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Trade Marks have been around for a while... Longer than you might think! 
But how long is that, and what was the first EVER trade mark?

Trade marks as we know them have been around for only a couple of hundred years, but the idea of a marking showing ownership, quality, or origin is something that has been practiced for thousands of years...

tl;dr? Watch the Video!

Ownership is OLD

Bison at Lascaux
People have been using markings to distinguish their ownership over something for thousands of years..

In France, there have been found cave paintings of bison, which academics believe were made to signify ownership. These paintings are estimated to be roughly 6000-7000 years old!

During the middle ages in Europe, there were trade guilds for goods that were created (such as pottery, shoes, bottles etc.). These guilds often used definitive marks to identify the goods as having come from that guild - which is an idea not too dissimilar from the modern trade mark.

Additionally, the term 'Watermark' is an early type of trade mark. We now associate this with an image, word, or 'trade mark' that is placed onto a picture or video - though watermarks were originally created as a way to identify who made a particular type of paper. Manufacturers of paper would intentionally stain their paper with water, to create a literal water 'mark', so that consumers could differentiate between different manufacturers.
High quality? Low quality?

Trade Mark as QUALITY

Trade marks and their predecessors were very often used to define a certain manufacturer, which would identify the quality of the product (as the manufacturers would create items of fairly similar quality fairly consistently). The mark would then certify that the product was a genuine item from that manufacturer.


Some of the earliest known laws that were put into place regarding trade marks was the Bread Marking Law passed in England in 1266. This law required bread makers to identify their loaves of bread, by marking them with pinpricks, stamps, or other indentations / markings.

What came first?
Not long after, in 1363, silversmiths in England were also required to place their defining marks onto creations of silver. these markings allowed the public to easily determine the quality of the item. This is something that is commonly looked for by antiques appraisers when identifying the value of silverware.

Fast forward to 1618, and we see the earliest known legal action regarding a mark of trade as indication of quality. In the 'Southern v Howe' case, a maker of high quality cloth sued a maker of low quality cloth, becuse the lower quality maker had put a marking on their cloth that was supposed ot be reserved for makers of high quality cloth! If they had continued, this marking would have made people doubt the marking as designating high quality, and may have even stopped people form buying cloth with that marking as they would expect 'low quality' from it instead of it's intention of showing 'high quality'.

The first known trade mark laws that were put into place are from 1857 in France, where they passed the 'Manufacture and Goods Mark Act'. This was fairly closely followed by Britain in 1862 passing the 'Merchandise Marks Act', which in 1875 fueled the 'Trade Marks Registration Act', which allowed for the formal recording and cataloging of trade marks.

The U.S. first tried to pass Trademark legislation in 1870, though the supreme court struck this down soon after, later passing the successful 'Trademarks Act' in 1881.

Now, and Beyond!

Now, there is trade marks legislation all around the world, with unifying agreements between countries to ensure some level of consistency. Over time these have been adjusted, amended, and have evolved into the trade marks (trademarks) legislation that we know and enjoy today! There are thousands upon thousands of trade marks registered all over the world for nearly every type of industry, product, and service, and the registers are growing every day! Trade marks are a company's branding and image, and are quite often the most valuable part of a company.


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