ZEISS Logo auf einer Kamera

Lens in a square

The ZEISS logo

The reunification of Carl Zeiss 20 years ago is also reflected in today’s company logo. It is a combination of the company logos used by the Carl Zeiss companies in the West and East during the time when Germany was divided. The different development of the trademarks reflects the separate development of the two companies during that period.

The ZEISS lens when the trademark was registered in 1904.

The first trademark of Carl Zeiss

Starting in 1906, the ZEISS lens was found on nearly all devices and printed materials produced by Carl Zeiss. To maintain the intellectual property rights, the logo is still used in certain strategic business units to this day, for instance on brass plates showing the production numbers of planetarium projectors.

The lens frame shape in the former company logo is based on the rear element of the famous Tessar camera lens. It was designed by Emil Dönitz, the head of the patent division of Carl Zeiss, in 1902. The logotype was presumably created by the artist Erich Kuithan, who moved to Jena in 1903. In May 1904 the trademark was filed with the Imperial Patent Office and recorded in the trademark register.

Imitation of the lens logo by a Dutch company in the 1920s.

The lens becomes a trademark

The lens became a brand label that stood for optical and precision mechanical excellence. This was also reflected in the multitudinous imitations: other companies wanted to benefit from the renown of the Carl Zeiss instruments. In the picture, you can see the imitation of the lens logo by a Dutch company in the 1920s.

The logo of Zeiss Ikon.

Logo variations

As early as the 1920s, various subsidiaries of Carl Zeiss used an altered form of the lens logo. For example, Zeiss Ikon AG, in which Carl Zeiss was the majority shareholder.

The lens with ZEISS OPTON

The longest court case in the history of East Germany

After World War II, the Zeissians deported by the Americans founded the Zeiss Opton facility in Oberkochen, Baden-Württemberg. It seemed logical to adapt the trademark, similar to what Zeiss Ikon had done.
The companies in Jena and Oberkochen continued to work closely together until 1953. However, the development of Carl Zeiss in Oberkochen and VEB Carl Zeiss Jena took very different paths as of spring 1953, as the East German government cut off all contact between the two companies.

The logo of Carl Zeiss in Oberkochen from 1953-1971

The trademark proceedings of Carl Zeiss

In February 1954, Carl Zeiss, Oberkochen, filed a lawsuit against Carl Zeiss Jena to prevent its continued use of the name Carl Zeiss, the lens trademark and other trademarks such as product names in West Germany. This led to the longest legal trial in the history of East Germany.

From then on, Carl Zeiss, Oberkochen, steered an independent course and called itself simply “Carl Zeiss“ wherever legally permissible. The design of the lens changed accordingly, The word “Jena” was removed. “Carl” was now in the upper, tapered lens, and “Zeiss” in the lower one.

Carl Zeiss, Oberkochen, operated in the East under the name “Opton“.

Carl Zeiss, Oberkochen, operated in the East under the name “Opton“.

After proceedings lasting nearly 18 years, the London Agreement in April 1971 regulated how the trademark and the Carl Zeiss company name was to be used in the East and West. Carl Zeiss in Oberkochen and VEB Carl Zeiss Jena divided up the global hemispheres between them for business purposes and each agreed not to use the ZEISS brand in the respective other half of the world. The Oberkochen-based company operated in the Eastern Bloc countries under the name “Opton”. VEB Carl Zeiss Jena used the name “Jenoptik” and the trademark “aus Jena” (from Jena) in the Western countries.

VEB Carl Zeiss Jena operated in Western countries with this logo.

VEB Carl Zeiss Jena operated in western countries with this logo.

ZEISS lettering with angular letters.

Different developments in East and West Germany

After the London Agreement, the two companies in Oberkochen and Jena came up with very different logos. Carl Zeiss in Oberkochen used only the ZEISS logotype in strikingly angular letters.

ZEISS in a square with West Germany at the bottom

ZEISS in a square with West Germany at the bottom

At the end of the 1970's, the name was then embedded in a square. To distinguish the company clearly from the one in Jena, “West Germany” was added as the designation of origin. In Jena, on the other hand, the lens was preserved until reunification.

The light blue ZEISS Logo.

Reunited company with a common trademark

The reunification of the Carl Zeiss company in 1991 was also to be reflected in the common logo. A new composite mark for the Carl Zeiss Group was created in 1993/94 — the blue ZEISS logo.
Both the square and the lens are used in this logo. The lens curve replaces the bottom straight line of the square. Moreover, the ZEISS logo was modernized with rounded letters.

Logo since 1997.

Logo since 1997

The logo as we know it today has been in use since 1997. The current blue (Pantone Reflex Blue C) has replaced the earlier, lighter blue.