Beverly Hills' shield-shaped sign posted at several busy entrances to the city is about to become an official city trademark.
Over the years, the sign has become a recognizable symbol in movies, on post cards and in advertisements for the world-famous city with its excellent schools, expensive homes, fine restaurants and exotic boutiques. It was used prominently in ads for the movie "Down and Out in Beverly Hills."
In fact, the shield has become so identified with the city that officials, fearing that the city's reputation would be tarnished if the symbol were used in an unscrupulous manner, are seeking to gain control of its use. They have asked that it be registered as a trademark for use by the Chamber of Commerce.
"The sign symbolizes the city," Councilman Benjamin H. Stansbury Jr. said. "Beverly Hills has an image of quality and elegance as an international city. If we are going to have an international, well-thought-out image then we should have some degree of control over how that image is used."
Given the chance, Stansbury and other members of the City Council said they would like to copyright the name Beverly Hills. But attorneys told them that that would not be legal.
'Can Control Symbol'
"We can't control the name, but they told us that we can control the symbol," Stansbury said.
Councilman Maxwell Salter agreed. "I think we should be as protective as we can of anything connected with the name Beverly Hills," he said.
So far, the council has met several times with representatives from the Chamber of Commerce to discuss the matter. Under a proposed two-year agreement, the city would register the sign as a trademark and license its use to the Chamber of Commerce, which would then have the authority to sub-license the symbol for a fee.
City Council action on the issue is expected within a month, officials said.
Mike Sims, the chamber's executive vice president, said: "The main goal is to protect the image. I would be surprised if we ever made any money."
Potential for Royalties
Still, he added, the potential is there to earn some royalties through the reproduction of the sign on such items as sweat shirts, post cards and coffee mugs.
The Beverly Hills Unified School District, for example, has registered the name of Beverly Hills High School and the four elementary schools in the district. School board member Frank Fenton said the district is "very close to an agreement with a major company to market sweat shirts and other products carrying the Beverly Hills High School logo nationally."
The city, on the other hand, is less concerned about revenue than with protecting its image. Norman Zafman, the chairman of the merchandising and licensing committee of the chamber, said that protecting the image of the sign will not be easy. He said the city would not be able to prevent the casual use of the sign in movies if it is shown as it appears on the street, but it would be able to restrict the direct use of the symbol to promote a product.