A Mark of Distinction: Branding and Trade Mark Law in the UK from the 1860s

46 Pages Posted: 27 Jul 2009 Last revised: 22 Oct 2009

Date Written: July 27, 2009


The development of branding is a neglected theme in business history. This article examines the emergence on a large scale of the unique product brand name - distinct from a company name or product descriptor - in the UK in the latter nineteenth century. It looks at the interaction of branding strategies and UK trade mark law, which is shown to have accorded property rights in word-based marks only gradually and shaped the development of branding in the UK. Trademark application data from the 1870s to the 1920s is cited to illustrate the widespread take-up of the brand name in the UK from the 1880s, and to consider its use by different types of consumer goods firms. The article then analyses the effects of such branding into the twentieth century, including its contribution to competitive advantage, the introduction of brand architecture, and the problem of brand genericisation. It is argued that the adoption of the brand name marked a major shift in brands, from descriptions of origin to objects of artifice.

Keywords: Branding, business history, brand names, brand history, trade marks, trademarks, intellectual property, brand architecture

JEL Classification: K11, M31, N61, N62, N63, N64, N71, N72, N73, N74

Suggested Citation

Mercer, John, A Mark of Distinction: Branding and Trade Mark Law in the UK from the 1860s (July 27, 2009). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1439750 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1439750

John Mercer (Contact Author)

Independent ( email )

United Kingdom

HOME PAGE: http://www.johnmercer.eu

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