Intellectual Property History

Intellectual Property History

Intellectual Property: History of Intellectual Property Law

Introduction to Intellectual Property History

Some forms of intellectual property, such as trademarks, date to ancient times. But comprehensive legal protection for intellectual property did not become common until the 18th century. The American colonies had laws granting patents long before the outbreak of the American Revolution in 1775. Soon after the revolution, all but one of the 13 original colonies adopted copyright laws.

When the Constitution of the United States was ratified in 1789, it granted the U.S. Congress the authority to “promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times, to authors and inventors, the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.” Under this power, Congress adopted both patent and copyright laws in 1790, one of its first acts. Protection for trademarks was originally left to the states but eventually, in 1870, Congress adopted the first federal trademark law. Congress has amended the intellectual property statutes frequently since then in response to changes in technology and economics. There are committees in both houses of Congress that have the responsibility of keeping intellectual property laws up to date.

International protection of intellectual property rights was first addressed in treaties beginning in the late 19th century. For example, the Paris Convention of 1883 dealt with patents and trademarks, and the Berne Convention of 1886 protected artistic and literary works among member countries. Since then, many additional international treaties have addressed intellectual property rights. The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), based in Geneva, Switzerland, administers some of these treaties. ” (1)


Notes and References

Guide to Intellectual Property History