SEJUNG

including Falcone, Hobart M. Cable, Geo. Steck

America Sejung Corporation
5300 East Ontario Mills Parkway,
Suite 100
Ontario, California 91764
909-484-7498
866-473-5864
sales@sejungusa.com.
www.sejungusa.com

Pianos made by: Sejung Corporation, Qingdao, Shandong Province, China

Sejung is a Korean-based company established in 1974. The musical instrument division of the business began production in 2001 with the creation of a partnership with Qingdao Sejung Musical Instruments in China. They began by building a 700,000-square-foot factory in Qingdao, a port city on the eastern coast with a temperate climate; hired dozens of managers who had once worked for Young Chang and Samick; and staffed the factory with some 2,000 workers. In order to attract skilled labor and reduce turnover, the company built dormitories to house and feed this labor force. The company has invested substantially in automated production equipment to achieve high quality standards, and produces just about every piano component in its own factories.

Sejung currently manufactures the Falcone, George Steck, and Hobart M. Cable brand names. These lines are technically similar and are differentiated mostly by their cabinet styles. Most of the models have a solid spruce soundboard, slow-close fallboard, cast pedals, and maple trapwork. In addition, an upscale Falcone Georgian (FG) series includes such features as Abel hammers on grands 5' 4" and larger, upgraded soundboard material, bubinga veneer on the inside of the grand rim, real ebony sharps, and gold-plated hardware.

The first pianos from Sejung were sold in the U.S. in fall 2002, less than one year after production began. A number of their first offerings were examined by technicians, and although still a little rough, they were definitely satisfactory, and remarkably good for such a new company. Since then, the factory has grown to become one of China's largest exporters of musical instruments, production has been refined, and quality has improved. After proper regulation and tuning, the pianos offer good value in an entry-level instrument. The 4' 8" grand and the continental console are most appropriate for those buyers whose primary considerations are price or appearance.

For model and price information, see under Sejung in the "Model & Pricing Guide." During the current recession, dealers report buying Sejung product at enormous discounts, presumably while the company clears out excess inventory. Because this can't go on indefinitely, it seemed more prudent for me to list the normal prices from last year. However, while supplies last, it may be possible to purchase a Sejung-made piano for a fraction of the listed price.

Warranty: 12 years on parts, 10 years on labor, to original purchaser.

SOHMER (& CO.)

Founded by German immigrant Hugo Sohmer in 1872, Sohmer & Co. was owned and managed by the Sohmer family in New York City for 110 years. Having no descendants to take over the business, the founder's grandsons sold the company in 1982. As the company changed hands several times over the following decade, limited production of Sohmer pianos took place in Connecticut and Pennsylvania, finally ceasing in 1994 (see the Sohmer entry in The Piano Book for a more detailed recent history).

Pianos are once again being made under this venerable name, once considered among the finest of American-built instruments. However, for a number of years, there has been a dispute over the ownership of the Sohmer trademark.

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, Persis is the undisputed owner of the Sohmer trademark worldwide, and SMC will cease 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." Both companies submitted product information, including model and price data, for this publication.)

 

SPRING 2010 -- page 200

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