Colonial Trademarks: Law and Nationality in Mandate Palestine, 1922-1948

31 Pages Posted: 10 Jul 2020 Last revised: 30 Nov 2020

See all articles by Michael Birnhack

Michael Birnhack

Tel Aviv University - Buchmann Faculty of Law

Date Written: May 28, 2020


Trademark law protects distinctive signs of products against unauthorized uses. It is a legal tool to enhance market efficiency, by conveying information about the origin of goods to consumers. Trademarks are also carriers of cultural information about the manufacturers, their products, and their message to the consumers. Thus, trademarks provide an unexpected reflection on society. This Article explores the history of trademark law in Mandate Palestine (1917-1948), in three cumulative avenues. First, a legal history one, seeking to understand why the British imposed trademark law at the time and manner they chose, and how was it received by the local communities. Second, an empirical study of trademark data. The original trademark registry did not survive, and was reconstructed for the current study. Trademark data offers an understudied and rich resource indicating economic changes and the reception of the law. Third, a semiotic analysis, examining the trademarks themselves. I focus on the local trademarks.

Nationality is the common thread in these inquiries. The research reveals the differential reception of the British trademark law, with the Jewish population embracing it and the Arab-Palestinian population hardly so. The Jewish traders often used trademarks to convey national, Zionist messages.

Suggested Citation

Birnhack, Michael D., Colonial Trademarks: Law and Nationality in Mandate Palestine, 1922-1948 (May 28, 2020). Forthcoming, Law and Social Inquiry, DOI:, Available at SSRN:

Michael D. Birnhack (Contact Author)

Tel Aviv University - Buchmann Faculty of Law ( email )

Ramat Aviv
Tel Aviv, 69978
+972-3-640-6623 (Phone)

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