Branding Jean Sibelius
Composer’s heirs register trademark to prevent tacky exploitation
Sibelius ties, Sibelius scarves, Sibelius pens, Sibelius manicure sets... The composer genius turns to all kinds of items. Sibelius sparkling wine is already an established bottle on the Alko shelves. Now various kinds of business gifts are flowing into the market.
The heirs of Jean Sibelius are facing a dilemma: the composer’s copyright protection expires in 2027, 70 years after his death. Had the Sibelius trademark not been registered by his heirs by then, anyone could have done it and started manufacturing whatever under the brand.
Therefore the Sibelius trademark was registered. But this that means products also have to be manufactured under the title. Otherwise protection of the trademark will expire.
"When Sibelius died in 1957, his estate consisted of six people", explains Pertti Virkkunen, the composer’s great-grandson.
Virkkunen is the chairman of the board of the Jean Sibelius Rights Holders and the Sibelius Foundation. "In those days managing such affairs was easy." Today, the number of heirs is 36, and convening them all to assess every single request concerning Sibelius is not terribly practical.
The composer’s estate has therefore set up a five-person committee to handle all issues from permission to arrange Sibelius’s music to the use of his name.
"Before the committee existed, we received a request of the use of the closing chords of the 5th Symphony in an international car commercial. We’re talking about a deal worth millions of Finnish markka. A meeting involving all of the heirs decided to turn it down. Had the committee existed then, I believe we would have reached an agreement", Virkkunen says.
Less complicated requests have also been presented to the heirs. Tragically, the world will never know what it would have been like to plough fields with a Sibelius tractor or cut paper with Sibelius scissors.
Right from the start the aim is to profile the Jean Sibelius brand as one of high quality. Even souvenir T-shirts will be uniquely designed just for the Sibelius brand. Mass-produced T-shirts with a mere logo printed on them simply will not do.
For the purpose of aiding the manufacturing and marketing of commercial products, Jean Sibelius Marketing has been established. The organisation handles all the licensing and rights issues related to the brand.
"The profits go to the operating businesses. The Sibelius Foundation gets a cut, which is used to promote Finnish music. The family does not earn money with this", Virkkunen points out firmly.
Jean Sibelius Marketing