Status: 26/09/2023, 07:37 a.m.
By: Katharina Bromberger
The term "geriatronics" is already being used in many cases, including in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. And that's exactly how it should be, say its two word creators Dr. Stephan Thiel and Dr. Rainer Steinbrecher. There is no money to be made with it. © Thomas Sehr
Geriatronics is a field that is unique in the world, and it is to be researched in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. The local councillors Dr. Stephan Thiel and Dr. Rainer Steinbrecher invented the term and had it protected. Mayor Elisabeth Koch too. Now local councillor Martin Sielmann accuses them of bias.
Garmisch-Partenkirchen – Martin Sielmann has done it again. He has made an application. Quite normal for a local councillor and a parliamentary group that he forms with Lilian Edenhofer. But Martin Sielmann's proposals are often different. They are happy to contain accusations with political explosive power – should they prove to be true. Which they often enough don't do. Now the Garmisch-Partenkirchen native smells injustice again. The FDP man accuses Mayor Elisabeth Koch (CSU) and the Green councillors Dr. Stephan Thiel and Dr. Rainer Steinbrecher of bias. In addition, an interlocking of political and personal economic interests. The three vigorously reject this.
Dr. Stephan Thiel considers the attacks to be populism. © FOTOPRESS THOMAS SEHR
It all started with a visit to a café in the centre of Garmisch. Along the way, Thiel and Steinbrecher once again talked about robotic assistance systems and artificial intelligence in the service of the elderly. This is the name of the field in which the Technical University of Munich will conduct research in the future on the new campus at the West station area in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. The market as a university location for a scientific field that is not so intensively investigated and developed anywhere else in the world – a more catchy term must be found. Suddenly, there it was: geriatronics. The name that optimally combines the fields of geriatrics and mechatronics – which also covers robotics. Satisfied, Thiel and Steinbrecher ordered their coffee. Finally, the outstanding field of research had a name. The two had it protected for ten years in three categories. Since May 2017, they have owned the trademark rights in Germany, and since November 2017 also internationally, and thus also translations such as geriatronica or geriatronics. They did this to protect the term from misuse, they explain. "It has to be used properly, in the sense of research," says Thiel. "No one is allowed to mess with it."
Dr. Rainer Steinbrecher would like to see more objectivity. © FOTOPRESS THOMAS SEHR
Elisabeth Koch was also enthusiastic about the neologism and also turned to the German Patent Office. "Completely independent, a coincidence." In April 2017, she received the certificate for the term "geriatronics" in a category. "I was really proud." They don't know who actually owns the rights to the English term in Germany. It's not relevant right now. Not even Sielmann is interested in this detail.
Martin Sielmann: "There is clearly bias here"
He is convinced that the three "have acquired, or may acquire, significant capital with the brands in order to potentially derive financial benefit from it by 2027". This is how he and Edenhofer (non-party) formulate it in their motion, in which they demand, among other things, the dismissal of Koch as chairman of the supervisory board of Longleif GaPa gGmbH and the exclusion of the three from decisions concerning the campus site. "There is clearly bias here," says Sielmann. The parliamentary group colleagues go so far as to question all the decisions that have been taken since 2017 on the use of Leifheit's assets and the campus project with the votes of Koch, Thiel and Steinbrecher. In conversation, he also accuses them of violating moral principles, he uses the term compliance. "We can't clarify that with our application." But: "It has no taste, it stinks like a dead deer."
Martin Sielmann thinks the matter stinks. © FOTOPRESS THOMAS SEHR
The mayor and the two local councillors don't smell anything. Because: At no time have they derived a monetary advantage from the registered trademark and they will not do so, they clarify. Koch perceives the accusation as "impudence". Thiel assesses Sielmann's attacks, with which he had formed a parliamentary group until 2017, as "cheap populism". It is well known that he is closely associated with the campus project: He is helping to establish the research location in Garmisch-Partenkirchen for TUM. But that has nothing to do with the geriatronics or the word mark.
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Koch: "I don't and didn't have any personal advantage here"
Koch will transfer its trademark rights to Longleif GaPa gGmbH. "Where they belong." This return is currently in progress. Sielmann sees this as a reaction to his application – which is not true. From the very beginning, she had planned and announced this, says Koch. This can be proven by correspondence with Managing Director Viktor Wohlmannstetter from July 2022 at the latest. "I don't have and didn't have any personal advantage here," Koch emphasizes again.
Elisabeth Koch transfers her trademark rights to Longleif. © PETER KORNATZ
Thiel and Steinbrecher do not think about such a transfer. Completely superfluous, they think. As word creators and scientists, the Green politicians see the right in very good hands. They find it downright ridiculous that they would enrich themselves through trademark law and collect money if the word geriatronics and its variations are used. "We want the term to be used," Thiel emphasizes. He verbally puts five exclamation marks behind the "want". "It has to spread, become known," Steinbrecher affirms. Only: spread properly. If someone misuses the term, they want to be able to intervene. How to get rich with it? Thiel shakes his head. "How, please?"
Thiel and Steinbrecher: A term from research - You can't make money with it
The categories covered by the protection are decisive. Specifically, the Green politicians have had the word mark protected in grades 42, 41 and 44 – Koch only in 42 – i.e. above all the areas of education, training, research, and selected services are covered. Theoretically, anyone who wants to use them officially in this context needs their permission. Now Thiel wonders: "Who would pay for it?" In research and education, of all things? Certainly nobody, that's for sure. And even if there is a way to make money with it, every cent will be reinvested in geriatronics research. "We are very happy to accept ideas on how we can rake in millions with the word." Steinbrecher becomes sarcastic. According to their own statement, the procedure cost them around 5000,<> euros, invested for, as they say, idealistic reasons – now they have to deal with such allegations. "Absurd, simply absurd."
Municipal council meeting on Tuesday, 26 September
The meeting of the Garmisch-Partenkirchen municipal council begins today at 17 p.m. in the town hall (large meeting room). The members are not only concerned with the possible bias. They also appoint a sports officer and discuss events at the Kongresshaus 2025.
Thiel might still be able to understand the criticism if they had protected "Garmi". This is the name of the robot that is intended to support seniors in everyday life. In other words, a concrete product. Like Nutella or Spezi. Maybe one day it could be used to make money. "But not with a term from research."
Municipal council decides on bias
Koch has hired a lawyer. The administration also dealt intensively with the issue of bias in municipal law. There was also an official hearing. Koch wanted them so that everything would go its right way with such serious allegations. On a good three pages, she presents her view of things. An effort that the Green councillors consider exaggerated. They can't understand why the mayor doesn't react more calmly. "I don't know why it's being boiled up so much," says Steinbrecher.
On Tuesday evening (26 September), the municipal council will deal with the matter. Without Thiel. He has put his vacation especially in the actually session-free time. After that, the issue will not be settled anyway – regardless of whether the committee exonerates the three or not. In any case, Sielmann and Edenhofer want to involve the legal supervision, if necessary the administrative court. These bodies are to check whether the Leifheit decisions have been legally effective since 2017.