Posts Tagged ‘Merchandise Marks Act’

Made in Germany

Friday, August 23rd, 2013

Did you know that the familiar “Made in Germany” trademark is not a German invention? It is a British idea. On 23 August 1887 – 126 years ago today – The United Kingdom passed a law, called the Merchandise Marks Act. This law required the labeling of all products of foreign origin. At a time when British industry dominated world market, its government wanted to reduce foreign competition. The new law required each foreign nation to stamp products shipped to Britain with a “MADE IN…” seal. The Merchandise Marks Act was particularly aimed at Germany because it was suspected that the Germans were copying British products. The new regulation intended to make foreign products more obvious, stigmatize them, and hopefully encourage British buyers to “buy British.”

Following World War II, "Made in Germany" became synonymous with quality, reliability, and longevity

“Made in Germany” trademark, first applied in 1887

At first the plan worked because, even before the new law had gone into effect, German products had had the reputation of being cheap and inferior. But the German Industrialist, Werner von Siemens, came to realize that German industry had to improve the quality of its products if it wanted to compete in world markets. Soon, German knifes, watches, beer, and pianos were of as good a quality as their British counterparts. Sometimes, they were even better while still remaining less expensive. But the real triumph of the “Made in Germany” trademark did not occur until after Word War I. By then, Germany had begun to offer custom-tailored, quality products rather than mass-produced items. The method worked well for Germany. Its “Made in Germany” trademark ultimately developed into a sign of quality. It stood for quality, reliability, and longevity.

Now the question – is there still a need for a trademark in the globalized markets of today? Airbus parts, for instance, are manufactured in four different countries. Individual components are installed worldwide. Which “Made in…” trademark should be stamped on an Airbus do you think? Your thoughts?


For a sneak peek at the first 20+ pages of my memoir, Walled-In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom, click “Download a free excerpt” on the home page of Walled-In is a story of growing up in Berlin during the Cold War.