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36 J. Pat. Off. Soc'y 157 (1954)
Proposals for the Patent Act of 1790

handle is hein.journals/jpatos36 and id is 163 raw text is: Proposals for the Patent Act of 1790
Sometimes an author becomes so famous for one of his
books that other, equally important works of his are
forgotten.' Such is the case with Noah Webster, whose
Dictionary is known to every American but who is prac-
tically unknown as a lawyer and legislator. If the name
Webster is mentioned at all, in connection with law,
everybody thinks of Noah's younger kinsman and friend
Daniel Webster, one of the great defenders of intellectual
property. Yet the elder Webster's contribution was
much more basic and lasting. He was among the founding
fathers of the American patent system.
Starting in 1782 Noah Webster conducted a one-man
campaign for the enactment of general copyright laws
by the individual States.' He was then a struggling
young Connecticut schoolmaster and lawyer and itiner-
ant journalist. His campaign was nationwide and had
nationwide success. However, he desired further security
for his and other authors' exclusive rights.
On April 16 and 17, 1789, Noah Webster wrote what
he called a federal copyright bill.' It was in fact a
combined patent and copyright bill. The draft is lost
but its spirit can be gathered from other sources. In
1788 Webster wrote:
The authors of useful inventions are among the benefactors of the
public and are entitled to some peculiar advantages for their
ingenuity and labor. The productions of genius and the imagina-
tion are if possible more really and exclusively property than
houses and land and are equally entitled to legal security. The
want of some regulation for this purpose may be numbered
among the defects of the American government.4
1See K. Fenning, Copyrights before the Constitution, JPOS vol. 17
p. 379-385; also N. Webster, Papers on Political Subjects, 1843, p. 173-5.
2 according to his diary under these dates. The diary was published in
E. E. F. Skeel, Notes on the Life of Noah Webster, 1912.
3 Charles Evans, American Bibliography, Vol. 7 p. 368.
4 American Magazine (edited by Webster December 1787 to end of
1788), front page of February 1788 issue.


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