Case Study Continued: Patents as a Marketing Tool
CASE STUDY: DAIMLER AG — MERCEDES-BENZ: USING A PATENT PORTFOLIO AS A MARKETING TOOL
Daimler AG has recently expanded its patent strategy beyond offensive, defensive or licensing purposes. It has recently been using its patent portfolio as a means of promoting its brand. It has created an audiovisual advertisement for its luxury sedan E-Class series in which the vehicle drives along empty streets and is followed by a swirl of paper patent documents with a narrator stating the following:
To hold a patent that has changed the modern world would define you as an innovator. To hold more than one patent of this calibre would define you as a true leader. To hold over 80,000, well, that would make you the creators of the 2012 Mercedes Benz E-Class.
In this case, the company is relying on a perception that holding an extensive patent portfolio signifies that it is a leader in innovation. As such, its patent holdings have become messaging tools to enhance the value of the Mercedes trademark and brand. This is an interesting twist on an IP strategy.
However, a strategy like this has its risks. Some consider this a poor marketing ploy.
In this day and age, I’m surprised that anyone would launch a commercial that implies that lots of patents necessarily means lots of innovation, and I’m particularly surprised that Mercedes, of all companies, would do so, given the demographic sector to which it’s marketing itself. If you can afford a Mercedes, there’s a good chance you work in high-tech; and if you work in high-tech, you know that…in certain technology sectors it was easy to obtain US patents on obvious or even known inventions.4
Others would say that Mercedes has achieved its purpose of raising awareness about the brand and has used its patents as an effective messaging source.
WHAT ARE THE LESSONS LEARNED FROM THE MERCEDES EXAMPLE?
- In an industry where perception is important, staying ahead of the pack and distinguishing yourself as a global leader becomes paramount.
- Recognizing that different countries have different legal rules and practices in respect of each form of IP allows a company to tailor its global strategy, including its litigation strategy, to maximize these jurisdictional differences.
- A vast IP portfolio can serve as an innovative marketing tool to convey certain messages about a company.
We will continue this discussion on “layering of IP” and provide more examples and case studies in the remaining modules.
4 David Feigelson, “Does Mercedes Really Have 80,000 Patents?” (10 September 2013), America-Israel Patent Law (blog), online: <www.iliplaw.com/americaisrael_patent_law/2013/09/does-mercedes-really-have-80000-patents.html>.