The first legislative act concerning trademarks was passed in 1266 under the reign of Henry III, requiring all bakers to use a distinctive mark for the bread they sold. The first modern trademark laws emerged in the late 19th century. In France the first comprehensive trademark system in the world was passed into law in 1857. The Trade Marks Act 1938 of the United Kingdom changed the system, permitting registration based on "intent-to-use”, creating an examination based process, and creating an application publication system. The 1938 Act, which served as a model for similar legislation elsewhere, contained other novel concepts such as "associated trademarks", a consent to use system, a defensive mark system, and non claiming right system.
The owner of a trademark may pursue legal action against trademark infringement. Most countries require formal registration of a trademark as a precondition for pursuing this type of action. The United States, Canada and other countries also recognize common law trademark rights, which means action can be taken to protect an unregistered trademark if it is in use. Still, common law trademarks offer the holder, in general, less legal protection than registered trademarks.