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Catalonian Trademarks and the Development of Marketing Knowledge in Spain, 1850–1946

  • Patricio Sáiz and Paloma Fernández Pérez

Trademarks have traditionally been viewed as assets that, although intangible, nevertheless contribute to the success of firms. This study, based on a compilation of national trademark data, corrects existing distortions of the historical role of brands and their—often unsuccessful—use as business tools by countries, sectors, or firms. Legislation on, and the profuse use of, trademarks in the Western world was pioneered by Spain, rather than by France, the United States, or the United Kingdom, and was initiated in unusual sectors, such as papermaking and textiles, rather than in the more usual ones of food and beverages. Analysis of the applicants of Catalan trademarks, across sectors, during almost a century, reveals that the legal possession of a brand cannot in itself guarantee a firm's success.

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The authors acknowledge financial support from Spanish public research projexts (UAM-CSIC-CEMU-2012-043; ECO2008-00398/ECON; and ICREA Academia 2008 grant). They are grateful for the comments of the special issue guest editors and contributors, three anonymous referees, and colleagues.

1 Wilkins Mira, “The Neglected Intangible Asset: The Influence of the Trade Mark on the Rise of the Modern Corporation,” Business History 34, no. 1 (1992): 6695; Koehn Nancy F., Brand New: How Entrepreneurs Earned Consumers' Trust from Wedgwood to Dell (Boston, Mass., 2001); Jones Geoffrey, Renewing Unilever: Transformation and Tradition (Oxford, 2005); Church Roy and Clark Christine, “The Origins of Competitive Advantage in the Marketing of Branded Packaged Consumer Goods: Colman's and Reckitt's in Early Victorian Britain,” Journal of Industrial History 3, no. 2 (2000): 98199; da Silva Lopes Teresa, Global Brands: The Evolution of Multinationals in Alcoholic Beverages (New York, 2007); da Silva Lopes Teresa and Casson Mark, “Entrepreneurship and the Development of Global Brands,” Business History Review 81, no. 4 (2007): 651–80.

2 See Saiz Patricio, “Propiedad industrial y competitividad global en perspectiva histórica,” Economía Industrial 379 (2011): 4156. Data are from the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), “Trademarks Applications by Office, by Resident and Non-Resident,” WIPO Statistics Database (Geneva, 2008).

3 The Boletín Oficial is the oficial instrument of the Oficina Española de Patentes y Marcas (hereafter OEPM), which publishes the requests, concessions, and rejections of patents, trademarks and other industrial property classes. Data for the four-year selection has been extracted by Paloma Fernández, with the research assistance of Yolanda Blasco.

4 This vast project of cataloguing and studying of the first 17,000 trademarks has been made within the framework of the Collaboration Agreement between the Spanish Patent and Trademark Office and the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid (1999–2012), directed by Patricio Sáiz. The database, the Boletín Oficial, and more information on the research team can be found at

5 See Nadal Jordi and Catalan Jordi, eds., La cara oculta de la industrialización española: La modernización de los sectores no líderes (siglos XIX y XX) (Madrid, 1994); and Nadal Jordi, ed., Atlas de la industrialización de España, 1750–2000 (Barcelona, 2003).

6 Church Roy and Godley Andrew, “The Emergence of Modern Marketing: International Dimensions,” Business History 45, no. 1 (2003): 15; Church Roy and Godley Andrew, eds., The Emergence of Modern Marketing (Portland, 2003); Lopes, Global Brands. Moore Karl and Reid Susan, “The Birth of Brand: Four Hundred Years of Branding,” Business History 50, no. 4 (2008): 419–32. On economic theory and the defensive role of trademarks, see Landes William M. and Posner Richard A., “Trademark Law: An Economic Perspective,” Journal of Law and Economics 30, no. 2 (1987): 265309; Landes and Posner , The Economic Structure of Intellectual Property Law (Cambridge, Mass, 2003), ch. 7. See also Economides Nicholas S., “The Economics of Trademarks,” Trademark Reporter 78 (1988): 523–39.

