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The Statute of Monopolies 1623
21 Jac 1 c 3
is an Act of the
Parliament of England The Parliament of England was the legislature A legislature is an assembly Assembly may refer to: Organisations and meetings * Deliberative assembly A deliberative assembly is a gathering of members (of any kind of collective) who u ...
notable as the first
statutory A statute is a formal written enactment of a legislative A legislature is an assembly Assembly may refer to: Organisations and meetings * Deliberative assembly A deliberative assembly is a gathering of members (of any kind of collective) ...
expression of English
patent A patent is a type of intellectual property Intellectual property (IP) is a category of property Property is a system of rights that gives people legal control of valuable things, and also refers to the valuable things themselves. Depe ...

patent
law. Patents evolved from
letters patent Letters patent ( la, litterae patentes) ( always in the plural) are a type of legal instrument ''Legal instrument'' is a legal Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act acco ...
, issued by the monarch to grant monopolies over particular industries to skilled individuals with new techniques. Originally intended to strengthen England's economy by making it self-sufficient and promoting new industries, the system gradually became seen as a way to raise money (through charging patent-holders) without having to incur the public unpopularity of a tax.
Elizabeth I Elizabeth I (7 September 153324 March 1603) was Queen of England and Ireland Ireland ( ; ga, Éire ; Ulster Scots dialect, Ulster-Scots: ) is an island in the Atlantic Ocean, North Atlantic. It is separated from Great Britain to i ...

Elizabeth I
particularly used the system extensively, issuing patents for common commodities such as starch and salt. Unrest eventually persuaded her to turn the administration of patents over to the
common law In law, common law (also known as judicial precedent or judge-made law, or case law Case law is the collection of past legal decisions written by courts and similar tribunal A tribunal, generally, is any person or institution with authority ...
courts, but her successor,
James I James VI and I (James Charles Stuart; 19 June 1566 – 27 March 1625) was King of Scotland as James VI from 24 July 1567 and King of England and King of Ireland, Ireland as James I from the Union of the Crowns, union of the Scottish and En ...

James I
, used it even more. Despite a committee established to investigate grievances and excesses, Parliament made several efforts to further curtail the monarch's power. The result was the Statute of Monopolies, passed on 29 May 1624 (although at the time this was thought to be 1623). The statute repealed some past and future patents and monopolies but preserved exceptions: one of these was for patents for novel inventions. Seen as a key moment in the evolution of patent law, the statute has also been described as "one of the landmarks in the transition of ngland'seconomy from the feudal to the capitalist". Even with the statute in force, it took over a century for a comprehensive legal doctrine around patents to come into existence, and James I's successor
Charles I Charles is a masculine given name predominantly found in English language, English and French language, French speaking countries. It is from the French form ''Charles'' of the Proto-Germanic, Proto-Germanic name ᚲᚨᚱᛁᛚᚨᛉ (in r ...

Charles I
regularly abused the patents system by ensuring that all cases relating to his actions were heard in
conciliar court Conciliar may refer to: *Conciliarity, conciliar authority *Conciliarism, a movement in Roman Catholicism emphasising conciliarity {{disambiguation ...
s, which he controlled. The
English Civil War The English Civil War (1642–1651) was a series of civil wars A civil war, also known as an intrastate war in polemology, is a war War is an intense armed conflict between states State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, ...
and the resulting
English Restoration The Restoration of the Stuart monarchy The House of Stuart, originally Stewart, was a dynasty, royal house of Kingdom of Scotland, Scotland, Kingdom of England, England, Kingdom of Ireland, Ireland and later Kingdom of Great Britain, Gre ...
finally curtailed this system. The statute is still the basis for Australian law, and until the United Kingdom began following the
European Patent Convention The European Patent Convention (EPC), also known as the Convention on the Grant of European Patents of 5 October 1973, is a multilateral treaty A treaty is a formal, legally binding written agreement between actors in international law ...
in 1977, was also a strong pillar of the United Kingdom's intellectual property law.


Background

Historically, English patent law was based on custom and the
common law In law, common law (also known as judicial precedent or judge-made law, or case law Case law is the collection of past legal decisions written by courts and similar tribunal A tribunal, generally, is any person or institution with authority ...
, not on statute. It began as
the Crown The Crown is the state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), ''The State'' (newspaper), a daily newspaper i ...

the Crown
granted patents as a form of economic protection to ensure high industrial production. As gifts from the Crown, there was no judicial review, oversight or consideration, and no actual law developed around patents. This practice came from the guilds, groups who were controlled by the Crown and held monopolies over particular industries. By the 14th century the economy of England was lagging behind that of other European nations, with the guilds too small to control industrial production successfully. To remedy this,
Edward II Edward II (25 April 1284 – 21 September 1327), also called Edward of Caernarfon, was King of England This list of kings and queens of the begins with , who initially ruled , one of the which later made up modern England. A ...

