Where did it all began?
Through history, we can see how the Patent Law shaped itself throughout the time with development and changes in the society. The idea of giving the person credit and the right for what he or she has invented has been around for centuries. The first recognizable form of patent was seen in medieval times, where the sovereign granted exclusive rights to a monopoly, well for the benefits to the sovereign to raise money without the need to tax.
Patent law was first seen in Italy. In 1474, the first law providing for the grant of exclusive rights for limited periods to inventors in general as a deliberate act of economic policy was introduced in Venice (Ladas). This was the start of the formal grants and restriction in monopoly. In 1624, a closer form of patent law, similar to the current one in the United States can be seen in England. For the first time, they state that inventions need to be new in order to obtain a monopoly and also a limited time of 14 years for monopoly is granted to the inventor (Ladas). Also, it was more of an advantage to the society rather than the sovereign; in fact the Statute of Monopolies was passed to restrict the power of the sovereign in granting monopolies for their success. This idea can be seen in the current U.S. Patent Law. French established their patent law in 1791 which focused on the inventor. The French Patent Law states, “All new discoveries are the property of the author; to assure the inventor the property and temporary enjoyment of his discovery, there shall be delivered to him a patent for five, ten or fifteen years" (Ladas). Parts of this law can also be seen in the current Untied States Patent law.
History of U.S. Patent Law
The start of the U.S. patent law is probably during colonial era. Few inventors obtained monopolies to produce and sell their inventions with a formal approval from the colony’s legislature. The very first known Patent on U.S was on a new method of making salt granted to Samuel Winslow in 1641, granted by the Massachusetts General Court. The U.S. constitution, a foundation of the U.S. Patent law was drafted during the industrial revolution.
Here is a table that shows recognizable growth of the Patent law in the U.S starting with the pass of the first Patent Act of U.S. into law in April 10, 1790 (AA). “The Patent Act empowered any two of: The Secretary of State, the Secretary of War, and the Attorney General to grant a patent to a petitioning inventor for an invention ‘not before known or used’ ‘if they shall deem the invention or discovery sufficiently useful and important’ ” (Ladas). When the inventor requested a patent, he or she had to submit a description of the invention and if approved, the inventor was provided with 14 years of monopoly.
Table of history of Patent Law in the U.S. (Ladas and AA)
More information can be found at http://www.ladas.com/Patents/USPatentHistory.html
So through trials and errors throughout the years the patent law was able to fix what were a problem and has become what it is now. It has become a law that both gives the right to the inventor and also uses the law as a chance of an improvement to society. It still is not a perfect law and there are still many issues with it. Even though there is a clarification on what can be patented and what cannot, some of them are in the gray area of being patentable or not and many still argue over it. One especially is database. Database is considered a list and cannot be patentable.
First U.S. Patent Law. Source: http://patentplace.files.wordpress.com/2008/08/0x0000001-1tif1.jpg
Absolute Astronomy. “History of Patent Law.” 2010. Apr 2010.
Absolute Astronomy. “History of United States Patent Law”. 2010. Apr 2010.
Ladas & Parry. “A Brief History of the Patent Law of the United States”. July 2009. Apr 2010. <http://www.ladas.com/Patents/USPatentHistory.html>
Intellectual Property Office. “History of Patents.” Jan. 2009. 3 Mar 2010.
Friedman, Lawrence M. “American Law in the 20th Century.” New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2002.
"Welcome to the Uspto Museum". Washington DC, 2006. United States Patent and Trademark Offices. Ed. USPTO. (7/27/2006): USPTO. <http://www.archives.gov/research/guide-fed-records/groups/241.html>