For decades the copyrighted status of “Happy Birthday to You” was a symbol of the absurdity of intellectual property law. Characters in movies would sing “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow” instead of “Happy Birthday,” and restaurants had to make up their own corny birthday songs to sing to patrons, all because Warner/Chappell Music somehow owned the rights to Happy Birthday and was willing to sue anyone who sang it for commercial purposes without permission.
That all came to an end in September when a federal judge ruled that the 80-year-old copyright to the “Happy Birthday” lyrics was invalid, leaving the company only with the rights to the melody and specific arrangements of the tune.
The strange saga of “Happy Birthday” has left a permanent legacy in the Princeton business community in that it helped a music education company, Music Together, get off the ground.
The exact circumstances of the song’s creation are murky, but many sources credit sisters Patty and Mildred Hill with composing the tune “Good Morning to All” in 1893 in Louisville, Kentucky, where Patty was a kindergarten principal and Mildred was a pianist and composer. It wasn’t until 1912 that the song, and the “Happy Birthday” lyrics first appeared together in print.
In 1935, the sisters along with a third sister, Jessica Hill, sold the rights of the song to the Summy Company, which began enforcing the copyright. The Summy company was bought by John F. Sengstack, a New York accountant, in the late 1930s. The song proved to be a reliable cash cow for the company formed in the acquisition, Summy-Birchtree, which was located in Princeton.
In the early 1980s, John’s son David Sengstack owned the company. He used some of the Happy Birthday royalty money to fund the work of his nephew, Kenneth Guilmartin, as he traveled the country and learned the latest childhood music education techniques.
This early funding allowed Guilmartin to launch his company, Music Together, in downtown Princeton. Today the company is headquartered at 225 Hopewell-Pennington Road and boasts 2,500 locations in 40 countries, where children and their parents sing and play instruments together (U.S. 1, April 22, 2015).
Summy-Birchtree sold out to Warner in 1988. And except for the small initial seed money, Music Together never profited from Happy Birthday. Guilmartin received news of the end of the copyright with mixed emotions.
“The news about ‘Happy Birthday to You’ is complicated,” Guilmartin wrote in an E-mail. “There is obviously a very intricate trail of copyright law. While the song was published by my grandfather’s company, neither Music Together nor I were ever directly a part of the song’s copyright history. I was employed there as a consultant to conduct research in early childhood music education, which provided the foundation for what would eventually become Music Together. I will always be grateful for my family’s support, which allowed me to bring music to the lives of children around the world. I’d like to think that the Hill sisters, who were celebrated early childhood educators, would approve!”
Hovione LLC, 40 Lake Drive, East Windsor 08520; 609-918-2600; fax, 609-918-2621. David Hoffman, president of U.S. operations. www.hovione.com.
Hovione, a Portuguese pharmaceutical company, is expanding its facility on Lake Drive in East Windsor just off Exit 8 of the Turnpike.
Hovione told town officials the expansion will add 30,600 square feet to the existing 24,000-square-foot facility. The expansion will give the plant new capabilities and add about 60 jobs. “The Hovione expansion plan is great news for the township and another sign of our business vibrancy,” said East Windsor mayor Janice Mironov. “This expansion marks a significant investment by Hovione in East Windsor, bringing new tax dollars, ensuring existing jobs and adding a large number of new jobs to our community. We are gratified that their business is on such a positive growth pathway here.”
Marco Gil, general manager of Hovione New Jersey, said the expansion would make the company more agile and able to deal with fast-paced projects.
“This investment pays a tribute to the excellent work that Hovione’s New Jersey team has done to create a sustainable business for the company in the U.S. We trust the team in New Jersey to be an integral part of Hovione’s overall expansion,” said Dave Hoffman, president of the U.S. operations.
In a press release, Hovione said the investment is part of the company’s strategy to increase its global development and commercial capacity to meet the increasing demands of Hovione’s customers. The company expects the new facility to be fully operational by 2017.
Hovione is an international company and has four FDA inspected sites in the U.S., China, Ireland, and Portugal.
#b#New in Town#/b#
Axis Diagnostics, 2333 Whitehorse-Mercerville Road, Suite H, Hamilton 08619; 267-795-8865.
Axis Diagnostics, a San Antonio-based company that operates urine testing labs, has opened a location on Whitehorse-Mercerville Road.
Epstein Becker & Green PC, 150 College Road West, Suite 301, Princeton 08540; 973-642-1900; fax, 973-642-0099. Libby Bernier-Spiess, www.ebglaw.com.
Epstein Becker & Green PC, a nationwide, industry-focused law firm, has moved its local office from Village Boulevard to College Road West.
Accurate Medical Transport, 1437 East State Street, Trenton 08609; 856-845-0200; fax, 856-845-0400. Brian Cohen, CEO. www.accuratemedicaltransport.com.
Accurate Medical Transport has moved from Quakerbridge Road to East State Street in Trenton.
Bayard Asset Management, 103 Carnegie Center, Suite 108, Princeton; 609-580-1457, Deepinder Bhatia, owner.
Bayard Asset Management, an investment management company, has moved from Nassau Street to an office in Carnegie Center.
CATEX (The Catastrophe Risk Exchange), 902 Carnegie Center, Suite 340, Princeton 08540; 609-683-0888; fax, 609-683-0808. Francis X. Fortunato, president. www.catex.com.
Catex, an Internet-based insurance and reinsurance trading exchange, has moved from Wall Street to Carnegie Center. The firm, founded in 1994, also has an office in London.