7 See Gutiérrez Miquel, “‘Tout le monde fume en Espagne’: La producción de papel de fumar en España—Un dinamismo singular, 1750–1936,” in Tabaco e Historia Económica: Estudios sobre fiscalidad, consumo y empresa (siglos XVII–XX), ed. Álvarez Luis Alonso, Muñoz Lina Gálvez, and de Luxán Santiago (Madrid, 2006), 435–60. The hierarchical structure of firms is an important factor of trademark endurance, as exemplified by knittingwear firms in the second half of the twentieth century; see Llonch Montserrat, “Fashion and Competitiveness in the Catalan Knitting Districts, 1961–2004,” Business and Economic History On-line, 2009.

8 See Nadal Jordi, El fracaso de la revolución industrial en España, 1814–1913 (Barcelona, 1994 [1975]), 212–15. French textiles were allowed entry in return for exports of Catalan wines to France during the period of the Phylloxera infestation.

9 Puig Núria, Constructores de la química española: Bayer, Cepsa, Puig, Repsol, Schering y La Seda (Madrid, 2003).

10 See Nadal, Atlas de la industrialización.

11 Moore and Reid, “The Birth of Brand.”

12 Austria, Bavaria, Belgium, France, Hanover, The Netherlands, Portugal, Prussia, Russia, Sardinia, Saxony, Spain, Sweden, Norway, and Wurtenburgh had early registration systems. The United States did not have a federal system of registration until 1870, although some states (e.g., California) had begun to record marks in the 1860s. Latin American countries began setting up registration systems during the last third of the nineteenth century. See Duguid Paul, da Silva Lopes Teresa, and Mercer John, “Reading Registrations: An Overview of One Hundred Years of Trademark Registrations in France, the United Kingdom and the United States,” in Trademarks, Brands and Competitiveness, ed. da Silva Lopes Teresa and Duguid Paul (London, 2010), 930.

14 Córdoba Ricardo, “Industrias del tejido y del cuero,” in Ars Mechanicae: Ingeniería medieval en España, ed. Navascues Pedro (Madrid, 2008), 225–34. And Chanzá Dionisio, Los inventores del siglo XVIII: Estudio del ingenio de la sociedad industrial valenciana (Valencia, 2001), 166–71. For France, see Duguid et al. , “Reading Registrations,” 1216. For Britain Great, see Higgins David M. and Tweedale Geoffrey, “Asset or Liability? Trade Marks in the Sheffield Cutlery and Tool Trades,” Business History 37, no. 3 (1996): 127.

15 Royal Decree of 20 November 1850, which established the rules for the concession of trademarks in Spain. See Sáiz Patricio, Legislación histórica sobre propiedad industrial: España, 1759–1929 (Madrid, 1996), 7778.

16 See Gutiérrez , “‘Tout le monde fume’” and his “Redes en la génesis y desarrollo de un distrito papelero catalán: El caso de Capellades (siglo XIX),” Investigaciones de Historia Económica 10 (2008): 6996.

17 These bilateral agreements accorded the same national trademarking rights in every economic activity between nonresident citizens of separate countries.

18 All the legislation and agreements are described in Sáiz, Legislación histórica.

19 Two- and three-dimensional industrial drawings and models protected modifications and variations in product forms and colors. The scarcity of this activity aligns it more with distinguishing signs and, therefore, trademarks, than with patents. A commercial name differs from the name of the company with which it makes commercial transactions, whereas a business heading is a distinguishing sign for differentiating the physical commercial establishment. Both, therefore, complemented the protection granted by trademarks.

20 Royal Decree of 26 July 1929. Sáiz , Legislación histórica, 412–72.

21 The 32/1988 Law of 10 November, the 645/1990 Royal Decree of 18 May, the 17/2001 Law of 7 December, and the 687/2002 Royal Decree of 12 July.

