The Evolution of the Coca-Cola Logo
© 2014 Blaine Martin
The first year after Coca-Cola's introduction
Contrary to common thought, the script Coca-Cola that we are so familiar with wasn't used during the first year of Coca-Cola's existence. Even though Coca-Cola was first served on May 8th, 1886 and it wasn't until June 16th, 1877 that the first use of the Coca-Cola script logo came into use.
The first newspaper advertisement for Coca-Cola appeared in the Atlanta Journal on May 29th, 1886 containing the words Coca-Cola in capital letters. A little over a year later, John Pemberton applied for a patent with the United States Patent Office on June 6th, 1887 and received the registration on June 28th, 1887. The label he used to apply for the registration also contained the words Coca-Cola in all capital letters. No use of Coca-Cola in script is known during this period.
During this first year of Coca-Cola's introduction to Atlanta's fountains, legend tells us and historical accounts corroborate, that Frank Robinson, the Coca-Cola Company's bookkeeper was busy perfecting the alliterative spencerian script logo. Logic would dictate that if Mr. Robinson had the the script version available during this first year, it most certainly would have been used.
The first inconsistent versions of the early script logo
The first version of the script logo appears in Atlanta area newspaper ads dating from 1887. This early logo bore no registration mark since it was not yet registered as a trademark in the patent office. The trademark registration was finally granted on January 31, 1893. At that time the logo (actually many varying but similar versions) had been in use for nearly five years.This early logo was very crude and lacked the symmetry and evenness of later versions. It differed most from later logos with the use of the tail on the beginning o in Coca. It wasn't applied in a constant manner and soon fell from use — being seen on only a handful of the items we collect today.
The first registered trademark Coca-Cola script logo
Even though the Coca-Cola script logo had been in use for over five years in various forms, it wasn't until May 14th, 1892 that an application for trademark was filed with the U. S. Patent Office. Over a year later on January 31, 1893 the trademark registration was granted. From that time on Coca-Cola (nearly always) appeared with the word "trademark" or the words "trade mark" either in the tail of the first C or somewhere very near the logo.
TRADE MARK REGISTERED begins to appear
A new trademark statute was passed in 1905 requiring companies to re-register their logos. It is interesting to note that unlike the previous version that had the words "Trade Mark" in the tail, this time the Coca-Cola Company registered the logo without any text in the tail of the C. Exactly why is unknown, but it is known that the company had been using the words "Trade Mark Registered" in the tail of the C since as early as 1903, and they continued using it going forward.
TRADE MARK REG. U.S. PAT. OFF. begins to appear
A 1920 law required all trademark owners to use the terminology "Registered in the U. S. Patent Office" as the trademark notification with their logos. Coca-Cola chose to use the abbreviated form "Reg. U. S. Pat. Off." and placed it in the tail of the C—the same location as the previous notification. Oddly, this change did not take place on Coca-Cola advertising until 1930 — ten years after the law was enacted.
REG. U.S. PAT. OFF. appears under logo
In 1941 the trademark notification was moved from the tail of the C and was centered underneath the words "Coca-Cola". Although the mandate was for the notification to read "Reg. U. S. Pat. Off." — the notification can be found with several different variations.
The trademark information is simplified
Beginning in the early 1950's the trademark designation had been simplified to "Trade-mark ®" and began to be used on some items. It wasn't until about 1962 that this usage became common practice.
The Dynamic Ribbon and Arden Square logo introduction
In late 1969 Coca-Cola introduced a new branding program replacing the Arciform and Things go better with Coke design devices used during the previous decade. This new program introduced a design vehicle known as the Arden Square. The Arden Square is essentially a square with the Coca-Cola logo and what is known as the Dynamic Ribbon device. At this time the word "Drink" above Coca-Cola was replaced with "Enjoy".
The registration mark becomes simply ®
About 1991 the words Trade-mark were dropped from the designation and ® was simply placed at the end of the logo.