Have Patents Passed Their Peak?

By Rigby, Rhymer | Management Today, January 1996 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Have Patents Passed Their Peak?

Rigby, Rhymer, Management Today

In the 1970s UK patents, seen as an indication of the health of a country's research establishment, were at their peak. But, finds Rhymer Rigby, their levels have been falling for the past two decades

The citizens of Sybaris in ancient Greece - the very same who gave us the modern word for lovers of luxury - were using a system of patents some 500 years before the birth of Christ. These, gave a monopoly on certain types of cookers and typically lasted one year.

In the UK, al, elsewhere, the history of patents begins somewhat later. Though various forms of state patronage and protection existed during the early Middle Ages, it is generally agreed that the first English patent was granted in 1449. This went to a Fleming, John of Utyman, and covered the manufacture of a type of stained glass (used in the windows of Eton College). The precedent set, patents continued to be granted in a rather haphazard and partisan manner over the next 150 years.

On his succession in 1603, James I revoked all previous patents and introduced anew system, which, 14 years later, produced the first truly modem patent@ No 1 of 1617. Despite his sweeping reforms, however, widespread abuse continued - to such an extent that in 1624 Parliament instituted the Statute of Monopolies, which protected new inventions for a 14-year period. What these patents actually covered was often quite, ambiguous, as the literacy rate was so low that no written details were required.

The invention of the steam engine in the following century - patented by James Watt in 1705 - was to have a profound effection the whole patents system. By the late 1800s, the steam engine had become so ubiquitous that for the first time Parliament allowed patents for inventions that were improvements on existing ideas, rather than original ideas themselves. Obtaining a patent, however, was still a costly and bureacratic business. An 18th-century inventor would have to visit seven different offices, obtain the monarch's signature twice and, for a patent covering England, Scotland and Wales, stump up 300 [pounds] - equivalent to over 7,000 [pounds] in today's money.

The Patent Law Amendments Act of 1852 simplified matters considerably and reduced the fee to 25 [pounds]; the number of annual applications consequently increased from 400 to 2,000.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Have Patents Passed Their Peak?


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?