Chapter 1: Towards a history of patent law
Patent history is a subject that is still largely waiting to be written. Potentially, a history of ‘patents’ encompasses a number of different factors including patent administration, the professionals that work within the patent system, and the concepts, rules, and procedures that make up and inform patent law. There are also a number of different approaches that could be taken when writing a patent history ranging from comparative examinations and sector specific studies through to more political or theoretically informed histories. To date, the bulk of the scholarship that has looked at the history of patents has focused on the patent system as an economic tool and on the role that the patent system plays in stimulating (or hindering) research and development. Until recently, most historical accounts have tended to see patents as instruments that are broadly adaptable to economic forces, and whose internal tensions and inconsistencies can be deciphered as effects of conflicts and shifts in economic interests. While this instrumentalist vision has produced some engaging historical accounts of the political and economic effect of patents there has, at least until recently, been much less attention given to the legal aspects of patents.
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