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Argyle Chair
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Marks of the Trade
by Bob Brooke


Trademarks are everywhere—on food and beverage packaging, automobiles, tools, and often on antiques like pottery, metalware, and jewelry. But the trademarks seen today are a far cry from those of ancient times.

Early examples of trademarks were often associated with the identities of the owners or makers of specific goods. Although some of the earlier trademarks date as far back as 5000 BCE, the identifiable marks used back then are vastly different from how they’re defined today.

In ancient Egypt, the practice of attaching seals or marks to products was widely used. Around 4,000 years ago, producers began by attaching simple stone seals to products which, over time, evolved into clay seals bearing impressed images, often associated with the producer's personal identity. Some of the earliest use of maker's marks, dating to about 1,300 BCE, have been found in India.

A trademark identified a product's origin, so craftsmen would include unique images and signs on their products for easier recognition. Trademarks in ancient China appeared on gold coins and seals, which included unique imprints or drawings in the metal to identify the owner or manufacturer. And Roman blacksmiths who made swords impressed them with their trademarks.

    In the 12th century, King Edward I enacted a new law prohibiting jewelers from selling their creations unless each piece included a stamp from the Goldsmith's Hall, the royal office in London. If any jeweler attempted to create a counterfeit hallmark, the punishment was death. A merchant mark is a personal mark that was used between the 13th and 16th centuries by European merchants and traders. In fact, a merchant mark is commonly believed to be the earliest form of a modern trademark. A merchant's mark typically included the trader's name, serving as a guarantee of quality for the purchased goods.

In 1266, King Henry III of England passed the first legislative act concerning trademarks requiring all bakers to use a distinctive mark for the bread they sold.

Other notable trademarks that have been used for a long time include Stella Artois, which claims use of its mark since 1366, and Löwenbräu, which claims use of its lion mark since 1383.

The idea of adding emblems began in medieval Europe. In fact, emblems and other designs richly adorned decorated suits of armor, jackets, hats, and harnesses worn by the horses in the 15th century. A form of trademark, called a hallmark, began to appear on items made of silver and gold to ensure quality.

The first modern trademark laws emerged in the late 19th century. In 1857, the French Government passed the "Manufacture and Goods Mark Act" creating the first comprehensive trademark system in the world. In Britain, the Merchandise Marks Act 1862 made it a criminal offense to imitate another's trade mark “with intent to defraud or to enable another to defraud.”

   In 1875, the British Parliament passed the Trade Marks Registration Act which allowed formal registration of trademarks at the United Kingdom Patent Office for the first time. Registration, considered proof of ownership of a trademark, began on January 1, 1876.

The symbols ™, the trademark symbol, and ®, the registered trademark symbol, can be used to indicate trademarks; the latter is only for use by the owner of a trademark that has been registered.

Styles of Trademarks
Since the latter part of the 19th century, a trademark has typically been a name, word, phrase, logo, symbol, design, image, or a combination of these. There’s also a range of non-conventional trademarks based on color, smell, or sound, such as like jingles.

Essentially, a trademark is to exclusively identifies the individual or company producing a product or service.

People often use terms such as "mark", "brand" and "logo" interchangeably with "trademark." But the term "trademark" can also include any device, brand, label, name, signature, word, letter, numerical, shape of goods, packaging, color or combination of colors, smell, sound, movement or any combination which distinguishes goods and services of one business from those of others. It must be able to be represented graphically and must be applied to goods or services for which it’s registered.

It's often a shorthand symbol which is easier to recognize and remember than a larger or more complex one. Applying a shorthand mark to a product or packaging is more practical. Such is the case with marks on china and pottery on which the manufacturer stamps or embosses their trademark symbol on the base.

Using the TM or (R) symbols near the mark indicates to competitors and consumers that registration of the mark is pending or in force. These symbols also state that any unauthorized use of the trademark could result in legal consequences and warn competitors of the mark's legal registration and protections. Trademarks actively promote company which made the product, whether it be Wedgwood for pottery, Anchor-Hocking for glassware, or Honda or GM for automobiles.

Use of Trademarks Today
As the purpose of the trademark is to identify a particular source of the product, rather than the product itself, trademark owners should always use their trademarks as adjectives modifying a generic product name, and set off with capitalization or a distinctive typeface, as a guard against the trademark becoming the generic name of the product.

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