Whether for the new advertising campaign, the latest update for the vehicle software or the next digital service: Caroline Maier is one of the first to see the innovations from Mercedes-Benz - and immediately subjects them to precise scrutiny. She and her colleagues in the Intellectual Property department at Mercedes-Benz advise the specialist departments on issues relating to competition, media and copyright law. In her interview, the fully qualified lawyer tells us what she particularly loves about her work and how she came to Mercedes-Benz during her legal traineeship.
Ms Maier, as lawyers, you examine all legal issues relating to products, services and communication activities at Mercedes-Benz. How do you go about it?
It really varies. In our IP Clearing department, we support various specialist departments, for example from the Marketing or Communications area, in all matters relating to competition, media and copyright law - this can be extensive advertising campaigns or websites before they are published, or even completely new digital services. A good example of this are launch campaigns for new vehicles. When a new vehicle model is launched, there is usually a whole range of different advertising media. From the claims for the campaign to detailed videos, social media posts about the new model, advertisements or customer emails - we look at all advertising materials before they are published.
What are the legal issues that are involved?
There are many legal obligations that we have to comply with for all advertising and communication materials. From the point of view of competition law, for example, care must be taken to ensure that no misleading statements are made which could induce the customers being addressed to take a certain commercial action. When advertising new vehicle models, we must also ensure that the energy consumption information for the advertised vehicles is correctly shown. These legal requirements also apply when we contact our customers individually. Besides competition law, we also pay attention to other legal aspects, such as copyright law.
And what do you pay attention to when you review a new advertising campaign?
This is mainly about copyright issues. A current example is the campaign about the longevity of the G-Class, with the short film "Immortal Love x G-Class". It is about vampires and their love for the G-Class. Before publication, we take a close look at the advertising material and check whether any intellectual property rights might be infringed. In addition, we pay very close attention to where and how the film was made. Supposedly "minor details" such as a building by a famous architect in the background, or a work of art, could become problematic in terms of copyright.
That means you are one of the first to see a new Mercedes-Benz commercial?
Definitely (laughs). We often support productions all the way from the initial idea through shooting until the release. Of course, it is a great feeling when I later see the finished campaigns on TV or the big posters in the city.
Could you tell us more about your team?
There are eight of us in our department - all fully qualified lawyers. What I find very enriching is that each of us has our own specialist areas. One of my colleagues is a specialist in sponsoring activities, while I am primarily responsible for all digital issues, such as competition law guidance for our online stores, social media or individual vehicle-related communication. We work together very closely as a team. Everyone is always ready to listen, and we exchange ideas on current topics. This exchange is very valuable because it allows you to broaden your own perspective on certain topics, which in turn is useful when advising the departments. We also frequently deal with issues where no clear case law yet exists.
Can you give an example of such a new topic area?
Our vehicles are becoming more and more digital. Increasing digitisation makes it possible for vehicles to receive software updates "over the air", meaning via a wireless interface. This new technology needs to be looked at closely from different legal angles. Electric mobility and autonomous driving raise further legal questions. Shaping the mobility of tomorrow is also partly a matter of law. At Mercedes-Benz, we can help to shape future topics like these, which are part of our business strategy. I find that particularly exciting.
How did you actually join Mercedes-Benz?
I have always been interested in cars. When I was at school we went on a guided tour of Mercedes-AMG in Affalterbach. We were able to see the engine production facility and the sound lab. That really impressed me, and the brand just wouldn't let me go. At the end of my law studies, I applied for a traineeship at Mercedes-AMG, which gave me an initial insight into the Group. I found the variety of topics that confront lawyers in the company very exciting. As a global company, Mercedes-Benz offers so many opportunities, which is why I then joined the Intellectual Property team in 2019 after completing my second state examination.
What makes Mercedes-Benz special for you as an employer?
The people: I often work with colleagues from very different fields. The team spirit and open communication in the company are very special. And of course our products are unique. I think our electric models and the corresponding strategic orientation of the company are excellent. I was able to test drive the EQS at the IAA show, which was another very special experience - that's modern luxury. Furthermore, for me as a lawyer, Mercedes-Benz offers many options for my career, as well as flexibility, for example when it comes to working time models. In short: the overall package suits me well.
And finally: If you could ask a person from recent history one question, who and what would you ask?
I would like to meet Albert Einstein and ask him about the theory of relativity, and hear what he has to say about our modern world. The universe is something that has always fascinated me, in part because we know so little about it despite all the research: Is there life elsewhere? And how did it all come about? Hearing Albert Einstein's opinion on this over a cup of coffee would be extremely interesting (laughs).
Since her voluntary social year with the City of Stuttgart, Caroline Maier (31) has been passionate about legal issues. Born in Ludwigsburg, she therefore studied law at the University of Constance and the Eberhard Karls University of Tübingen. Because she particularly appreciates the diversity of topics in business and industry, she made a conscious decision to pursue a career in the corporate world after her second state examination, and joined the "Intellectual Property" department at Mercedes-Benz in 2019. When she is not advising the departments, Caroline Maier spends a lot of time outdoors, for example on a trip through Norway in a camper van or hiking in the mountains. And for relaxation in between, she enjoys playing the piano - pieces by Beethoven and Mussorgsky are the best way for her to switch off.