22 “Such an abuse, although not frequent, can no longer be tolerated, as it is contrary to property rights and has been more than once an object of justified claims. Such usurpation of the brands used by honest manufacturers to distinguish the products of their industrial establishments must stop. A factory without a name and without credit proceeds with its manufactures in this way at the expense of those who had already gained a justified reputation among the public. Unfortunately, this usurpation grows with the increase in production and commerce; it directly attacks property rights; it cheats the inexpert buyer; it concedes an undeserved value to industrial goods, as it gives a false guarantee, accrediting a nonexistent merit and a fake origin.” Preamble of the Royal Decree of 20 November 1850. (Authors' translation from the Spanish.)

23 Personal communication, Paul Duguid (University of York, Sept. 2009).

24 Providing that these trademarks did not lie dormant for more than three years (five after 1929). Sáiz , Legislación histórica, 102, 149–50. The obligation of use has been, and still is, an essential characteristic of Spanish law and was maintained in the modern legislation of 1988 and 2001.

25 Between 1850 and 1905, the central period of our study, 5,010 international trademarks were registered at WIPO, but it is not possible to find out which percentage designated Spain and which were accepted or rejected by the OEPM.

26 Current prices. A trademark cost 100 reales (0.15 euros) with no temporal limit during the nineteenth century. (The 1902 law introduced the twenty-year duration and the five-year progressive fee.) A patent of invention for fifteen years cost 6,000 reales (9.02 euros) before 1878, which was expensive, as it was the equivalent of one year's wage for a skilled worker; after 1878, patent cost was greatly reduced by the shift to an annual payments system (see Sáiz Patricio, “The Spanish Patent System (1770–1907),” History of Technology 24 [2002]: 4579, Table 1.)

27 Nadal Jordi, “La indústria cotonera,” in Història econòmica de la Catalunya contemporània, vol. 3, ed. Nadal Jordi (Barcelona, 1991), 1385.

28 The Restoration (1875) inaugurated a period of stability characterized by new economic regulations, such as the Public Works Law (1875), the Railways Law (1877), the Patents Law (1878), the new Commerce Law (1885), and the different bilateral trade agreements regarding trademarking.

29 See Sáiz, “Propiedad industrial,” Figure 5 (1850–2000).

30 Duguid et al., “Reading Registrations”; Andrea Lluch, “U.S. Companies in Argentina: Marketing Strategies and Trademark Protection, 1900–1930,” unpublished paper presented at the Joint Annual Meeting of the European Business History Association and the Business History Conference in Milan, June 2009.

31 See, at, our previous working paper: Sáiz Patricio and Pérez Paloma Fernández, “Intangible Assets and Competitiveness in Spain: An Approach Based on Trademark Registration Data in Catalonia (1850–1946),” UAM Working Papers in Economic History (Madrid, 2009), Figure 3.

32 Ibid., Table 4 and Figure 5.

33 Ibid., Figure 7 and Maps 2 and 3.

34 Ibid., Table 6.

35 On the papermaking manufacturers in Catalonia and Alcoy, see Gutiérrez, “‘Tout le monde fume,’” and “Redes en la genesis.”

36 Sáiz and Fernández, “Intangible Assets,” Tables 7 and 8.

37 Ibid., Table 7.

38 Ibid., Table 8.

39 The methodologies of sectoral classification and analysis have been different in each period. Direct work with the files in the Archive of the OEPM between 1850 and 1905 has provided a more detailed classification of trademarks, according to articles protected (following the Nice International Classification of Goods and Services, edited by the World Intellectual from Property Organization), than the classification that can be obtained from the data coming from the Boletín Oficial for 1916, 1926, 1936, and 1946. Thus, the proportion of trademarks is greater in the miscellaneous class in those years. Nevertheless, our comparison offers the only available means of advancing certain conclusions about the long-term sectoral evolution of trademarking in Catalonia.

