The Very First UK Trademark

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Logo design goes back thousands of years, when tradespeople used pictures to show exactly what they were selling to make it easy for busy (and often illiterate) shoppers in pre-Tesco days. It is impossible to say exactly when or where the first actual logo design sprung up, or even when the first UK logo design came about.  However, trademarks are another issue entirely.

What do you think was the first UK trademark? This is not a matter of argument, but rather a matter of historical record. The first UK trademark, holder of trademark number one at the British Intellectual Property Office, is Bass Pale Ale’s recognizable red triangle logo design. In fact, the Bass company also owns the second trademark as well, for their red diamond.

How did Bass end up in this interesting and historical position? The ale company has been a pioneer in marketing and branding for the better part of two centuries. The red triangle trademark was so well recognized that Bass took care to be the first registrant on the first day of January in 1876, when the 1875 UK Trade Mark Registration Act came into effect. In fact, the company forced an employee to spend his New Year’s Eve waiting in the cold outside the registration office to claim the first two trademarks for their red triangle and red diamond logos. Bass was also one of the London Stock Exchange’s original FT 30 companies in 1935.

These UK logos have been seen throughout the Western world ever since. Manet’s Bar at the Folies-Bergiere shows the Red Triangle logo design on a bottle, as do forty of Picasso’s paintings. It is also mentioned in a novel by James Joyce. In modern times, we can see this UK logo design on a variety of sports uniforms. They are a universally recognized part of the Bass brand, which makes them a logo design and branding success story.

What do these logos mean? Generally, red is an aggressive colour, although it is also associated with food and drink. That is why when one of our clients, a London based property developer asked us to use the red color, we advised them to go for a more contemporary and subtle colour scheme. A triangle usually means strength, which is an appropriate image for an alcoholic beverage. A diamond usually connotes strength as well, along with quality and wealth. However, the reason these logo designs have lasted so long is likely their simplicity rather than their inherent meaning. They can be readily recognized as part of the Bass company and brand because they have always been associated with it. There is no other company that has a logo similar to these, and they are so simple that it is impossible to confuse them with any other design. A simple red shape really sticks in the consumer’s mind.

One of the most remarkable things about the Bass logo isn’t its number—although number one is certainly a notable position. Rather, it is the fact that it has remained relatively unchanged for a remarkable amount of time—over 130 years, in fact. Will your logo design last this long?