6 March 1899

Bayer first registers “Aspirin” as a trademark.

Aspirin is born: March 6, 1899
The Friedrich Bayer & Co., long a German dye manufacturer, ensures its place as a leader in the budding pharmaceutical industry when the Imperial Patent Office in Berlin registers acetylsalicylic acid under the trademark “Aspirin.”

Much earlier in the 19th century, scientists had identified salicylic acid as the ingredient that, for centuries, had made willow bark one of the more popular treatments for pain and fever. But it had a terrible taste and tended to damage a patient’s stomach. In the fall of 1897, however, a chemist in Bayer’s lab named Felix Hoffman had been able to create a stable form of the drug, one that is safer, more palatable and just as importantly, able to be mass produced. Bayer names it Aspirin. As it turned out, Hoffman perfected another drug that same month, one that executives at Bayer felt had much more potential than aspirin. It was a medication designed to be a non-addictive replacement for morphine and marketed to suppress heavy coughs and relieve the pain of childbirth. Bayer named it heroin.

Initially, Aspirin is sold in powder form, a gram at a time, and only through prescriptions. In 1915, though, it becomes available as a pill that can be bought over the counter. A few years later, a devastating flu pandemic starts spreading around the world, sending sales of Aspirin skyrocketing. After World War I, however, Bayer is forced to sell its overseas properties as part of Germany’s war reparations, and Bayer loses its trademark. Aspirin becomes the more generic aspirin.

Another chapter of the aspirin story unfolded after World War II, in 1949, three years after Hoffman’s death. Arthur Eichengrun, a more senior scientist at Bayer when Hoffman made his discovery, released a paper saying that Hoffman had been working under his direction and that he, Eichengrun, had pushed senior executives at the company to support aspirin. The speculation was that Eichengrun was not given credit for his role in the development of aspirin because he was Jewish. During World War II, he had spent a year and a half in a concentration camp. As recently as 1999, a research paper supported Eichengrun’s story, but Bayer has stuck with the version in which Hoffman is aspirin’s sole creator.

Aspirin’s dominance as an over-the-counter painkiller began to fade in the 1960s, particularly when ibuprofen hit the market. But it began a comeback the next decade when clinical trials showed that aspirin could lower the risk of strokes and heart attacks and doctors began recommending an aspirin a day as wise preventive medicine.

6 March 1899

Bayer first registers “Aspirin” as a trademark.

On 6 March 1899, the Imperial Patent Office in Berlin registers Aspirin, the brand name for acetylsalicylic acid, on behalf of the German pharmaceutical company Friedrich Bayer & Co.

Now the most common drug in household medicine cabinets, acetylsalicylic acid was originally made from a chemical found in the bark of willow trees. In its primitive form, the active ingredient, salicin, was used for centuries in folk medicine, beginning inancient Greece when Hippocrates used it to relieve pain and fever. Known to doctors since the mid-19thcentury, it was used sparingly due to its unpleasant taste and tendency to damage the stomach.

In 1897, Bayer employee Felix Hoffman found a way to create a stable form of the drug that was easier and more pleasant to take. After obtaining the patent rights, Bayer began distributing aspirin in powder form to physicians to give to their patients one gram at a time. The brand name came from “a” for acetyl, “spir” from the spirea plant and the suffix “in,” commonly used for medications. It quickly became the number-one drug worldwide.

Aspirin was made available in tablet form and without a prescription in 1915. Two years later, when Bayer’s patent expired during the First World War, the company lost the trademark rights to aspirin in various countries. After the United States entered the war against Germany in April 1917, the Alien Property Custodian, a government agency that administers foreign property, seized Bayer’s U.S. assets. Two years later, the Bayer company name and trademarks for the United States and Canada were auctioned off and purchased by Sterling Products Company, later Sterling Winthrop, for $5.3 million.

Bayer became part of IG Farben, the conglomerate of German chemical industries that formed the financial heart of the Nazi regime. After World War II, the Allies split apart IG Farben, and Bayer again emerged as an individual company. Its purchase of Miles Laboratories in 1978 gave it a product line including Alka-Seltzer and Flintstones and One-A-Day Vitamins. In 1994, Bayer bought Sterling Winthrop’s over-the-counter business, gaining back rights to the Bayer name and logo and allowing the company once again to profit from American sales of its most famous product.

6 March 1899

The pharmaceutical company, Bayer, first registers “Aspirin” as a trademark.

Bayer AG was founded in Germany by Friederich Bayer in 1863. The pharmaceuticals company’s first major product was acetylsalicylic acid, which is derived from a remedy found in willow plant bark. It was discovered that acetylsalicylic acid could be used as an anti-inflammatory medication, as well as for minor pain/ache relief and fever reduction. Today acetylsalicylic acid is known as aspirin.

On this day, March 6th, in 1899, Bayer registers aspirin as a trademark. Bayer’s trademark was registered worldwide, but the company’s U.S. assets and trademarks were confiscated by the the United States during World War I. As a result, aspirin became the generic term to describe the drug for all brands in the U.S., France and the United Kingdom. Aspirin remains a trademark for Bayer in over seventy other countries.

Aspirin is currently one of the most used over-the-counter drugs in the world. Several other benefits of aspirin have been discovered, such as its effective treatment of headaches and its long term benefits of heart attack and stroke prevention. Although Bayer may have lost its trademark of the Aspirin name, the company’s contribution to the pharmaceutical industry is not tarnished.