The silhouette and outer appearance of the first Porsche is world famous. Up until today, we see the charismatic shaping mirrored in the current model series. It has been a remarkable and uncomparable success story ever since the first chief designer Erwin Komenda and his team worked out the initial Porsche design. Lately, Komenda’s heiress has taken the position that she should continuously participate in the revenues the car manufacturer generates with its current model series. Her reasoning is that – as mentioned above – the genuine shaping shines through.
The Regional Court of Stuttgart had to deal with the case. Komenda’s heiress based her motion on the so-called “bestseller” paragraph as set out in Sec. 32a of the German Copyright Act [Urheberrechtsgesetz – UrhG]. This provision allows for additional fairness compensation in cases where the author’s initial remuneration has proven to be inappropriate compared to the overall revenue generated with the work. However, the judges in Stuttgart denied the heiress such compensation (judgment of 26 July 2018, Ref. 17 O 1324/17, press release). In the court’s view, the current Porsche model series represent a free use within the meaning of Sec. 24(1) UrhG not triggering a right for additional compensation.
The plaintiff, Ingrid Steineck, is the daughter of the former Porsche chief designer Erwin Komenda. Until his death in 1966, Komenda worked for Porsche’s predecessor company. Among other things, he was involved in the development of the outer shaping of the famous chassis of Porsche’s 356 and 911. For his work, he received the ordinary salary of a chief design engineer in those days.
According to Ms. Steineck, the current model series, to a large extent, adopts and reflects her father’s original bodywork. Therefore, she sued for payment of the aforementioned fairness compensation. According to Sec. 32a(1) UrhG, the author – or his heirs – is entitled to such equitable on-top participation if the agreed remuneration must be considered “conspicuously disproportionate to the proceeds and benefits derived from the use of the work“.
This type of motion has been put forward on various occasions lately. For instance, in December 2017 the Higher Regional Court of Munich, based on the “bestseller” paragraph, granted the chief cameraman of the famous German movie “Das Boot” from 1981, an equitable on-top participation amounting to € 588,000 (cf. our German blog post). In the present case, the plaintiff aimed for substantially more than half a million Euros. She claimed an additional compensation up to € 20 million.
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