Abstract: Intangible Assets and Competitiveness in Spain: An Approach through Trademark Registration Data in Catalonia, 1850-1946

Patricio Sáiz and Paloma Fernández Pérez


This paper studies the origins of trademark registration in Spain and offers, for the first time, data across sectors and regions with a long-term perspective. In apparent contradiction to the slow path of industrialization and the economic backwardness of Spain between 1850 and the 1940s, empirical evidence on trademark registration suggests that, in this field, Spanish policies and Spanish firms seemed to be well ahead of other countries. Spain was among the pioneering countries in the Western world in having state legislation protecting brand registration since 1850. Also, some Spanish regions and industrialized sectors adopted strategies similar to those of its European counterparts in terms of using branding and registered trademarks consistently. Our evidence suggests that firms seem to have used brands and marks, first to fight against fraud and imitation and second to add intangible assets to their products in order to endow them with persistent identity trends regarding origins or quality of the product that were difficult to replicate, as often happened with patents. This created and accumulated, over that period of time, a marketing knowledge among consumers, which may have contributed to the competitiveness of some industrial districts and regions.