The research into the extensive and unique history of patents is intriguing. It would be easy for individuals to presume that patents are a fairly recent advancement, but that could not be more mistaken. In reality, it is actually believed that the initial known patent is thought to have been given in Venice, Italy in the 12th century. These earliest known patents were fundamentally 10 year monopolies given to the inventors of a silk weaving process.
By the 14th century, the English acquired a method wherein the Crown granted special privileges to inventors which allowed them sole use of their invention until it became a viable industry. The earliest known patent under this system was granted in 1449 to a glass making procedure used by Venetian Glass makers. The patent was granted for a duration of 20 years.
It is important to note the difference between those 14th century patents and the patents these days. Those first patents made no distinction between inventors and those who simply imported new processes to their country to reduce their dependence on imports. By allowing patents to entrepreneurial importers, England took a significant step in acknowledging that the different technological innovation brought in to their country would produce jobs and enhance their economy.
The original legal statues included in governments about Patents were in the Republic of Venice in 1474. This statute acknowledged that new inventions had to be recorded with the Republic as a way to achieve legal protection from potential infringers. This early statute laid down the essential principles of today’s Patent Law. Inventions had to be both new and useful, the rights provided to the inventor were exclusive, the Patent was applied for a limited time, and those who infringed on the patent could be instructed to cease and desist all rivalling inventions pertaining to the Patent.
At the same time, England’s Patent system was becoming particularly corrupt. The Crown provided Patent privileges to those they regarded worthy, as this became a really good way of raising funds. This technique resulted in discontent amongst creators as the Crown awarded their monopolies to favored inventors in return for a sum of money. Eventually, King James the 1st ended all existing patent privileges in support of the 1623 statute of monopolies which granted monopolies only to new inventions and was enforceable for a limited amount of time.
The system of approving patents was notably busy through the Industrial revolution, leading the practice to be adopted by other countries. The first United States Patent laws were introduced in 1790 with France following in 1791. In 1883, patent laws were internationalized during the signing of the Paris Convention.
The fundamental properties of current patent law have been in place for over 400 years. This isn't so incredible if you think of the awesome leaps and strides in technology over those 400 years. Even the past 50 years we have observed computers and the Internet and digital photography and cellular phone service certainly change the way our society lives.