Launched 109 Years Ago:

The Bayer Cross Is Recognized Worldwide

Bayer's trademark is seen on products, at sports events and airports, and in TV commercials

The Bayer Cross, symbol of the Bayer Group which celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2013, is one of the world's best-known trademarks. It was entered in the patent register of the Imperial Patent Office 109 years ago, on January 6, 1904, under file number F 4777 and serial number 65777. Initially, the Bayer Cross was registered for use for "medications for people and animals, disinfectants, preservatives, tar dyes, and chemical preparations for dyeing and photographic purposes." Since 1914 it has also been used for the company’s crop protection products.

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It is not clear exactly who "designed" the Bayer Cross as the company's archives contain two different versions of its origins. One ascribes the initial idea to Hans Schneider, who worked in the Scientific Department in Elberfeld, Germany. An eye-witness wrote: "It was in 1900. While I was discussing a few things with him [Hans Schneider], he wrote the word Bayer in capital letters on a piece of paper - once horizontally and then again vertically. The result was the Bayer Cross . He tore the page from his notepad, excused himself and took his sketch to the management, where it was greatly admired."


The second version names Dr. Schweizer as the "inventor" of the Bayer Cross. Schweizer worked in Bayer's New York office in the 1890s. His job was to interest American physicians' in the products from Germany. Apparently, the company's long name at that time - Farbenfabriken vormals Friedr. Bayer & Co., Elberfeld, - made communication difficult so Schweizer developed an eye-catching company stamp in the form of the cross that is now so well-known. At first he used it on letterheads, then later on printed materials and brochures. It also received approbation from the company's headquarters in Elberfeld.


Whoever came up with the original idea, the new logo made its mark around the world and eventually replaced Bayer's original lion trademark. This predecessor to the Bayer Cross was linked to the company's history. Bayer was established in 1863 as a family business by Friedrich Bayer. In 1881, following his death, it was made a joint stock corporation named Farbenfabriken vorm. Friedr. Bayer & Co., Elberfeld. That same year, the company was granted its first German patent for crocein acid. This meant Bayer needed a trademark as a seal of quality and a unique identifier. It chose a heraldic emblem based on the coat of arms of Elberfeld, where it was headquartered at the time: a two-tailed lion holding the grid on which the town's patron, Saint Lawrence, was martyred. A few years later, a helmet and further embellishments were added. It was modified again in 1895, becoming a winged lion holding a caduceus and standing over a globe.


In the first years after its registration, the new Bayer Cross trademark was used alongside the lion and the company's name in Europe, whereas ’Bayer's offices outside Germany used only the new emblem on all documents and packaging. Over time, it also replaced the Bayer lion in Europe.


A milestone in the popularity of the Bayer Cross and a smart marketing idea was the decision to stamp the new logo on tablets, especially Aspirin™. From 1910 this protected the company's pharmaceutical products from counterfeiting and soon became familiar to consumers as a symbol of premium quality.

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In 1929 the trademark was modified and updated for the first time when the previously slightly italicized letters were straightened. Marketing ideas reached a new peak on February 20, 1933 with a technical sensation. The Bayer Cross was displayed as a flashing illumination between two smokestacks at the Leverkusen site, 70 meters in diameter with 2,200 electric light bulbs. An illuminated circle appeared first, then the letters lit up. The Bayer Cross in Leverkusen has been redesigned and modernized several times since then. It is now 51 meters in diameter, has letters 7 meters high, and is illuminated by 1,710 bulbs- making it the biggest trademark in the world. In 2009, the original bulbs were replaced by innovative, energy-saving light-emitting diodes.


Another highlight in the history of the Bayer Cross came in September 1994, when the company regained the rights to use the Bayer name and trademark in the United States. For more than 75 years, both had been owned by other companies - a consequence of the First World War. Relaunching operations under the old name and trademark in North America only became possible when Bayer acquired the U.S. over-the-counter pharmaceuticals business of Sterling Winthrop.

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Bayer's trademark has been updated several times since it was first registered with the Imperial Patents Office on January 6, 1904. The most recent relaunch was in 2002, with further modification and redesign in 2010. "The present version of the Bayer Cross in the company colors of blue and green is the first colored version and symbolizes Bayer's modernity and freshness. It radiates transparency and dynamism, yet retains its characteristic shape and the associations with Bayer's long history," explains Michael Schade, Head of Corporate Communications, which is responsible for the design and global marketing of the Bayer trademark.


109 years after its official registration, the Bayer Cross can be found in all countries around the world: on products and packaging, at Bayer sites and offices, at airports and pharmacies. It is an integral part of all Bayer advertising - from billboards to TV commercials.


It is also used on the uniforms worn by many athletes and in the logos of Bayer-sponsored clubs. As well as its role as the seal of quality and clearly recognizable trademark of a commercial company, it is therefore also a symbol of Bayer's social commitment.