So begins a little-known handwritten document from 1882. It is an assignment of rights for the trademark “A.W.F.” to Eberhard Faber (the son of Eberhard Faber I, who died in 1879). It is signed by Lothar von Faber, head of A.W. Faber in Stein, Germany.
The rights to “A.W.F.” were sold and assigned “in consideration of the sum of one dollar”, and applied only to its use in the United States. At the time, Eberhard Faber was the main distributor of A.W. Faber’s goods in the U.S.
At first glance it seems like this document was written and signed by Lothar von Faber, but a closer look at the handwriting suggests it was Eberhard Faber who wrote the document, and was only signed by Baron Lothar. For example, the name “Eberhard Faber” in the document looks very similar to Eberhard Faber II’s signature:
Second, the ink used for Lothar von Faber’s signature and “October 7th” appears darker than that used for the main text of the letter:
Here is where it gets interesting.
Following Lothar’s death in 1896, his widow, Ottilie, sought to secure a trademark in the U.S. for “A.W. Faber.” Her application was rejected based on a mark already on the books by Eberhard Faber:
Apparently, Eberhard Faber had also applied for the mark “A.W. Faber” since at the time he was manufacturing low-grade lead pencils on behalf of the parent company. Through her attorneys, Ottilie von Faber submitted an affidavit attesting to her ownership and use of the mark “A.W. Faber”, and was granted letters patent for the same in 1897.
Ottilie von Faber also stated in her affidavit that Eberhard Faber, upon discovering (or perhaps being told) that he is not the rightful owner of the trademark “A.W. Faber”, assigned such to Lothar von Faber on May 10th, 1882. So why was the above assignment issued to Eberhard Faber in October of 1882? Perhaps it was a bit of a compromise: Lothar would permit “A.W.F.” on pencils manufactured and sold by Eberhard Faber, but would not go as far as allowing him the rights to “A.W. Faber.” Even in these early years of international patents and trademarks you can see how undocumented nuances, such as the difference between “A.W.F.” and “A.W. Faber”, could become the stuff of lawsuits.
But all of this was just a prelude. A few years later the Fabers would be engaged in a legal battle over trademarks that would last more than a decade. Eberhard Faber II ultimately put his experience to good use however, as he would eventually become the president of the U.S. Trademark Association—a position he would hold for more than forty years.
Fascinating. Thank you for your detective work.