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.

Further Information

Die ZEISS Linse aus der Warenzeichenanmeldung von 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.

In order to maintain the industrial property rights, the logo is still used today in individual business divisions, for example on brass plates with the production numbers of planetarium projectors.

The shape of the lens frame of the former company logo is based on the rear part of the famous Tessar objective 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.

Nachahmung des Linsenzeichens durch eine holländische Firma aus den 20er Jahren.

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.

Das Logo von 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.

Die Linse mit 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 worked 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.

Das Logo von Carl Zeiss in Oberkochen von 1953-1971.

The Trademark Proceedings of Carl Zeiss

In February 1954, Carl Zeiss, Oberkochen, filed a suit against the continued use by Carl Zeiss Jena of the name Carl Zeiss, the lens logo, and other trademarks and product names in West Germany.

There followed the longest court case in the history of East Germany.

Carl Zeiss, Oberkochen, now charted its own course and referred to itself, wherever it could legally do so, simply as “Carl Zeiss.”

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, trat im Osten als "Opton" auf.

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 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.

Mit diesem Logo trat der VEB Carl Zeiss Jena in den westlichen Ländern auf.

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

Der Schriftzug ZEISS in eckigen Buchstaben.

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 im Quadrat mit West Germany darunter.

ZEISS in a square with West Germany at the bottom

At the end of the 1970s, 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.

Das hellblaue ZEISS Logo.

Reunited company with a common trademark

The reunification of the Carl Zeiss company in 1991 was also to be reflected in a 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 lower line of the square is replaced by the curve of the lens. Moreover, the ZEISS logo was modernized with rounded letters.

Logo seit 1997.

Logo since 1997

This is the way the logo has looked since 1997 and is the way we know it today. The current blue (Pantone Reflex Blue C) has replaced the earlier, lighter blue.