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Fascinating Infographic on the History of Patent Law

Fascinating Infographic on the History of Patent Law

When I re-launched the blog here at I produced two infographics, one on using Public PAIR, and one on important US cases impacting the business of patents. These proved to be very popular, and continue to be frequently accessed and downloaded, but producing good content in this format can be very time consuming. Understanding how difficult it is to generate good patent related infographics I am always happy to see, and pass along well done examples from this genre.

Along these lines, I was excited to recently hear from Jordan Opel about a new infographic on the history of patent law created by the University of Southern California Gould School of Law. Jordan provided the following description when telling me about the graphic:

Some highlights from the graphic encompass several aspects of patent law’s history starting at around 500 B.C., including The first ever recorded document that granted rights to an individual and the establishment of the US patent act in 1790. It is a diverse visual resource that appeals to professionals or enthusiasts in legal, historical or entrepreneurial fields alike.

Here is an embedded version of the infographic, and interested parties can learn more about it, and the online law program at USC from their website.

Jordan also sent me an encapsulated version of the description from the USC site:

The concept of owning ideas has a rich and extensive history, dating all the way back to 500 BCE when chefs in Sybaris (modern day southern Italy) monopolized their unique dishes for profit. The idea was bold and new, appealing immensely to inventors and creative professionals. Years later, Vitruvius, who served as a judge in Alexandria, tried and exposed several poets who were guilty of stealing material of others in the field. From then on, Roman jurists looked into differentiating between types of ownership, helping refine the foundations for the patent laws that would exist in the years to follow.

The first recorded document that granted rights to an individual was given to Filippo Brunelleschi of Florence, in the year 1421. It recognized comprehensive intellectual property rights, and over fifty years later in 1474, the first lasting statute that recognized patent law and intellectual property protection was established.

In the years that followed, England would grant several monopolizing statutes that recognized the patent rights of creators. These culminated in the year 1710, where fourteen-year copyright laws were granted to authors.

When the United States became independent, the founders understood the importance of patent law as much as England had. Several sweeping intellectual property laws were developed in the decade from 1790 to 1893, creating offices and examiners for such patents, resulting in conventions all over the world being made to protect the rights of creators.

What we know as modern day United States patent law was developed in the year 1950 and remains in place today. These laws have protected the work of creators for over sixty years and will remain to do so in the future.

To learn more about these groundbreaking moments in the history of patent law and intellectual property, check out this infographic in the style of a timeline created by the University of Southern California’s online LL.M. program.

So while the patent system continues to be under attack here in the United States, and the new Republican controlled Congress is looking to make yet more changes to it, perhaps some perspective is in order. An infographic like this one is certainly useful in helping drive home the point that the protection of intellectual property, particularly patents has been around for a long time, and is a key component of continued technological, and economic development.

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