Page images
PDF
EPUB

conditions otherwise unfavorable, may, through the beneficent influences of our patent law, successfully compete with what were formerly the monopolies, the established industries, of the old world. To-day our export trade is larger than that of any other country.

The increasing markets for and proud pre-eminence of our manufactures are due not more to the system of protection to the industry of the American workman, than to the protection to the genius of the American inventor by the patent laws of the United States as developed and administered by its courts.

On the whole, it is probable that the inventor secures the reward for his contribution to the public weal more fully, more largely, and more cheaply in the United States than in any other country. Such a condition is adapted to bring out the strongest points in the American character.

Much has been said of the inventive genius of the Yankee. He is ingenious, resourceful, and indefatigable. He may not have the imagination of the Latin, or the capacity of the Teuton for analytical and patient investigation, but he is quick to grasp ideas and pre-eminently practical in applying them. And it is the possession of this quality of successful creative instinct which has made the development of our sewing-machines and looms, our trolley systems and airbrakes, the wonder and admiration of the world.

In the history of our patent law the claims of American women as inventors must not be overlooked. Voltaire tells us that "Very learned women are to be found in the same manner as female warriors, but they are seldom or never inventors." From his point of view, with the French woman as his object, perhaps he was right. But the history of inventions in this country does not support this statement. From the first patent, to Mary Kies in 1809, for straw-weaving, nearly six thousand patents have been granted to women, covering every department of the arts from baby jumpers to burial apparatus and cigaretteholders. One woman has outshone Desdemona by invent

Women as inventors.

ing a device for lowering keys from windows; another has patented a rake.

The historian of the American Patent Law justly extols the creative genius of the great inventors, the marvellous ingenuity of their conceptions, and the incalculable benefits derived from their creations, which have made our nation the peaceful conqueror of the universe. Thus Whitney gave to cotton its imperial position among the staples; thus Morse each day inspires the nations with common knowledge and thought; thus through Bell we live and move and have our being within the sound of distant voices echoed in office and home; and thus Edison says, "Let there be light, and there was light." He may contrast the original thought which flashed upon Howe of a new stitch with the needle's eye near its point; the simplicity of the change from the diamondshaped prong to the coiled wire of the barbed fence; the reduction in size of carbon filament which distinguishes the Edison lamp; the simple turning of an adjusting screw which differentiated the Bell telephone from Reis, with the unwearying researches and experiments of Fulton, or Franklin, or Goodyear. But he must not forget George Washington, who, in his first address to Congress, in 1790, recommended the passage of a law for the protection of inventors, nor William Thornton, who, in 1814, threw himself in front of the cannon which the British had trained on the Patent Office, saying: "This is the Patent Office, the depository of the inventive genius of America, in which the whole civilized world is concerned. Would you destroy it? If so, fire away, and let the charge pass through my body." Let him further record that it was Chief Justice Marshall who thus outlined the broad purpose of the patent law of the United States:

"To promote the progress of useful arts is the interest and policy of every enlightened government. It entered into the views of the framers of our Constitution; and the power to

1 Campbell's History of Patent Law, p. 28.

promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries,' is among those expressly given to Congress. This subject was among the first which followed the organization of our government. It was taken up by the first Congress at its second session, and an act was passed authorizing a patent to be issued to the inventor of any useful art, etc. It cannot be doubted that the settled purpose of the United States has ever been, and continues to be, to confer on the authors of useful inventions an exclusive right in their inventions for the time mentioned in their patent. It is the reward stipulated for the advantages derived by the public from the exertions of the individual, and is intended as a stimulus to those exertions. The laws which are passed to give effect to this purpose ought, we think, to be construed in the spirit in which they have been made; and to execute the contract fairly on the part of the United States, where the full benefit has been actually received, if this can be done without transcending the intention of the statute, or countenancing acts. which are fraudulent or may prove mischievous."

1

In this opinion he also urged the legislation which subsequently authorized reissues. And the present status of the patent law, its building up by judicial decision rather than by legislation, as already suggested, is the result of the labors of such jurists as Marshall, and Story, and Clifford, and Blatchford, and Brown, who have so developed the law for the mutual protection of patentee and public that legislation has not been creative but declaratory of the existing law.

To quote the language of the late President Harrison in his address at the Centennial of the Patent System in the United States: "The security of property in inventions has been highly promotive of the advance our country has made in the arts and sciences. Nothing more stimulates effort than security in the results of effort."2

1 Grant v. Raymond, 6 Peter's Reports (U. S.), 218, 241.
2 Patent Centennial Celebration, p. 23.

XV

COPYRIGHTS

1701-1901

BY WILLIAM K. TOWNSEND, D.C.L.

ORIGINALLY the historian, poet, or dramatist found his pecuniary recompense in the contributions of the audience who listened to the recital or witnessed the perIts beginnings. formance. In Rome an author could sell his work to a bookseller, and custom or a usage of trade protected the transfer. But there was no such thing as literary property. The first attempt to create a literary property in an author's works was made in Venice. The Senate of that Republic, in 1469, granted to one John of Spira the exclusive privilege for five years of printing the letters of Cicero and Pliny.

England.

In England, from the publication of the first privileged book in 1518 down to the Copyright Act of 1710, the decrees and ordinances concerning the printing or publishing of books were in the nature of police regulations or arbitrary press censorships. This Act of 1710. formulated our present conception of copyright. It gave a copyright for fourteen years to an author, and, if he were alive at the expiration of this period, for an additional fourteen years. Parliament has since extended the time, and the author's work is now protected for sixty years after his death.

The United
States.

""

Connecticut was the first State in this country to recognize the rights of authors. In January, 1783, she passed “An Act for the encouragement of Literature and Genius,' reciting in its preamble that “it is perfectly agreeable to the Principles of natural Equity and Justice that

every Author should be secured in receiving the Profits that may arise from the Sale of his Works, and such Security may encourage Men of Learning and Genius to publish their Writings; which may do Honor to their Country, and Service to Mankind." By this statute copyrights were to be granted for fourteen years, with the benefit of a second term of the same length, either to the inventor or, in case of his death, to his family. Massachusetts followed in March, and New Jersey in May, of the same year. Virginia in 1785 and New York in 1786 passed copyright laws, and, owing to the vigorous efforts of Noah Webster, other States were seriously considering the advisability of similar enactments. These last three States in taking this step acted on the resolution proposed by Madison and adopted by the Congress in May, 1783, recommending to the States that they secure to authors and publishers the copyright of their works. So, when the people granted to Congress in 1787 the power "to promote the progress of science and the useful arts," this country already appreciated the importance of copyright laws.

This provision in our Constitution, on which our Copyright Acts rest, was proposed by Madison and Pinckney in the Federal Convention of 1787 and adopted without discussion. Thus we were the first nation to recognize and provide, in the organic law, for protection to literary property. Our legislation on this subject has proceeded upon a less liberal theory of the rights of authors than that of other countries. In Europe, protection is accorded during the life of the author and for a period after his death varying in different countries; in France, Russia, and Spain extending to fifty years after the author's death.

The first Copyright Act in this country, that of May 31, 1790, was limited to citizens or residents, and was for a term of fourteen years, with a renewal if the author were then living. The first book entered for copyright under this law was the Philadelphia Spelling Book, in June, 1790. The Acts of 1831 and 1870 provided for an extension of the original

1 Acts and Laws of Conn. Jan. Sess. 1783, 617.

« PreviousContinue »