Trademark registered for Canada, 1994.
Although examples of commercial use of the square and compasses, especially in the 1800s, are not unknown, the use was never widespread and it aroused little comment. For example, between 1810 and 1834 "Old Sheffield Razors" by Lummus were stamped with the masonic square and compasses.1
The first cattle brand registered in the Montana territory in 1864 was the square and compasses used by the Poindexter and Orr Ranch. The Koch Industries, which still uses this brand, has donated one of their branding irons to the Grand Lodge of Montana.2
When an American miller in the late 1800s attempted to use the square and compasses as a logo for his own brand of flour, a suit was brought against him. Although there was no trademark protection as such, the court found that the square and compasses was so clearly identified with Freemasonry that the miller was prohibited from using the symbol. The American Commissioner of Patents in 1872 ruled that the square and compasses emblem could not be used in any trademark or trade name for commercial purposes. 3
In 1880s Manchester, England there was a line of ginger beer sold by M Davies & Son with the bottles stamped with the square and compasses while at about the same time W.S. Haysworth sold Ye Old Fashioned Ginger Beer in Preston, also with a square and compasses trademark.4 Those interested in further research will discover other commercial offerings, such as Master Mason Tobacco.
More recently, it has been felt that regular Freemasonry should bolster its legal position.
In 1992 the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania registered the square and compasses for their jurisdiction and the Masonic Service Association of North America sent a letter to all U.S. Grand Secretaries explaining that, as there is no U.S. masonic national authority, each Grand Lodge would have to register independently. Although Pennsylvania offered to assist other jurisdictions if they so desired, the MSA does not know how many have since registered.5
According to the Grand Lodge of Michigan Constitutions and By-Laws, Art. XXXI, 4-31 Sec. 2, any non-mason that uses the names and emblems (square and compasses) can be taken to court under the Michigan Annotated Statutes 18.641-18.647, 18-661-18.665, 18.671-18.675 and 18.691-18.692. For those freemasons that misuse the names and emblems, it is considered an unmasonic crime.
In 1994 the Grand Lodge of Idaho registered the square and compasses, restricting its use in that state. A special agreement with the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Oregon, which warrants Prince Hall lodges in Idaho, permits them to use it also.6
The Grand Lodge of Scotland also has a copyright in place for the square and
compasses incorporating the letter G.
On August 3, 1994 the Masonic Foundation of Ontario officially registered the Grand Lodge logo, the square and compasses with the letter G, with Consumer and Corporate Affairs, Canada, as published in Trade Marks Journal, Volume 41, Number 2075. 7 This restricted the usage of the mark in Canada to regular Grand Lodges. More recently, in 2001, the Grand Lodge of New Zealand has also seen the need to register the masons' mark.
It is unclear exactly when it adopted the square and compasses emblem but there is another groupunrelated to regular Freemasonrythat has used the emblem for many years. The Chinese Freemasons is a benevolent society, or societies, developed by Chinese emigrants who arrived in North America during the California and British Columbia gold rushes in the mid-nineteenth century. It makes no claim to status as regular Freemasonry. Due to the insular nature of the Chinese community and the relative ignorance of regular Freemasonry as to their existence, the Chinese Freemasons have avoided any question of their right to use the emblem.
Although there is no formal policy in the British Columbia and Yukon jurisdiction, in practice brethren are free to use the square and compasses for the promotion of Freemasonry. Commercial or business usage is prohibited. 8
1. Trademarks on Base-Metal Tableware. Eileen Woodhead. Published by Parks Canada, Ottawa: 1991; Goins' Encyclopedia of Cutlery Markings. John E. and Charlotte S. Goins. Self-published, Indiana: 1998. <http://www.uniclectica.com/misc/manuf.html>.
2. At Refreshment. S. M. L. Pollard, 2001. Also see Freemasonry Today, Winter 2003, p. 54, for a Spanish horse brand.
3. The Truth is Stranger than Fiction. Alphonse Cerza. Masonic Service Association: 1934.
4. Phoenixmasonry Masonic Museum.
5. Masonic Service Association of North America. <http://www.msana.com> ; Proceedings Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania. 1993.
6. The North Carolina Mason Volume CXVIII, ed. Ric Carter, Washington, NC: September/October, 1994 vol. 2 No. 5.
7. Report of the Masonic Foundation of Ontario. Masonic Foundation of Ontario, Toronto, 1995.
8. Strategic Plan of the Grand Lodge of New Zealand. Board of General Purposes on 22 August 2001: "2.5.2 Co-Freemasonry. This organization advertises frequently in a manner that could easily confuse people between them and the Craft. When Grand Lodge changed some of their advertising slogans, this group mirrored the changes. To counter this competitor Grand Lodge has registered the brand Freemasonry and registered the square and compasses as a logo. This group have been advised of this action and their response strongly suggests that they will no longer continue vigorously against the Craft." <http://www.freemasons.co.nz/Management/events4.htm>.