July 9, 2021
6 mins read

History of patents and how they work

retro machine with mechanically driven needle for sewing
Photo by Adrianna Calvo on Pexels.com

Patents are a set of exclusive rights that an inventor has over what he has invented. When an inventor creates a new device, molecule, method, etc., the first thing he has to do is patent it. Patents are a government’s (official body)’s way of granting an inventor the intellectural ownership of his or her creation.

For a certain period of time, patent holders can control how their inventions are used, allowing them to reap the financial rewards of their work. Patents are a tangible and legally binding manifestation of a person’s genius and innovation; they allow a person to own an idea.

In this article, I’ll talk about the history of patents, what they are, how they work, and how an inventor gets one. Patents are crucial to the progress of technology and play an important role in the business world. Every revolutionary idea has to be put in writing and registered as a patent so that it is recorded that the creator, and no one but the creator, had the initial idea.

Birth of patents

There is some evidence that some form of patent rights were recognized in Ancient Greece. In the year 500 BC. C., in the Greek city of Sybaris (located in southern Italy), “all those who had to discover a new refinement in luxury wereencouraged, the profits of which were obtained from the inventor by patenting the space for one year“.

In England, grants in the form of patent letters were issued by the sovereign to inventors who applied for and were approved. In 1331, Edward III  granted a Letter of Protection  to  John Kempe,a Flemishweaver, to encourage foreign craftsmen to settle in England.

These patent letters provided the addressee with a monopoly to produce certain goods or provide certain services. Another early example of such charter patents was a grant by Henry VI in 1449 to John of Utynam,a Flemish man, for a twenty-year monopoly on his invention.

First patent in Spain

The first patent granted in Spain was in the fifteenth century. This first Privilege (as it was then called) was granted by Queen Isabella of Castile (the Catholic)  in 1478 to her personal physician named Pedro de Azlor.

This patent called at that time license  was for “that he can invent and build in all parts of the kingdom(refers to Castile) mills to grind bread and that ninquna person build other similar ones in twenty years, under certain penalties“. The title protected a new method to grind the grain and granted it exclusive exploitation for 20 years and fixed at the same time an amount of  50,000 maravedís  for those who made use of the invention.

U.S. Patents

U.S. Patents

Following the passage of the Patent Act of 1790,the first Patent Board, composed of Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson,Secretary of War Henry Knox, and Attorney General  Edmund Randolph,began meeting at regularintervals to review patents. The first patent was granted on July 31, 1790 to  Samuel Hopkins for his invention of “Making Pot Pearl Ashes“.

Preconditions for creating a a patent

There are several conditions that a patent has to meet, such as:

  • It has to be a novelty. There is nothing previous.
  • It is a technical solution to a problem. The patent poses a solution to an established problem.
  • And it has industrial applicability.

In addition, a European patent application consists of:

  • A grant application.
  • A description of the invention.
  • The claim on the invention.
  • Drawings (if any).
  • A summary of the invention.

Applications can be filed with the EPO  (European Patent Office) in any language. However, the official languages of the EPO are English, French and German. If the application is not submitted in one of these languages, a translation must be sent. Although the services of a professional representative are mandatory only for applicants residing outside Europe, the EPO advises all applicants to seek legal advice.

Patents and intellectual property

In most countries there are systems that allow intellectual property to be protected. There are different types of intellectual property such as:

  • © copyright.
  • ™ trademark.
  • ® trademark symbol.
  • ℠ service mark symbol.

© Copyright

La protección más amplia serían los derechos de autor. Los derechos de autor están destinados a proteger las “obras originales de autoría” que se encuentran en una forma tangible. Esto incluye pinturas, libros, películas, bailes coreografiados (si los pasos están escritos), música, arquitectura y todos los demás tipos de arte.

Durante un período de tiempo determinado, estas obras no se pueden copiar ni reproducir sin el permiso del propietario de los derechos de autor. En los Estados Unidos, la protección se extiende durante la vida del titular de los derechos de autor más 70 años (para obras creadas después del 1 de enero de 1978). Si una empresa es propietaria de los derechos de autor, la protección dura entre 95 y 120 años, dependiendo de si el trabajo fue publicado o no.

The broadest protection would be copyright. Copyright is intended to protect “original works of authorship” that are in tangible form. This includes paintings, books, films, choreographed dances (if the steps are written), music, architecture, and all other types of art.

For a certain period of time, these works may not be copied or reproduced without the permission of the copyright owner. In the United States,protection extends over the life of the copyright holder plus  70 years  (for works created after  January 1, 1978). If a company owns the copyright, the protection lasts between 95 and 120 years, depending on whether the work was published or not.

Copyright does not protect ideas expounded by a particular work of art; they only protect the way those ideas are presented. In this article, for example, information about copyrights and patents is not the property of anyone, but the sentences and paragraphs used to explain this information are the property of this website. In the United States and many other countries, any original work of authorship is automatically registered with copyright as soon as it is created.

™ symbol and ® symbol

Other types of intellectual property protection have a much more limited scope. Trademarks  protect designs and phrases that companies use to distinguish their product from other companies’ products, and trade secrets protect proprietary information that must be kept secret for a company to make a profit (the Coca-Cola recipe, for example).

Of all forms of intellectual property protection, patents are the most complex and strictly regulated. Patents are basically copyrights in inventions, defined by U.S. patent law as “any process, machine, manufacture, or composition of new and useful matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof.”

Unlike copyright, patents protect the idea or design of the invention, rather than the tangible form of the invention itself. Consequently, patenting something is a much more complicated procedure than the copyright of something.

The cost-effective patent of an enzyme

An enzyme is a biological catalyst that carries out a chemical reaction inside a cell. Due to their protein nature they are usually very sensitive elements and degrade easily. An example of a patent that uses an enzyme is the dna polymerase method phi29  is still the most  profitable that has been presented by the CSIC (Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas).

Margarita Salas and her team were the creators of this method. The  DNA polymerase of the bacteriophage virus  phi29 has a crucial application in biotechnology: it allows dna to be amplified in a simple, fast and reliable way. It is therefore used in forensic medicine, oncology and archaeology.

The description of the patent can be seen in this link https://patentimages.storage.googleapis.com/14/e8/fe/1e252f225aea1b/CA2766725C.pdf  . For a patent to be approved it has to go through a certifier, in this case it was the Intellectual Property Office of Canada(http://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/cipointernet-internetopic.nsf/eng/Home).

Where to look for patents

Anyone can search for a patent online using the online Patent Office database,but this database only contains patents issued since 1976, so it is not a complete search. Google has a very fast patent search engine and includes patents dating back to the early nineteenth century. Unfortunately, Google Patents has a limited number of search fields. Still, Google Patents is a great first place to start, especially when you don’t know exactly what you’re looking for.

To find the best results with a word search, you need to know how patent professionals describe things in patent applications and issued patents, i.e. when the most relevant prior art will be located. The use of Google Patents at least initially is very useful because they search by synonyms.


User Avatar

Avelino Dominguez

??‍? Biologist ??‍? Teacher ??‍? Technologist ? Statistician ? #SEO #SocialNetwork #Web #Data ♟Chess ? Galician

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

retro machine with mechanically driven needle for sewing
Previous Story

Historia de las patentes y como funcionan

seguridad web security
Next Story

How to improve web security on a page


Don't Miss