Elgar Law, Technology and Society series
Edited by Jessica C. Lai and Antoinette Maget Dominicé
Chapter 4: A tale of two histories: the “invention” and its incentive theory
One of the first things we teach students when introducing patent law is that patents protect applied ideas. What we often fail to acknowledge is that what we deem to be capable of being an “invention” is that which has some kind of physical embodiment or physical effect. This chapter takes a historical approach to highlight that patent law has never been purely about the intangible. It does so by telling two histories. The first history concerns the development of patent law theory and policy. It discusses how changes and developments in patent-law reasoning and policy show the importance of the tangible and intangible aspects of inventions. The second history addresses the progression of the understanding of the patentable “invention”. More concretely, it looks at the terms “invention” and “manner of new manufacture”, and how their judicial interpretation over the years has developed away from, but not quite shaken off, the connection to the physical.
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