Patent Law Enforcement in the Past

KorbenDallas

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A Patent
A patent gives an inventor the right to stop other people making or using their invention. If someone makes or uses that invention without being allowed to, the inventor can sue that person in court to make them stop. The inventor can sell the patent to another person or company.

A patent lasts for up to 20 years, depending on the country. After that, anyone can copy the invention.

History
17029

Example
Although there is some evidence that some form of patent rights was recognized in Ancient Greece in the Greek city of Sybaris, the first statutory patent system is generally regarded to be the Venetian Patent Statute of 1474. Patents were systematically granted in Venice as of 1474, where they issued a decree by which new and inventive devices had to be communicated to the Republic in order to obtain legal protection against potential infringers. The period of protection was 10 years. As Venetians emigrated, they sought similar patent protection in their new homes. This led to the diffusion of patent systems to other countries.

The English patent system evolved from its early medieval origins into the first modern patent system that recognised intellectual property in order to stimulate invention; this was the crucial legal foundation upon which the Industrial Revolution could emerge and flourish. By the 16th century, the English Crown would habitually abuse the granting of letters patent for monopolies. After public outcry, King James I of England (VI of Scotland) was forced to revoke all existing monopolies and declare that they were only to be used for "projects of new invention". This was incorporated into the Statute of Monopolies(1624) in which Parliament restricted the Crown's power explicitly so that the King could only issue letters patent to the inventors or introducers of original inventions for a fixed number of years. The Statute became the foundation for later developments in patent law in England and elsewhere.
My Questions
Kept on running into this info about various patents which were issued back in the day. I mean like way back: 16th, 17th, 18th and 19th centuries.

Keeping in mind all those “19th century outlaw” western type movies (or the 17th century “Three Musketeers”) a certain doubt started to brew in my mind.

KD: What kind of society did they really have to allow for proper enforcement of the Patent Law? From my “narrative compliant” understanding of those times, I cannot imagine any patent enforcement being anywhere on the list of priorities back than. Yet, it had to be, according to the above wiki info. To be honest, I do not even understand how an idea of a “patent” could even be fathomed during the late Medieval, early Renaissance periods.

Here is something for a little comparison:
  • The last execution of the Inquisition was in Spain in 1826. This was the execution by garroting of the school teacher Cayetano Ripoll for purportedly teaching Deism in his school. In Spain the practices of the Inquisition were finally outlawed in 1834.
“Monsieur d’Artagnan, you are illegally producing winter traction horseshoes patented by Monsieur Atos. You have been found guilty and will be executed tomorrow at sunrise.” - me being facetious.

Am I being too suspicious, or you see anything weird in this as well? How could intelectual property be a part of that society?
 

WildFire2000

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The way history has been presented to us, especially the glorified bits from Hollywood and books, the pop culture representation of those time periods are completely against that depth of legal protection. The way that they present different eras to us, including just over 70 years ago, makes the current governmental structure and rigidity of our lives seem way out of place. It seems as if an iron grip has clamped around our freedoms and our ability to 'do our own thing' has been greatly diminished, but ... looking at this in particular, it seems as if those levels of legality and the structure of governmental control was -always- there. One important bit to point out, if you actually research the 'Wild West' era of the US (official information of course, because we know the BS they tell us isn't 100% accurate, but I'm showing the discrepancy between Movies/Pop Culture and Real Life™ documents) the murder rate/death toll, whatever you want to call it was statistically extremely low. In fact, it was one of the safest eras in the US, specifically involving firearm wounds and fatalities involving guns. Modern culture would have everyone, everywhere believe that there were crazy outlaws running around robbing and shooting everyone they could while bands of heroic rangers or US Marshals rode about avenging the wrongs and gunning down the bad guys. 90% of all of that is fabrication, propped up against the Real Life™ official documentation of our 1800's and the 'settling of the west'.

