The Journal of Economic History


The Patent Controversy in the Nineteenth Century*

Fritz Machlupa1 and Edith Penrosea1

a1 The Johns Hopkins University

The patent system has lately been subjected to investigations by committees of Congress, and reforms have been proposed to meet some of the most serious criticisms. In recent publications commenting on these discussions it has been suggested that opposition to the patent system is a new development. A writer of a “history of the patent monopoly” asserted that “there never has been, until the present time, any criticism of this type of exclusive privilege,” and he attributed the allegedly new attitude to “modern witch-hunters,” “hungry aspirants to public office,” and, by innuendo, to enemies of all private property.

* The material used in this article resulted from research undertaken as part of a larger study being made with the assistance of grants from the Social Science Research Council and the American Philosophical Society. This assistance, together with that of the Lessing Rosenthal Fund for Economic Research at the Johns Hopkins University, is gratefully acknowledged.