The Renaissance of Trademarks

There is very little documentation of how marks were used between the fall of the Roman Empire and the beginning of the Renaissance. The purpose of marks changed rapidly during this period. Marks were first used to identify the maker for the protection of the consumer. Their use rapidly spread to identifying a maker with a guild and to protecting the monopolies of the guilds. Gradually in this period marks were recognized as a benefit to the maker. During a time when advertising was considered an unfair advantage, a maker's reputation would be carried with his mark. Eventually the property value of marks was recognized, although the laws protecting this value were vague.

12th century
Trade guilds begin using marks.

13th century
Bell makers begin using marks.
Watermarks, also known as papermarks, first appear in Italy.

Earliest English law on trademarks: Bakers Marking Law. Some bakers stamp a mark on the bread, others prick the bread.

Statute passed enabling merchants whose goods had been pirated to provide evidence of ownership using marks appearing on the goods.

Cutlers obtain protection for their monopoly and their marks in London, requiring registration with city officials.

Ordinance passed requiring bottle-makers to place a mark on bottles and other vessels made of leather so their work could be identified.

Earliest litigation over a mark: A widow is granted use of her husband's mark.

15th & 16th century
Marks proliferate. Laws become more strict.

First reference to infringement (Southern v. How): a clothier making inferior cloth uses the mark of a superior clothier. This case is considered a link between “merchants' marks” of the Middle Ages and modern commercial trademarks.

De Porceleyne Fles established in Delft, Holland. Porcelain makers in Europe used marks similar to those on the Chinese ceramics by which they were inspired.


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