Encouraging innovation through intellectual property rights


In a rapidly changing competitive environment knowledge has become the basis for organisations to develop advantages. When individuals create new products or processes they need protection from competitors so that they gain the most benefits from their ideas. The UK Patent Office provides enterprising people with reassurance and support for their ideas and inventions. This framework of protection has been in place since 1852. The word ‘patent’ comes from the practice of monarchs in the Middle Ages giving rights and privileges by means of ‘open letters’. These were documents authorised with the royal seal open to inspection by anyone. The word patent has evolved from the Latin name for these open letters – ‘litterae patentes’. The earliest English patent was granted to John of Utynam in 1449. This provided a monopoly for a method of making stained glass previously unknown in England. Under Elizabeth I and James I the granting of monopolies for particular commodities became increasingly subject to abuse. In 1624 the Statute of Monopolies incorporated the doctrine of public interest. This meant that patents would only be granted for ‘projects of new invention so they be not contrary to the law nor mischievous to the State’. For the…

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