MILAN was born in the early 20th century in Barcelona, Spain. The brand has no relationship with the Italian city Milan (Milano), but is likely a modification of the common Spanish surname, Millán or Milián.
It was José Milán, a stationery wholesaler, who began distributing different writing tools under the brand MILAN. In 1918, Mr. Milán contacted Mr. Santiago Marcó, a stationery manufacturer, looking to increase the company’s product range to include ink, sealing wax, glue and erasers. The duo continued working together and the business grew. MILAN’s erasers, in particular, became extremely popular all over Spain.
When the third generation of the families took over the business, the Marcó family founded the companies FACTIS S.A. and MARCÓ DACHS S.A., and decided to buy the MILAN trademark from its original owner. This allowed them to not only produce the erasers under MILAN brand, but also a wide range of stationery products under this name and expand their business into different countries.
Today, MILAN exports to more than 120 countries, and has opened a branch in Poland named MILAN Polska. Their products include writing and drawing tools, fine arts products and other school and office supplies including backpacks, calculators and lunch boxes. Every year they produce more than two tons of erasers, 75% of which are exported.
Right from the start, MILAN wanted to offer good and affordable products, adapted to the needs and budgets of students.
The so-called “white [bread] crumb” (in Spanish, “miga de pan”) eraser – manufactured using synthetic rubber and still sold today – was an immediate success and quickly became a household name in Spain.
The name “white crumb” was adopted because the eraser crumbles when used, reminding older generations of the bread they used to erase pencil before modern erasers became available.
Santiago Marcó Tarrés, part of the third generation of MILAN, explains how helping children in the process of learning to write is very much a privilege. MILAN erasers are one of the first things schoolchildren use, helping them to correct their mistakes and avoid frustration.
Over the years, the Spanish company has developed new products to accompany students throughout their school years, including pencil cases, scissors and sharpeners.
They have also invested in R&D to release, for example, products designed for left-handed use or high-precision electric erasers for professionals in fine arts and architecture. Today, the firm produces and distributes over 2,500 products and has over 200 designs for their own products.
Marcó Dachs S.A. first started exporting in the 1950s to South America – Chile, Venezuela and Colombia, and then Europe, Norway and Belgium. They continued to expand their horizons, but it wasn’t until the 1980s – when the company started to participate in international exhibitions – that real internationalization of the brand began.
As a medium-sized and family-run company, deeply focused on exporting, it is very important to have a reliable trademark system to be able to expand and manage international protection.
Currently, the company owns five active international registrations for the brand MILAN, as well as others, the oldest of which dates back to 1982 – 40 years ago – a proof of the reliability and security that the Madrid System has been providing for decades. The System has also helped the company expand into new countries and increase the scope of protection to new product classes.
And importantly, as MILAN explains, with some few countries refusing to accept MILAN as a trademark, given that it is also the English denomination of an Italian city – and even though there is no known connection between Milano and stationery products, and the brand stems from the surname of its first applicant – the WIPO Madrid System has provided invaluable assistance.
MILAN developed the eraser NATA in the 1960s and formally registered it nationally as a trademark in 1969. It was one of the firsts European plastic resin eraser, wrapped in pink cellophane, and soon became one of the best-known products of Marcó Dachs S.A.
The brand has been registered under the Madrid System since 2003 (almost two decades now), specifically under Nice class 16, which includes “writing materials, particularly rubber erasers”.
The brand is currently protected in almost 60 countries, including most of Europe and Asia, as well as Australia and the United States of America.
With effort and time, what started out as a business relationship between two families has turned into a developed company that has evolved to offer children all over the world their first school utensils and accompany them until they reach adulthood. International trademark protection has played a very important part for MILAN for decades, helping them reach new markets and protect their brands for their erasers and other innovative products they keep releasing.