40 Tena Antonio, “¿Por qué España fue un país con alta protección industrial? Evidencias desde la protección efectiva, 1870–1930,” UCIII Working Papers in Economic History (Madrid, 2001).

41 Sáiz and Fernández, “Intangible Assets,” Table 10.

42 Ibid., Table 13.

43 Ibid., Tables 11 and 14.

44 On the prices of cotton textiles, see Carreras Albert and Tafunell Xabier, Historia Económica de la España Contemporánea (Barcelona, 2003), 175, Figure 3.3.

45 Sáiz and Fernández, “Intangible Assets,” Tables 13, 14, and 15.

46 In 1906 the newspapers announced that when the shipping agent José Serra Font died, three steamships, Turia, Tintoré, and Leonera, lowered their flags to half-mast in his honor. La Vanguardia, 10 Aug. 1906, 4. The information for 1883 comes from the Spanish commercial tax register for 1883, tariff 2, section 23 on merchants, and has been kindly provided by José Miguel Sanjuan. José Serra Font ran several shipping lines from Liverpool and Bilbao to Cuba. See Valdaliso Jesús María, “Bandera y colonias españolas, navieros y marinos vizcaínos y capital y comercio británicos: Las navieras anglo-bilbaínas en el último tercio del siglo XIX,” Itsas Memoria: Revista de Estudios Marítimos del País Vasco 4 (2003): 455471.

47 Some of Serra Font's marks were rejected when they were opposed by third parties that were already using similar logos.

48 Sáiz and Fernández, “Intangible Assets,” Table 15.

49 Lopes , Global Brands, 177. Forum de Españolas Marcas Renombradas, Grandes marcas de España (Madrid, 2008).

50 The trademark files demonstrate that there was constant opposition to new mark registrations by paper manufacturers, especially those in Alcoy and Barcelona, as well as by textile producers in Catalonia. This fits well with the anticounterfeiting hypothesis regarding the origins of trademarking and the constant competition for product differentiation. Between 1866 and 1880 (no data available between 1850 and 1865), there were almost two hundred cases of opposition to new registrations (for instance, OEPM, trademark numbers 2, 15, 17, 20, 24, 26, 39, 710, 738, 744, 754, 804, among others), amounting to about 20 percent of all applications.

51 Prat Marc, “Las estructuras comerciales de la industria algodonera catalana: El triunfo de los viajantes en el último tercio del siglo XIX,” Investigaciones de Historia Económica 12 (2008): 79110.

52 Toboso Pilar, Pepín Fernández, 1891–1982: Galerías Preciados, el pionero de los grandes almacenes (Madrid, 2000), 36. See also La Vanguardia, September 1881 issue.

53 See Pan-Montojo Juan, La bodega del mundo: La vid y el vino en España, 1800–1936 (Madrid, 1994). See also Carmona Juan et al. , eds., Viñas, bodegas y mercados: El cambio técnico de la vitivinicultura española, 1850–1936 (Zaragoza, 2001) and Inchaurraga Iñigo González, El marqués que reflotó el Rioja (Madrid, 2006).

54 Listerine was an American invention, produced for pharmaceutical purposes, whose trademark was first registered in Spain by the Catalonian pharmacist José Santamaria Solsona in February 1893. He sold the brand to the Lambert Pharmacal Company a month later (OEPM, trademark 3,743 Bis 1). The company registered the trademark in the United States for the first time in 1902, according to the USPTO databases (

55 See note 2.

56 Church and Godley, “The Emergence of Modern Marketing” and The Emergence of Modern Marketing; Lopes, Global Brands; Moore and Reid, “The Birth of Brand.”

57 Pérez Paloma Fernández and Puig Núria, “Bonsais in a Wild Forest? A Historical Interpretation of the Longevity of Large Spanish Family Firms,” Revista de Historia Económica: Journal of Iberian and Latin American Economic History 25, no. 3 (2007): 459–97.

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