Institutions and companies can have a grant of officially recognised coats of arms from government heraldic authorities. This is effectively a “registered trademark” specific to a corporation, a company, an institution etc.
The first recorded corporate coat of arms was that granted to the Drapers’ Company of London in 1438. However, many users of modern so-called ‘heraldic’ designs do not register with the authorities, and some designers do not follow the heraldic design rules.
For examples of arms of corporate bodies, see those of the fourteen Incorporated Trades of Glasgow and of Trades House itself, at www.tradeshouse.org.uk, plus Trades Hall, where they meet.
Here are the arms of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh (see http://www.rcpe.ac.uk/library-archives/arms-college for more detail on the history) and a much more modern example, the University of Strathclyde.
This information was kindly supplied by Dr Bruce Durie: Dr. Bruce Durie BSc (Hons) PhD OMLJ FSAScot FCollT FIGRS FHEA Genealogist, Author, Broadcaster, Lecturer Shennachie to the Chief of Durie Shennachie to COSCA
Honorary Fellow, University of Strathclyde Member, Académie internationale de généalogie E: email@example.com