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Trade marks collection

The British Library's trade mark collection has its origins in the collections of the UK Patent Office Library, which was established in the mid nineteenth century. 

A trade mark is a means of identifying a product or service and should establish a clear distinction between that product or service and other similar products or services. A trade mark can take many forms: words, logos, shapes, colours, sounds, smells, gestures, packaging formats and even personal names.

In the United Kingdom the trade mark system is administered by the Intellectual Property Office which provides detailed information on how the system works and on the processes involved in applying for trade mark protection in the UK.

Collection overview

Our collection of trade mark documentation consists chiefly of official journals or gazettes issued by national or international intellectual property offices. These publications record details of the marks for which protection has been sought and identify the individuals and/or corporate bodies which have applied for protection. An index by applicant name and by the type of product to which the trade mark will apply may be available.

The collection has its origins in the collections of the UK Patent Office Library, which was established in the mid nineteenth century. The earliest British trade mark documentation we hold is the first issue of the Trade Marks Journal published in 1876, one year after the passage of the first UK trade mark legislation. British trade mark no. 1, the triangular red label which identifies Bass pale ale, is still in force.

Since the late nineteenth century we have collected trade mark documentation from as many countries as possible. We have also collected documentation from those regional and international authorities through which it is possible to obtain trade mark protection. For many countries our holdings date back to the late nineteenth or early twentieth century. As a result of our long history of international collecting, we have a trade mark information resource of major international importance.

Until the early 1980s most official journals and gazettes were published in hard copy, they provided a description of the marks for which protection was sought and identified the individuals and organisations applying for protection. In many instances some form of index by subject/industry and by applicant name was also published. Since the 1980s trade mark documentation has moved to publication in CD/DVD format and more recently to publication online. This shift to online publication will have a significant impact on our future collecting activity and on the shape of the collection.

Using the collection

The information specialists in our Business & IP Centre at St Pancras will help you use the trade mark collection and find out more about how the trade marks system works. They have prepared a brief introduction to trade marks which you may find useful. The Business & IP Centre also runs a regular workshop Introducing Trade Marks, which is free of charge.

If you want to commission a trade mark search, then our priced Research Service can help.

We can also give you the contact details of other public libraries in the UK which have IP information expertise and can help you with information on trade marks and trade mark searching.

Our collection of books and journals about trade marks, trade mark law and trade mark practice can be identified through Explore the British Library.