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Where did the U.S. patent laws come from?

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1 Author(s)
Klee, M.M. ; Fairfield, CT, USA

Where did the U.S. patent laws come from? One answer is from from the greed of English kings and queens. To raise money for themselves and their friends, the kings and queens of England adopted a policy of granting monopolies called “letters patents” for everyday goods such as vinegar, wine, salt, paper, oil, bottles, you name it. The crown sold these letters patents to brokers (or gave them to friends and supporters), who in turn sold them to particular companies interested in trading in the various goods. Over the years the U.S. Congress has enacted a series of comprehensive Patent Statutes, the first of which went into effect in 1790 and the most recent of which was enacted in 1952. Congress has also regularly fine-tuned the Patent Statutes in major and minor ways to respond to perceived needs in the country's continuing efforts to encourage innovation and thus grow the economy. Various stages of U.S. patent law can be identified in this process of legislating rewards for innovation. Initially, before 1836, U.S. patents were granted without examination, as is still done in some parts of the world. This left the issue of patent validity solely to the courts, which was unsatisfactory for a growing economy. In response, Congress created the Patent Office in 1836 and directed that Office to conduct a thorough examination of the prior art before a patent was issued. The Patent Office also was charged with resolving disputes between rival inventors and disseminating the technical information contained in patents to the public

Published in:

Engineering in Medicine and Biology Magazine, IEEE  (Volume:17 ,  Issue: 1 )