Innovation and enterprise blog

02 September 2014

Trade marks during the Great War

This year we commemorate a turning point in world history with 100 years of the outbreak of the First World War, also known as the Great War. As with all parts of life, the war had a great impact on business and innovation.

In an attempt to find out how the war influenced the development of trade marks as means of branding and marketing, I searched the IPO trade mark database for marks registered in the UK during the First World War.  I found a couple of interesting examples of registered images, influenced by the war.

AllianceThe UK trade mark with the registration number UK00000122293, registered in April 1915, pictures two soldiers with British and French navy uniforms shaking hands and the word ALLIANCE in the middle. It was a trade mark for cotton sewing thread, owned by Albert Sewing Threads Limited.

The trade mark had direct relevance to the product and its use for the war. As is the case for most marks registered during that period, it is now dead because its registration had not been renewed.

However, a few marks registered during the Great War are still live. I particularly like one of the marks owned by Harrods, which was registered in July 1917 and is due for renewal on July 2021.

This trade mark with registration number UK00000378803 shows the image of a female figure that looks like the winged Roman Goddess Victoria or the equivalent Greek Goddess Nike, a symbol of victory. The figure sits on top of the Globe, holding a cornucopia or horn of plenty, a symbol of abundance and nourishment, with the phrase “Harrods Serve the World”.


Harrods Registered Trade Mark UK00000378803 on a product

The trade mark is registered for various goods, including foodstuff and substances related to food, beverages, tobacco etc., and directly relates to the products by picturing the cornucopia. But it is also interesting to see its relevance to the World and Victory that indirectly relates to victory in war.

However, if you check the other registered marks owned by Harrods you will notice a very similar trade mark registered 14 years earlier. Its relevance to the war might have been a coincidence or possibly a premonition.

In contrast to the worldwide abundance promised by the Harrods trade mark – possibly only to the winners – the negative economic consequences of the First World War were extensive for those defeated.

As part of the reparations Germany was forced to make after the end of the war, they agreed to release claims over certain intellectual property — such as the trade mark over the term aspirin for the painkiller acetylsalicylic acid.  The trade mark lost its registered status in the United Kingdom, France, Russia and the United States, where it became a generic name. However, it remains a registered trade mark of Bayer in Germany and in over 80 other countries.

It’s interesting to see just how much the First World War impacted on all aspects of life, not only in the short-term but also the long-term consequences on technology, innovation and business.

If you'd like to find out more about how trade marks might apply to your business, come along to one of our workshops or have a look at the guide on our website.

Irini Efthimiadou on behalf of the Business & IP Centre


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