2000 Georg Jensen Signature Dispute
In 1985, the Georg Jensen silversmith had officially merged with Royal Copenhagen. While the Georg Jensen tradition and product line was going to continue, plans were underway to reinvent the existing Georg Jensen logo, starting in 1989 with the opening of their new Chicago location. The new logo was to incorporate the Georg Jensen name, a crown, and Georg Jensen's original signature, which was to put onto all of their printed materials, such as catalogs, shopping bags, tissue paper, and so on. The new design was considered successful, and was used during the early 90's and even made its way onto to a few of the items in their expanded home line, including leather wallets, scarves, and other non-silver items.
When this logo was filed with the respective offices in both the US and Denmark, all had seemed well, and the presumption was that the company had already existing rights for all the components to this logo redesign. Unfortunately, in 1993, Ib Jensen, grandson of Georg Jensen, had filed a complaint about the usage of the signature in this new logo, requesting a cease and desist.
The primary objection to the use of the signature was that, although Royal Copenhagen had now owned the rights to the silversmithy and all the materials related to the business (including the rights to the old logos and printed materials, including the rights to use the name “Georg Jensen), Georg Jensen's actual signature was not something the company could use, and in fact, was something the estate of Georg Jensen had the rights to.
One of the first things to be established was that the Georg Jensen signature didn't have a common usage as a logo in the past. It turned out that it was only used in 3 catalogs and some small other places throughout its history.
Next was to establish the difference between the actual words “Georg Jensen” and the signature. Though this sounds rather silly to some, it is an important distinction to make. A signature tends to be a unique piece of “artwork” that bears more meaning than just the name itself, (just as your signature is used to verify official documents). Laws in Denmark protect signatures of the deceased, and provide the rights to them to the family estates.
Royal Copenhagen then tried to propose using the Georg Jensen name (which they owned) in a signature style font, however, unfortunately, the objection was raised that the “handwriting” style was too close to Georg Jensen's original signature to be used.
The time limitation before the signature would be in common usage arose, as signatures can be used as trademarks if the person in question is “long dead”, however, at the time, Georg Jensen had only been deceased for 65 years, and did not qualify as long dead.
The judge finally ruled in favor of Ib Jensen, and damages were paid and the logo with using the Georg Jensen logo were to be phased out, to which there were further discussions between Royal Copenhagen and Ib Jensen, and to this day the signature is no longer in use.