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Journal of the History of International Law. Volume 5, Issue 2 (2003), p. 403-422.


history of patent; institutionalization of patents; origin of patent systems; patent; progenitor of the modern patent system


Given the controversial and indeed, ideological tenor of the various claims by many “patent systems” as to authorship of the patent system, this article engages in an historical reconstruction of the evolution and development of the modern juridical system of patents.In the analysis, various competing “histories” of the patent system are examined, evaluated and their veracity as the origin of the patent system are resolved. In my view, the competing claims to the origins of the patent systems can only be resolved on the basis of certain criteria which constitute the irreducible essence of a patent system. In other words, in determining whether any of the claimants is the undoubted progenitor of the modern patent system, regard must be paid to the following criteria: 1.Whether the patent grant was an exercise of governmental powers designed to provide the patentee exclusive right to the commercial exploitation of a clearly defined invention, 2.Whether the grant was premised on the criterion of novelty of invention rather than a grant of monopoly for already existing trade or business, or grant for exploitation of discoveries such as natural ores or substances, 3.Whether the grant was clearly designed to promote industrialization in the widest meaning of the term, and finally, 4.Whether the grant was predictable result of a legal system instead of a singular or ad hoc grant to an inventor

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