Edward II
began encouraging foreign workmen and inventors to settle in England, offering "letters of protection" that protected them from guild policy on the condition that they train English apprentices and pass on their knowledge. The first recorded letter of protection was given in 1331. The letters did not grant a full monopoly; rather they acted as an extended passport, allowing foreign workers to travel to England and practice their trade. An exceptional example (considered the first full patent in England) was issued to
John of Utynam John of Utynam is the recipient of the first known English patent, granted in 1449 by King Henry VI. John was a master glass-maker from Flanders who came to England to make the windows for Eton College. The patent granted him a 20-year monopoly on ...
on 3 April 1449, granting him a monopoly. Overseas, the practice of granting full industrial patents and monopolies became common in Italian states by the 1420s. Over the next century, the granting of full industrial patents became a more common practice in England; the next record is a letter from 1537 to
Thomas Cromwell Thomas Cromwell, (; 1485 – 28 July 1540) was an English lawyer and statesman who served as List of English chief ministers, chief minister to King Henry VIII from 1534 to 1540, when he was beheaded on orders of the king. Cromwell was one o ...
,
Henry VIII Henry VIII (28 June 149128 January 1547) was King of England from 22 April 1509 until his death in 1547. Henry is best known for Wives of Henry VIII, his six marriages, including his efforts to have his first marriage (to Catherine of Aragon ...
's private secretary, from Antonio Guidotti, a Venetian silk-merchant. Guidotti had persuaded a group of Venetian silk-makers to practice in England, and wanted the king to grant him
letters patent Letters patent ( la, litterae patentes) ( always in the plural) are a type of legal instrument ''Legal instrument'' is a legal Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act acco ...
protecting their monopoly to grow silk for 15 or 20 years. This was granted, and Henry's son
Edward VI Edward VI (12 October 1537 – 6 July 1553) was King of England This list of kings and queens of the begins with , who initially ruled , one of the which later made up modern England. Alfred styled himself King of the from about 886, ...
followed up with a grant of letters patent to Henry Smyth, who hoped to introduce foreign glassworking techniques into England. This process continued after
Elizabeth I Elizabeth I (7 September 153324 March 1603) was Queen of England and Ireland Ireland ( ; ga, Éire ; Ulster Scots dialect, Ulster-Scots: ) is an island in the Atlantic Ocean, North Atlantic. It is separated from Great Britain to i ...

Elizabeth I
came to the throne, with formal procedures set out in 1561 to issue letters patent to any new industry, allowing monopolies. The granting of these patents was highly popular with the monarch, both before and after the Statute of Monopolies, because of the potential for raising revenue. A patentee was expected to pay heavily for the patent, and unlike a tax raise (another method of raising Crown money) any public unrest as a result of the patent was normally directed at the patentee, not the monarch. Over time, this became more and more problematic; instead of temporary monopolies on specific, imported industries, long-term monopolies came about over more common commodities, including salt and starch. These "odious monopolies" led to a showdown between the Crown and Parliament, in which it was agreed in 1601 to turn the power to administer patents over to the common law courts; at the same time, Elizabeth revoked a number of the more restrictive and damaging monopolies.Ramsey (1936) p.8 Even given a string of judicial decisions criticising and overruling such monopolies,
James I James VI and I (James Charles Stuart; 19 June 1566 – 27 March 1625) was King of Scotland as James VI from 24 July 1567 and King of England and King of Ireland, Ireland as James I from the Union of the Crowns, union of the Scottish and En ...

James I
, Elizabeth I's successor, continued using patents to create monopolies. Despite the Committee of Grievances, a body chaired by
Sir Edward Coke Sir Edward Coke ( "cook", formerly ; 1 February 1552 – 3 September 1634) was an English barrister, judge, and politician who is considered the greatest jurist of the Elizabethan era, Elizabethan and Jacobean era, Jacobean eras. Born into ...

