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27 J. Pat. Off. Soc'y 143 (1945)
The Orgin of Patents

handle is hein.journals/jpatos27 and id is 169 raw text is: The Origin of Patents *

It is little known that patents, so important in our day,
are really of remote origin; their ever-increasing number
is the best illustration of the amazing rate of technical
progress. Since the establishment of patent laws in near-
ly all countries, several millions have been granted. In
the United States alone the number of grants far exceeds
two millions; throughout the world over a thousand pat-
ents are issued every day.
For our purpose we may define a patent only as a
temporary and exclusive right granted for the exploita-
tion of a new invention.
It would be vain to look for patents in ancient Greece
and Rome. During the classic period useful arts were
regarded with contempt, and although inventions were
made by men such as Archimedes, they were looked on as
mere frivolities, scarcely befitting a philosopher. In
Rome there was another obstacle, namely, the principles
of Roman Law. Nevertheless a Greek compiler, Athen-
aeus, of the third century A.D., mentions in his Deipno-
sophistae that several centuries B.C. there were culinary
competitions in the city of Sybaris, which became pro-
verbial for its luxury. The successful cook, inventor of a
new dish, was given an exclusive right to prepare it dur-
ing one year.
During the Middle Ages we find many industrial priv-
ileges, but in most cases it is difficult to say whether they
had any connection with new inventions. Benjamin of
Tudela, who travelled 'round the world' from 1160-1173
(it was, of course, the world as known at that time:
Europe and the Near East), mentions in his Itinerary
that the 'King of Jerusalem granted against the payment
of an annual fee an exclusive right to certain dyers, and
we know that in the Middle Ages the whole art of dyeing
consisted of trade secrets.
* Reprinted from Chambers Journal, January, 1943.

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