The first federal law related to patents was the Patent Act of 1790 and was titled “An Act to promote the Progress of Useful Arts.” In a nutshell, that’s exactly what patent law is trying to do—promote innovation. And I don’t think anyone is going to argue against innovation as a valid cause (well, maybe socialists). Interesting historical tidbit: to be granted a patent under this initial law, an individual was required to get approval from two of the following three people: the Attorney General, the Secretary of State and the Secretary of War. With over 600,000 patent applications filed in the United States just last year, I imagine John Kerry is happy this is no longer the process.
Since these first laws, the popularity of patents has ebbed and flowed throughout our country’s history. During good times people see patents as a way to promote innovation which leads to new businesses (and thus jobs) and thriving economies. During recessions patents are viewed as monopolistic devices that large companies use to crush small competitors via expensive lawsuits.
Continue reading “Is patent reform inevitable?”