Patent History and Culture at Leeds

Call for papers: International Diversity in Patent Cultures – a
historical perspective

A workshop supported by the AHRC Network grant: ‘Rethinking Patent

University of Leeds, 15-16 May 2014

Deadline for paper proposals: 25th February.

International diversity among patent systems has been familiar to
historians since at least Edith Tilton Penrose’s classic The Economics
of the International Patent System (1951). While some nations, e.g. the
USA, permitted great liberality in what could be patented and how
patents could be used, many European nations prohibited the patenting of
medicines and weaponry (among much else) and imposed strict conditions
on patentees’ exercise of their rights. The variety of patent systems
across the globe was not dissolved by the 1883 Paris Convention for the
Protection of Industrial Property. Indeed as Rajesh Sagar and Tshimanga
Kongolo have shown, imperial regimes typically imposed their distinctive
patent systems on colonies; this in turn generated further diversity
e.g. the hybrid and variant forms adopted in parts of the British
Empire. By contrast, other nations resisted pressure to institute patent
systems well into the twentieth century, adopting other approaches to
the management of invention.

This workshop explores the factors underlying such diversity and how it
was managed, challenged, and in some respects harmonized by the mid 20th

Confirmed participants:
Stathis Arapostathis (Athens); Lionel Bently (Cambridge); Mario Biagioli
(UC Davis);
Graham Dutfield (Leeds); Courtney Fullilove (Wesleyan); Graeme Gooday
Ian Inkster (Nottingham Trent); Christine Macleod (Bristol); Steven Wilf

A limited number of additional places are available at this workshop.

If you wish to participate, please send a paper proposal (300 words
maximum) to Graeme Gooday by Tuesday 25th

Your proposal should address at least one of the following themes:

i) What patterns of diversity and similarity were apparent in national
patent systems in terms of what could be patented, where, by whom, on
what terms, and for whose primary benefit? How important were shared
political cultures, industrial imperatives, or linguistic-cultural
terrain? In what ways and to what extent did the forces of imperialism
in mould patent laws? Why, for example, was Britain alone in not
imposing the mother country’s patent laws on its colonies, with Canada
adopting a patent system that was a hybrid of American and British
forms? How important were the two world wars and associated peace
treaties in realigning patent laws into more convergent forms?

ii) How can we analyse the key differences between patent regimes? For
example, why did so many patent systems in European countries (unlike
the USA) initially resist the patenting of weaponry, food, drink,
medicine, chemicals, plants, seeds and other biological components such
as genes? To what extent was it only in liberal political regimes that
patentability was constrained only by what was novel? What drove
international harmonization on patentability: was it a convergence of
independent court judgements in the states concerned or was it the
economic pressure of global capitalism to broaden the scope of
patent-driven commodification?

iii) Why did some countries – both within Europe and elsewhere – choose
not to have patent systems until the early to mid-twentieth century
(e.g. Greece), and some even later (e.g. China in 1964)? Was this a
matter of active government rejection of patenting in principle (while
typically not rejecting trademarks)? Or was it a sign that alternative
non-proprietary approaches to creativity were preferred by governments
or industry?

Further workshops in this project will follow later this year:

Medical patenting July 2014: – contact organizer Jamie Stark:

Patenting and disability September 2014: – contact organizer Claire