Sorry, I'm side-tracking, but my point, is that what we're told for the US and the Wild West isn't supportive of actual Patent Law, because it's all presented to us the various Territories from back then didn't have a governmental structure necessary to enforce patents, nor did they care, it was every man for himself, a mad scramble for land and gold. The more I step back from the indoctrination of our history lessons and force fed viewpoints, the more fake everything in this society becomes. I really wish time travel were possible, or some way to actually learn about the past of humanity. There's a series called "Species with Amnesia", and while I've never watched any of the videos and have only come across the title in passing, I truly feel that that's where we're currently sitting, as a whole, with very few individuals throughout the world actually actively trying to dig through it and find our true selves.

Not trying to derail here, KD, sorry. One last point on Patent Laws and the past, the structure of the city of Venice showed in Assassin's Creed 2 (maybe Brotherhood?) where Enzio meets and deals with Leonardo da Vinci, I could see the city there enforcing patents in Venice's territory to a certain degree, but so many other areas of pop-culture and historical record tell us otherwise.
 

milhaus

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It doesn't seem strange to me, really. It sounds like a great way for a King/Govt to find out how intelligent/creative the people are (maybe the people need to be dumbed down some more), take ideas for themselves, shut down anyone that may pose a threat to your power, recruit talent, have one of your inventors "coincidentally" submit their patent at the same time or just before some nobody inventor, etc. I doubt the emphasis was on protecting the inventors but it doesn't seem beyond belief. Offering people protection for their ideas is the best way to get them to share, no?

Edit: Well, the one weird thing is that the common man back then would have the means to invent, or be so inventive in general that there arose the needs for patents so I sort of take back what I said because you're right about the core premise.
 
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ISeenItFirst

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I dunno, I don't see too much a problem with it.
It's more about commerce than inventions.
No one is going to track down every person in the wild using or making their invention, and that wouldn't be the pount anyhow.

But if you are making a new thing, and a factory shows up the next town over making and selling your protected stuff, that's when you might seek remedy from society based on your parents.

Of course, this says nothing of the uses and abuses that come from those who record the patents and hold the power.

And the 10 years is fairly reasonable.
Post automatically merged:

In would add that the current state of patent and copywrite law is shite.
 
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BStankman

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No, copyright doesn't fit into history at all does it?
It seems like these were added to history to make us think has been the norm to profit off ideas that would benefit all.

Conventional chronology we are talking about times of limited communication, limited mobility, and cottage industry.
And a fractured government structure, that would not be able to monitor or enforce anything outside of political boundries.

We have many more examples of keeping secrets to gain an advantage.
The secret knowledge of the fraternal orders.
The secret of Greek fire. The secret weapons of Archimedes.
The secret lands kept off maps. the Americas, Australia, Japan.

And straight up deception. Naming the island covered with ice Greenland, and the island that was warm Iceland.
 

Onijunbei

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Doesn't sound too far off...
In the old days of monarchs, everything belonged to the king therefore the issuing of letters patents. Generally only nobility and the educated would create something which would require a patent and the same class of people had control over manufacturing. Fear of the king's punishment would keep copiers at bay.

There wasn't a whole lot of invention going on either allegedly until the 1600s. Everyone had ships and muskets and cannons regardless of who invented them. Enemies didn't give a crap about some other countries patents anyways and that time period was filled with numerous alliances and enemies sharing and stealing technology.

When we get to the United States once again only a certain class of people had education and control over manufacturing. Every state and territory had law. The old adage of what you don't know won't hurt you was in effect. If some yokel came up with something they didn't bother with patents they just used what they created whether it had been created and patented didn't matter as long as it wasn't being mass produced and sold.

It's not really until the advent of mass media does anyone really hear of patent law and intellectual property cases.
 

moriyah

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Full disclosure: my brother is a very rich patent lawyer.
That said; any man with a patent protection scheme loses on the greatest benefit of his idea; that is the approbation and appreciation of those who would benefit from his/her device. Life and death are often separated only by an idea.
It is time to share what we have before we have nothing and must ask another to share what little they have.
We come into this world with nothing and we leave everything behind. Share wisely but share.
 
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KorbenDallas

KorbenDallas

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Personally, I do not see anything normal in copyright infringement enforcement back then. Primarily because I do not see any properly dated infrastructure to conduct such an enforcement. First police force was, allegedly, introduced in 1829 in London. Who exactly was enforcing such laws?

