110 years of trade marks

Trade mark IP right brand
Published: 
28 June 2016

This Saturday 2 July 2016 marks 110 years since the Commonwealth Trade Marks Act 1905 came into operation. To celebrate, we take a look at the history of Australian trade marks and some iconic Aussie brands.

History of Australian trade marks

While the Australian Patent Law was originally based on the British Law system, Trade Mark law in Australia seems to be in advance of that of the ‘mother country’. Britain’s Trade Mark Registration Act came into operation in 1875, while five Australian States already had enacted laws to protect registered Trade Marks at that time: South Australia 1863; Queensland; Victoria and Tasmania in 1864; New South Wales in 1865.

The original Commonwealth Trade Marks Act 1905 superseded those Acts providing for separate registration of trade marks in the Australian States. However, the facility of lodging applications to register marks in each State was not lost as a Trade Mark Sub Office was set up in each state - apart from Melbourne where the Trade Marks Office was set up.

On 2 July 1906, the day the first Federal enactment of the Trade Marks Act 1905, the Trade Marks Office began in Melbourne. From this day George Townsend was appointed as the Registrar of Trade Marks and Commissioner of Patents. The office was later moved to Canberra.

The 1955 Act came into force in 1958, replacing the 1905 Act. During this time annual lodgements increased from 3 583 to 10 195. Australian trade marks legislation has evolved since that time and today the legislation in force is the Trade Marks Act 1995. Our latest IP Report 2016 indicates a record number of trade mark applications where we received 73 188 in 2015.

The first Australian trade mark

On the first day the Act came into operation, more than 750 applications were lodged and PEPS, a product for coughs, colds and bronchitis, became the first federally registered trade mark. This was lodged by Charles Edward Fulford of ‘The Peps Pastille Co.,’ who was described as a supplier of proprietary medicines.

Trade marks: a social reflection

Trade marks reflect the changes in social, cultural and nationalistic attitudes of past generations. They illustrate the change in trading patterns, packaging and advertising methods. They show through their proliferation and diversity the important part they play in the growth of trade in Australia and the development of our economy. During World War I (WWI), many businesses recognised the commercial potential of Australian servicemen and we saw a number of trade marks including the Anzac brand.

Trade marks constitute the oldest form of an IP right in the world and protection of the public against wrongly marked goods can be traced back to early Roman times.

Trade marks today 

While the more easily recognisable trade marks are words, slogans and logos, with the introduction of the Trade Marks Act 1995 the definition of trade marks broadened. Trade marks are signs and can be, for example, scents, colours, 3D shapes or aspects of packaging or any combination of these.

Australia’s favourite Trade Marks