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Evolution and history of trademark law in India

“Intellectual property (IP) refers to creations of the mind, such as inventions; literary and artistic works; designs; and symbols, names and images used in commerce.” – World Intellectual Property Rights Organisation. Intellectual Property is the kind of property that is derived out of one’s own intellect and creativity. Every human endeavor that advances society’s economic, social, scientific, and cultural advancements should be supported, and the creator should be given a fair reward by having his intellectual property protected by the law. Thus, the legal rights controlling the use of works created by the human mind are known as intellectual property rights.

A name, phrase, or symbol that distinguishes products from those of other businesses is included in a trademark. Using a trademark makes it much easier to market goods or services through procedures because it ensures and facilitates easier product recognition. The owner has the right to prohibit a competitor from using his trademark or sign.

Evolution Of Trademark

Humans have always been creative and inventive beings. In earlier times, they created jewelry, stone, hunting gear, vessels, and other items. Later, as spirituality began to emerge, they created figurines of divinities and deities. Originally, items had marks applied to them to identify who owned them and to scare off potential thieves. The ancient people attempted to regulate inferior products in this way, and since the product’s maker could be automatically identified, those who copied it were penalized.

Potential customers were more likely to have faith in a trademark’s products and services the more well-known it became. When a mark was applied, it indicated that the manufacturer was the only party with ownership rights, which served to dissuade those with controversial views. There were mainly two kinds of marks to be found, they were, Merchant marks and Production marks.

While the production mark confirmed the origin, the merchant’s mark showed ownership. Guilds were organizations that used production marks to regulate entry into specific trades and ensure quality. Additionally, people began etching their names on ships; this constituted the earliest and most commonly recognized use of trademarks, allowing for identification in the event of ship wreckage. Trademarks were also used by businesspeople and guild members who began claiming them as a mark on their products. As a result, the manufacturer was held accountable for the caliber of the products produced and for keeping their clients.

The goal of contemporary marks is not to identify ownership, unlike the proprietary marks used in the Middle Ages. Unlike in the past, when trademarks were a liability, they are now an asset for the producer.

History of Trademark Law in India

Marks have long been protected by intellectual property in India. A mark known as the “merchants mark” first emerged in the tenth century and became a symbol among traders and merchants that grew significantly. These marks, which are essentially one type of “proprietary mark,” were used to demonstrate the ownership rights of goods, such as trading emblems on currency, cattle markings, and pottery markings.

In the middle ages, traders and artisans applied marks to their products to set themselves apart from producers of inferior goods and to preserve faith in the guilds. Known as “production marks,” these marks were used to keep monopolies in place. These production markings made it easier for customers to recognize and take responsibility for subpar products, such as those that were lightweight, made of subpar materials, or manufactured utilizing poor-quality craftsmanship.

In 1266, during the reign of King Henry III, the first trademark laws took effect in England. In order to protect consumers, a set of regulations known as “the Assize of Bread and Ale” set limits on the size, weight, and cost of bread in addition to the purity of flour. For regulators to track the actual origin of a loaf, bakers were required to mark their bread with a unique sign. The Bakers Marking Law was another name for it. The name of the law implies that bakers had to mark their bread with their identification in order to sell it.

Bartolo da Sassoferrato, a renowned Italian jurist who lived from 1314 to 1357, wrote a great deal about trademark law and published many articles on the subject. He found it curious that he was so well-liked that he made an appearance in the Comedia dell’arte while giving inspiration to Doctor Bartolo in Mozart’s opera Le Nozze di Figaro. In the treaty Tractatus de Insignis et Armis, for example, he brought up a number of issues, some of which are still relevant today. He examined the insignia and coat of arms carried on banners and shields in this treaty, commenting on whether or not they could be worn and, if so, how they should be worn and painted.

It was not until recently that scholars recognized Southern V. How , decided in 1618, as the first trademark case in Anglo-American law. This is true even though the case concerned the sale of fake jewels rather than a trademark. The link to the trademark was made by the presiding judge’s allusion to a previous, unidentified, and unreported case from 1584 in which a cloth maker sued another cloth maker for using his mark. It has been determined that the earlier clothier case, which is now known as Sanforth’s Case and was only recently found, is the first known trademark case in Anglo-American law. It proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that trademark infringement was considered a tort of deceit and a violation of the laws against unfair competition even 250 years before the Industrial Revolution.

India had no official trademark law in the 20th century until 1940. Many issues pertaining to infringement, passing off, etc. were resolved by applying section 54 of the Specific Relief Act of 1877, and the registration was decided by obtaining a declaration of trademark ownership under the Indian Registration Act of 1908. In 1940, the Indian Trademarks Act was enacted to address the aforementioned challenges; it was that is similar to the English Trademarks Act.

Under consideration of the current advancements in business practices and trade, the growing globalization of commerce and industry, the necessity of promoting technology transfer and investment, the necessity of implementing a trademark management system, and the need to implement significant court rulings, the Trademarks Bill was introduced in 1994 with the intention of achieving these goals. The Bill, which was supposed to be amended, ended up dying in 1994 but the Government of India continued to speculate on it.

Given the advancements in trade and commercial practices, as well as the growing globalization of trade and industry, a thorough examination of the current legal framework was conducted. The Trade and Merchandise Mark Act of 1958 was replaced by the Trade Marks Act of 1999, which was ratified by the President on December 30, 1999, after the Trademarks Bill of 1999 was passed by Parliament.


Intellectual property is a common and well-known concept. It is now a widely used concept in everyday life. Trademarks, which are forms of intellectual property, have existed since the 10th century. The laws and statutes governing trademarks are constantly evolving and have undergone numerous changes throughout history, resulting in improved precision and protection for trademarks.

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Kritika Bhusari
Kritika Bhusari
A Law Graduate, transforming complex legal concepts into clear, concise and reader-friendly content.


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