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Patent PoliticsLife Forms, Markets, and the Public Interest in the United States and Europe$
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Shobita Parthasarathy

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780226437859

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226437996.001.0001

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Defining the Public Interest in the US and European Patent Systems

Defining the Public Interest in the US and European Patent Systems

Chapter:
(p.21) 1 Defining the Public Interest in the US and European Patent Systems
Source:
Patent Politics
Author(s):

Shobita Parthasarathy

Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226437996.003.0002

Chapter 1 focuses on how the United States and Europe have understood the public interest in the patent system throughout their history. Soon after they developed the first systems in the 15th century, European governments realized that the monopolies that these patent systems created could hurt the public if basic necessities became too expensive or otherwise inaccessible. They developed various solutions: food and pharmaceuticals could not be patented, and some laws forced the patent holders to commercialize the invention within a certain period of time. Governments introduced an ordre public clause designed to prohibit patents deemed contrary to public policy or morality. The pan-European patent system, developed in the 20th century, codified in the European Patent Convention, removed some of these prohibitions but maintained the idea that patents were moral and socioeconomic objects. The US patent system, developed in the 19th century, treated the interests of the inventor and of the public as the same. And while judges acknowledged a “moral utility” doctrine in patent law, it was very limited and rarely played a role. Overall, the patent system was treated as techno-legal, with an emphasis on procedural objectivity: bureaucrats and judges made decisions based on science and the law.

Keywords:   history, ordre public, public interest, morality, procedural objectivity, European Patent Convention, techno-legal, pharmaceuticals, monopoly, inventor

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