A Handbook of Contemporary Research
Edited by Toshiko Takenaka
Chapter 3: History of the Patent System
John N. Adams Introduction Unlike trademarks, which can develop even in comparatively primitive societies in which particular makers’ marks can acquire goodwill as people come to rely on them,1 or copyright, which seems to represent a fairly basic instinct about the relationship of an author to his or her works,2 patents seem to be a creation of advanced societies. Although it has sometimes been asserted that the earliest form of patents might have existed in 500 BC in Sybaris, Greece, where monopolies were granted to new dishes for a period of one year, and that the patents may also have existed in the Roman Empire where guilds existed, the only reliable historical evidence is that the system originated in Venice in the fifteenth century. A few patents had already been granted prior to 1474 when Venice promulgated its patent statute, probably the first modern patent law. We have among us men of great genius, apt to invent and discover ingenious devices; and in view of the grandeur and virtue of our city, more such men come to us every day from divers parts. Now, if provision were made for the works and devices discovered by such persons, so that others who may see them could not build them and take the inventor’s honour away, more men would then apply their genius, would discover, and would build devices of great utility and benefit to our commonwealth. Therefore: Be it enacted that, by the authority of this Council, every person...
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