Rooting out counterfeiters, learning the ropes of a new legal system, interdisciplinary collaboration with colleagues from around the world: Sven-Eric Widmayer is a lawyer for brand protection and the right contact person at Daimler when it comes to product counterfeiting by third parties. This can range from a counterfeit brake disk or an airbag to a replica gear set. In this interview, the 34-year-old reveals what customers should pay attention to, how he identifies counterfeiters and why lawyers should join Daimler.
Hello Mr. Widmayer, please introduce yourself briefly.
I’m 34 years old and I have worked for Daimler since 2014. I studied in Tübingen, where I also completed my first and second state examination. During this time, I gained initial professional experience doing internships in small and large law firms. In 2012, I joined Daimler as a trainee lawyer, back then with a focus on competition law.
Why did you choose Daimler as your employer?
Although I specialized in commercial law in my studies, I never thought I would work in a corporate group one day. At university, most people wanted to be star attorneys and work for big clients. Later on, I discovered that for me personally, I would like a job in which I always experienced new things and which I could passionately get involved in. Daimler offers me exactly this kind of work culture. There are unbelievably exciting legal topics in the Intellectual Property unit. And with Mercedes-Benz we have one of the most valuable brands in the world in our portfolio – this very much appeals to product counterfeiters.
What motivates you in your job?
My work achieves something. I know why I get out of bed every morning. Every year we collect potentially dangerous counterfeit products, e.g. replacement parts, from the streets. This means that I am actively helping to make less accidents happen. That makes me proud.
What exactly is working as a brand protector like?
To put it simply, we hunt down product counterfeits. We intervene when a third party violates our trademark rights. This could be a technical patent, copyrights or quite simply counterfeit products. We root these out and take them out of circulation as quickly as possible. Ultimately, counterfeit products should not become available. In doing this, we work closely with local authorities, search warehouses together or follow transports. Although I spend a lot of time at my desk, I don't want to give you the wrong impression – I still spend a lot of time at my desk.. Nevertheless, we sometimes have to roll up our sleeves and get into a container to search it – which is an exciting change of scenery.
What tasks await you at your desk?
The tasks vary widely. Alongside the traditional internal consultation, we also look after customs inquiries when counterfeits have been seized, for example. I furthermore research counterfeit products online, for example on platforms or from individual sellers. When we have identified a counterfeiter, we consider the correct strategy along with our local partner. We have to take into consideration the local legal situation in this because you cannot always proceed according to the same pattern. I can't imagine a more exciting job!
How can customers protect themselves against counterfeit replacement parts?
Daimler has authorized dealers. As a customer, you can be sure that they will install genuine parts. If you decide to purchase via an online platform you should always listen to your gut feeling. If the product only costs half the price of a genuine part then it is very questionable as to whether it is indeed a genuine part.
You are specifically responsible for the Asia region. Are there any peculiarities here?
Statistics state that more than 80 percent of all counterfeit products come from Asia. It is therefore a very important region for us. Our job is to prevent counterfeit products leaving the country of origin. Once the products are in circulation, it is much more difficult to root them out again.
Please tell us a little bit more about your team. How is it put together?
In our team we not only have fully qualified lawyers, but also commercial lawyers and product experts. We are basically divided up according to regions. We have an easy-going work atmosphere and we are in contact with engineers and product managers a lot. That's what makes the job so exciting. Another big advantage is that we work internationally and are in daily contact with colleagues from other countries. Although I am a lawyer for German law, I also deal with Chinese and American law, for example.
How would you describe what Daimler means to you in one sentence?
Daimler is cool, dynamic, value-oriented and a piece of home for me with fascinating products and a great sense of comradeship.