Reevaluating the Patent “Privilege”

Scholars and jurists have increasingly relied on Jefferson as the defining source for the history of American patent law. One of the principal drafters of the 1952 Patent Act believed that “patents for inventions were historically, and always will be, grants of privilege.” Such broad-brushed declarations that patents were merely special legal privileges are profoundly mistaken. The historical claim that patents have always been specially conferred legal privileges is at best a half-truth and at worst a myth.

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