As mentioned above, the former Sohmer company ceased manufacturing pianos when its Pennsylvania factory closed in 1994, and by 2001 the original U.S. registrations for the Sohmer trademark had expired. In 2001, two different companies applied to register the trademark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office: Persis International, Inc., a Chicago-based piano distributor; and Burgett, Inc., owner of PianoDisc. For a number of years, pianos bearing the Sohmer name have been distributed by two companies. Persis began selling its Sohmer-branded pianos in 2001. Samick Music Corporation (SMC), the North American distributor of Samick-made pianos, began selling its own Sohmer-branded pianos under a purported license from Burgett in 2003.
Beginning in 2004, Persis and Burgett (and, later, SMC) were involved in a number of legal disputes regarding the rightful ownership of the Sohmer trademark. Although Persis was the first to both apply for and use the trademark in 2001, and therefore would normally be first in line to receive it, Burgett argued that its application should have priority under the law because it acquired the original Sohmer trademark registrations when it purchased the assets of Mason & Hamlin out of bankruptcy in 1996, and because of the long history of use of the Sohmer name by its predecessors. However, citing the fact that Burgett had let the trademark registrations expire and had not provided evidence of its own use of the name in commerce, the Trademark Office denied Burgett's claim. Then, in an attempt to reestablish its rights to the trademark under the theory of "acquired distinctiveness" (a legal term) through continuous use, Burgett, in a sworn affidavit, claimed that it had used the Sohmer name in commerce continuously for the previous five years (since at least 1999), a claim that Persis disputed at trial. In 2009, as the trial was nearing completion, Burgett assigned its still-unregistered trademark application, and any alleged rights it had in the Sohmer trademark, to SMC, and SMC quickly settled its dispute with Persis. Under the settlement, Peris is the undisputed owner of the Sohmer trademark worldwide, and SMC stopped selling Sohmer pianos in 2010.
The Samick-made pianos can be expected to remain on dealers' showroom floors for the near future, until sold, and Samick will continue to honor the warranties of the instruments it manufactured. (Note: Persis's pianos are labeled "Sohmer," and SMC's are labeled "Sohmer & Co."
Sohmer pianos from Persis International are manufactured by Royale, a Korean firm descended from a former joint venture between the German manufacturer Ibach and the Korean manufacturer Daewoo, neither of which any longer makes pianos. During the German-Korean joint venture, the string scales, bridges, soundboards, rib dimensions, actions, keys, and hammers were redesigned by Ibach to German standards. Models include a 50" vertical and 5' 3", 5' 10", and 7' 2" grands. The pianos have high-quality European components, such as Renner actions, Abel hammers, Delignit pinblocks, Röslau strings, and Ciresa solid spruce soundboards.
Warranty: 10 years, parts and labor, to original purchaser.
STECK, GEO. — See Sejung.
25 South Wickham Rd.
Melbourne, Florida 32904
Pianos made by: Thüringer Pianoforte GmbH, Eisenberg, Germany
This company, formerly known as Wilh. Steinberg Pianofortefabrik, was formed after the reunification of Germany by the merger of several East German piano companies that collectively trace their origins back to 1877. In addition to its own pianos, Steinberg makes several other European piano brands under OEM agreements. The company also specializes in custom cabinets and finishes. Piano production is about 700 verticals and 80 grands per year.
In 2009, Steinberg introduced a new marketing concept that involves selling pianos at three levels of quality. The first level, IQ, is the traditionally crafted piano that the company has made entirely in Germany for many years. These high-quality instruments have beech rims with spruce bracing (grands), solid Bavarian spruce soundboards, maple bridges with maple caps, Renner actions and hammers, and Kluge keys. The second level, AC (Advanced Craftsmanship), uses some nonacoustical components manufactured in China, but the instruments are assembled, regulated, and voiced in Germany. The third level, P (Premium), consists of instruments entirely made in China, with only final preparation done in Germany. This level is not currently being imported into the U.S.
Warranty: 5 years, parts and labor, to original purchaser.