History of Trademarks

History of Trademarks

From the earliest known times, “trademarks” have been used to designate ownership of property or to identify a manufacturer of specific goods. It is thought that even primitive man used certain markings to indicate the ownership of their livestock. Various markings were later used to indicate the maker of goods or to certify the quality of their work.

On April 10, 1790, George Washington signed the first U.S. Patent Act into law.

In 1881, trademark registration was added to the functions of the Patent Office. The United States Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) today receives more than 250,000 trademark applications every year.


Dates in trademark History:

    • 5000 B.C. Cave drawings show bison with symbols on their flanks, thought to be ownership marks. Marks have also been found on pottery.
    • 500 B.C. Documented use of trademarks in the Roman Empire. Bricks were stamped with a mark to identify the maker.
    • 1788 The first trademark court cases were followed by legislation influenced by Thomas Jefferson. Trademarks were now considered legal property and brand names became familiar to consumers.
    • 1881 Trademark legislation is passed based on the Commerce Clause of the Constitution.
    • 1946 The Lanham Act is enacted. This is the trademark law in effect today.


Some familiar brands that were registered:

Stetson® for hats and caps (1866)
Vaseline® for emollient (1870)
Pillsbury® for flour (1873)
Singer® for needles (1880)
Ladies’ Home Journal® for a monthly magazine (1883)
Coca Cola® for a tonic beverage (1887)
Colt® for pistols (1889)
Schlitz® for beer (1894)
Quaker® for oats (1895)
Pepsi-Cola® for a tonic beverage (1896)

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