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Brand Names Before the Industrial Revolution

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  • Gary Richardson

Abstract

In medieval Europe, manufacturers sold durable goods to anonymous consumers in distant markets, this essay argues, by making products with conspicuous characteristics. Examples of these unique, observable traits included cloth of distinctive colors, fabric with unmistakable weaves, and pewter that resonated at a particular pitch. These attributes identified merchandise because consumers could observe them readily, but counterfeiters could copy them only at great cost, if at all. Conspicuous characteristics fulfilled many of the functions that patents, trademarks, and brand names do today. The words that referred to products with conspicuous characteristics served as brand names in the Middle Ages. Data drawn from an array of industries corroborates this conjecture. The abundance of evidence suggests that conspicuous characteristics played a key role in the expansion of manufacturing before the Industrial Revolution.

Suggested Citation

  • Gary Richardson, 2008. "Brand Names Before the Industrial Revolution," NBER Working Papers 13930, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:13930
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Steven Globerman, 1988. "Addressing International Product Piracy," Journal of International Business Studies, Palgrave Macmillan;Academy of International Business, vol. 19(3), pages 497-504, September.
    2. Edward Miller, 1965. "The Fortunes of the English Textile Industry during the Thirteenth Century," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 18(1), pages 64-82, August.
    3. Richardson, Gary, 2001. "A Tale of Two Theories: Monopolies and Craft Guilds in Medieval England and Modern Imagination," Journal of the History of Economic Thought, Cambridge University Press, vol. 23(02), pages 217-242, June.
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    Cited by:

    1. Häckner, Jonas & Muren, Astri, 2012. "Counterfeiting and Consumption Externalities - A Closer Look," Research Papers in Economics 2012:2, Stockholm University, Department of Economics.
    2. Sheilagh Ogilvie, 2007. "'Whatever Is, Is Right'?, Economic Institutions in Pre-Industrial Europe (Tawney Lecture 2006)," CESifo Working Paper Series 2066, CESifo Group Munich.
    3. Richardson, Gary & McBride, Michael, 2009. "Religion, longevity, and cooperation: The case of the craft guild," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 71(2), pages 172-186, August.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • L15 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Information and Product Quality
    • L2 - Industrial Organization - - Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior
    • N13 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • N4 - Economic History - - Government, War, Law, International Relations, and Regulation
    • N6 - Economic History - - Manufacturing and Construction
    • O14 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Industrialization; Manufacturing and Service Industries; Choice of Technology
    • O34 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Intellectual Property and Intellectual Capital
    • O5 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economywide Country Studies

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