Back in May, we revealed that BMW had filed a European trademark application for the name “R 12″ to be used on a future motorcycle model, surely intended to be a cruiser that would sit below the massive R 18 in the firm’s lineup. Now there’s a growing bank of evidence for those bikes, as a host of additional applications have been made to cover BMW’s use of the name elsewhere in the world. Additionally, BMW has added the “R 12 S” name to its armory with a trademark application in Germany, suggesting a second machine is under development.
Since our original story, trademark filings for the R 12 name have emerged in Australia, the US, Germany, and via the World Intellectual Property Organization. All appear to have been successful applications apart from in the United States. Here, attempts to protect the R 12 name have been discontinued, presumably due to other products sharing the same title, and instead BMW has filed a new trademark application to cover the name “BMW R 12.”
In all of the applications, the R 12 name is specifically intended to be used on motorcycles, so this isn’t some new car or other product that BMW is planning, and most recently the firm has introduced a new German application for the “R 12 S” name. Although it’s not unknown for companies to try to gain trademark rights over swathes of names that they might use in future, even if there are no specific plans to use them—BMW did it several years ago with the S 600 RR name, in case it decided to make a smaller sportsbike to sit alongside the S 1000 RR—that doesn’t appear to be the case here. Not only have recent changes in trademark law—particularly in the US—and the failed attempt to trademark “R 12″ here, followed by a new application for “BMW R 12,” suggest this is a specific upcoming model and the firm wants to use the same branding on it globally.
Given that the only other model in BMW’s range to use this format of name is the R 18 cruiser, it makes sense that the R 12 will be a lower-displaced model that follows in its footsteps. Ironically, BMW left the cruiser market in 2004, having decided that its 1,171cc R 1200 C had too small of engine capacity to compete in a market where engine sizes were rapidly growing. At the time, bikes like Kawasaki’s Vulcan 2000 and Honda’s VTX1800 were on the market, and Triumph had just launched the 2,294cc Rocket III. Bigger was better and the R 1200 C looked anemic in comparison. Now, having finally reentered the cruiser market with the vast R 18, there’s a distinct trend toward smaller, more lithe cruiser models. Harley’s 1,252cc Sportster S and the 975cc Nightster, for example, and Indian’s 1,133cc Scout show that cruisers with water-cooled DOHC engines have been accepted by the market, so BMW’s existing R 1250 engine could be used as the basis for the R 12, or the firm could opt to fall back on its older 1,171cc air-cooled design, as used in the R nineT.
The new R 12 S trademark application is likely to indicate that a higher-spec or sportier version of the bike is under consideration as well. BMW’s recent modus operandi for launching bikes into new market segments has been to test the waters with a near-production concept. For the R 18, the first trademark application was filed in early 2018, with the Concept R 18 show bike appearing around 12 months later and production starting in 2020. Given that the first of the new R 12 trademarks was filed in 2021, perhaps we should expect to see something official from BMW on the new model fairly soon.