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Archived updates for Thursday, April 07, 2005

A Brief History of Trademarks


from the April 2005 issue of WIPO Magazine:

The first marks – the branding of livestock depicted in Stone Age cave paintings – identified personal property to prevent theft. Egyptian masonry from some six thousand years ago shows quarry marks and stonecutters signs, which named the source of the stone and the laborer who carried out the work. The practice of marking goods with a graphic design to certify its origin and quality spread throughout the ancient world as the scale of commerce increased and goods became more sophisticated. Some of the marks used by trade guilds in the middle ages – such as the hallmark for gold purity – are still in use today although the guilds no longer exist.

Over the years these marks evolved into today’s system of trademark registration and protection. The earliest trademark legislation was the Bakers’ Marking Law, obliging every baker to put his mark on the bread he baked, enacted by the British Parliament in 1266. Merchants’ marks – personal marks used from the 13th to 16th century – could be considered the predecessors of modern trademarks in that they bore names of traders and served as a guarantee that the goods sold were of the expected quality.
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