosecution and enforcement work on our own. We are fortunate to have been able to avoid the outsourcing trend that has hit many other brand owners in our industry. With respect to our work and relationships with outside counsel, we get involved as much as possible in how the cases are handled and we invest time and effort in building strong relationships so that our cases are handled as efficiently and effectively as possible.”

The team’s workload has steadily grown as BMW’s business has expanded – and in some ways, fundamentally evolved. “We know that there will new challenges in the future covering a wider spectrum of activities than what has been usual in the automobile sector in the past,” says Volkmer. “Our new BMW i sub-brand, for example, includes not only innovative products and technology, but also focuses on new ways to help people stay mobile – whether this be with a car-sharing service, such as Drive Now, or with new technology or new apps or information services offered by selected BMW i partners.”

As challenging as the work may be, the whole department is clearly motivated by a strong commitment to the company and its products. “The BMW, Mini and Rolls-Royce logos are much more than symbols for us,” explains Gessner. “We see and experience the entire story behind those symbols: the spirit, hard work, creativity, innovation and ideas of our engineers, designers and all of our colleagues at the BMW Group. That’s incredibly motivating and a huge part of our success.”

Other nominees:

Caterpillar

Chrysler

Jaguar Land Rover

Toyota

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