Another thing would be the generally accepted understanding of the everyday life back then, and problems accompanying that life. Here is a small excerpt from the below linked article.
Lack of yearround roads (muddy quagmires, snowbound with deep drifts, fallen trees, river and creek fords instead of bridges usually and occasional ferries, lack of lodging along them, robbers both individually and in sizable gangs, wild animals attacking your horses or oxen, surfaces that broke wheel spokes and axles almost daily, little forage or pasture left along them, attacks by angry natives or townsfolk.) Travel took unpredictable time if you couldn’t get there by ship or boat instead, if you got there at all, and shipping cargos via wagons or pack trains meant much of the total cargo capacity went to feed for the horses.
Heck, some people still think that life expectancy was 20-25 years back then.

I guess what I’m trying to say here is that we cannot have both, life in shit, and copyright infringement enforcement at the same time. There were too many unanswered social issues preceding copyright related ones.

I doubt that living conditions in today’s Somalia, Sudan or Congo are much worse than the narrative compliant ones in the so-called civilized world of some 17th or 18th century. Do any of them patent laws get enforced in troubled, or less fortunate countries of today. Are those even on the priority list?
 

Neoc411

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Hi Guys

Been lurking for about 2 months or so but this is my first contribution. Love this site and your work KD and I do hope to contribute some original content soon :) I am a lawyer by trade and did some IP law. When it comes to IP law there is no enforcement. Infringement of intellectual property rights is a civil wrong and not criminally actionable. As such, it is not a crime and not enforced by police. Enforcement is therefore up to individuals in civil law courts and has been since its establishment.

Patents are interesting though. To be granted a patent you need to submit an application to the patents office with sufficient details that anyone could replicate your invention and understand how and why it works. If these details are not detailed enough you will be rejected. While inventors will keep these details a closely guarded secret until approval, upon the patent being approved these details are publicly available.

Therefore inventors have 2 ways to secure monopolization (i.e. stop people copying) their invention, 1 keep it a secret, until your patent is approved at which time you can sue the pants off any copiers or 2 try to keep how the invention works a secret indefinitely. Of course option 2 is normally only going to be practicable in limited circumstances such as where it forms part of a manufacturing process for an end product. In most cases the invention is the product and as such people are compelled to divulge the inner workings of their invention to the patent office. In most cases the only parties aware of how the invention works is the inventor and the patent office.

In such circumstances it is easy to imagine a scenario of an application containing an invention which lets say undermined the current energy production industry, that the inventor be made an offer they cant refuse and the technology be scrubbed from the records.
 
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KorbenDallas

KorbenDallas

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When it comes to IP law there is no enforcement. Infringement of intellectual property rights is a civil wrong and not criminally actionable. As such, it is not a crime and not enforced by police.
Welcome to our forum!

Never meant that it was a criminal violation. If it came across that way, my bad. So... what happens, when a person refuses to go and face a civil case judge, and just says "screw you and your copyright"?
 

Neoc411

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Welcome to our forum!

Never meant that it was a criminal violation. If it came across that way, my bad. So... what happens, when a person refuses to go and face a civil case judge, and just says "screw you and your copyright"?
Thank you glad to be here think I have read every thread on the forum so thought I may as well become a member.

They would likely receive a default judgement, meaning the case would be awarded to the plaintiff with no trial taking place. They defendant would then owe the plaintiff the amount of damages outlined in the plaintiffs claim.
 
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KorbenDallas

KorbenDallas

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Thank you glad to be here think I have read every thread on the forum so thought I may as well become a member.

They would likely receive a default judgement, meaning the case would be awarded to the plaintiff with no trial taking place. They defendant would then owe the plaintiff the amount of damages outlined in the plaintiffs claim.
And what organization would end up assisting with collection of the funds, with regard to the time frame when "garnish the wages" or "freeze the bank account" was not quite possible?

Eventually some enforcer would have to step in and collect.
 

ISeenItFirst

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A sizeable judgement could pay for a lot of mercs.

How was Hammurabis code enforced, or any code or law since?

The govt monopoly on force is stricter than it used to be.
 
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