Custom body makers should take note: Daimler AG takes a dim view of replicas. Mercedes-Benz Classic today destroyed an unauthorized copy of a Mercedes-Benz 300SL.
A company based in Germany had built a replica of a W198 Series 300SL with a fiberglass body. When it was discovered, the vehicle was seized by German customs officials and the builder was taken to court where he lost both the case and the car. Or at least he lost the body.
A team at Mercedes-Benz used parts center first removed the body from the chassis, a process that was eased by the light fiberglass shell that weighed just 326 pounds. The body and all its parts were then fed to a pair of 30-tom presses that reduced everything to chunks.
The body shape of the legendary gullwing model has been trademarked by Daimler AG and, even in Germany, it’s illegal to build, offer or sell a replica of the vehicle with or without any Daimler logos or trademarks.
While most of what American automakers consider “trade dress,” which includes overall appearance and styling, is protected by U.S. copyright and trademark laws for as long as the company wishes to maintain registration, the same is generally not true in Germany. Under German law, trade dress protections generally expire 20 years after the end of production.
However, Daimler took extra steps to protect the famous gullwing design and it has been protected by copyright for a number of decades. Daimler also trademarked the body shape.