Sir Edward Coke
that abolished a large number of monopolies, a wave of protest occurred at the expansion of the system. On 27 March 1621, James suggested the House of Commons draw up a list of the three most objectionable patents, and he would "give Life to it, without alteration", but by this time a statute was already being prepared by Coke. After passing on 12 May 1621 it was thrown out by the
House of Lords The House of Lords, formally The Right Honourable the Lords Spiritual and Temporal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in Parliament assembled, is the of the . Membership is by , or . Like the , it meets in the . ar ...

House of Lords
, but a Statute of Monopolies was finally passed by Parliament on 29 May 1624.


Act


Sections 1–5

Section 1 said that: Crucially, this rendered all past, present and future patents and monopolies null and void. Patents were normally divided into three categories; patents for a particular invention, patents exempting a patent-holder from legislation, and patents for a particular trade or industry. Section 1, however, for the first time discussed a new category of patents; those "of Power, Liberty or Faculty". These patents were normally used in relation to penal laws, to "farm out" the business of administering to criminals and dispensing justice to private companies and individuals. The statute, in a break from previous law, emphasised that this power lay only within Parliament. Section 2 provided that all future patents granted should be determined by the common law, and not otherwise, while Section 3 emphasised that companies and individuals now or in the future in possession of patents should not be allowed to exercise them. Sections 4 and 5 provided that if anyone was interfered with 40 days after the Statute of Monopolies was passed due to a patent or monopoly, any goods seized or persons imprisoned would be returned to their owners and released respectively.


Sections 6–9

The most important part of the statute is Section 6, which lays out the exceptions to the rules preventing any kind of monopoly or patent. It stated that the previous provisions: Essentially, this established a wide area in which patents could be granted, on the condition that monopolies lasted no longer than 14 years. These patents would apply to any new "manner" of "manufacture", with "manufacture" referring both to the creation of an object, and the design for that object. Section 7 provided that the Act did not prejudice or overrule any previous statutory measures, while Section 8 provided that the restoration to Parliament of the power to administer penal law did not in any way infringe upon the right of the king,
Court of King's Bench The Queen's Bench (); or, during the reign of a male monarch, the King's Bench ('), is the superior court in a number of jurisdictions within some of the Commonwealth realm A Commonwealth realm is a sovereign state A sovereign state ...
,
Court of Common Pleas A court of common pleas is a common kind of court structure found in various common law jurisdictions. The form originated with the Court of Common Pleas (England), Court of Common Pleas at Westminster, which was created to permit individuals to pr ...
or other criminal courts to order someone's imprisonment. Section 9 provided that the rejection of letters patent and licenses did not extend to corporations over towns, such as the
City of London Corporation The City of London Corporation, officially and legally the Mayor and Commonalty and Citizens of the City of London, is the municipal governing body of the City of London The City of London is a city A city is a large .Goodall, B. (19 ...
.


Dating of the Statute of Monopolies

The Statute of Monopolies is properly cited without a year. However, when it is cited with a year there are writers who use 1623 and some who use 1624. The confusion arises because the Parliamentary Session in which it passed assembled on 12 February 1624 (using modern dating), but at the time this would have been 12 February 1623 (as the New Year in England at the time was on
Lady Day In the Western liturgical year The liturgical year, also known as the church year or Christian year, as well as the kalendar, consists of the cycle of liturgical seasons in Christian churches that determines when feast days, including c ...

Lady Day
, 25 March). The Act received Royal Assent on 29 May 1624. At the time all Acts passed within a session commenced on the first day of the session. So legally the Act was commenced in 1623, but in terms of historical dating it was commenced and passed in 1624.


Significance

The statute is worded "strongly and broadly", and other than the exceptions mainly repeated the existing common law.Nachbar (2005) p.1351 The statute has long been considered a key moment in patent law; Chris Dent, writing in the ''Melbourne University Law Review'', identifies it as "a significant marker in the history of patents" with continuing importance, although it is neither the start nor end of patent law. Despite the statute, the courts did not develop a comprehensive and coherent legal doctrine for patent law for more than a century after the statute came into force. Not only is it highly important within patent law, it also played a large role in economics; G. A. Bloxam, writing in the ''Journal of Industrial Economics'', identifies the passage of the Statute of Monopolies as "one of the landmarks in the transition of ngland'seconomy from the feudal to the capitalist".Bloxam (1957) p.157 As well as being significant in relation to patent law,
Whig historians Whig history (or Whig historiography) is an approach to historiography Historiography is the study of the methods of historians in developing history as an academic discipline, and by extension is any body of historical work on a particular su ...
have also identified it as the first infringement upon the monarch's
Royal Prerogative The royal prerogative is a body of customary authority, privilege and immunity, recognized in common law In law, common law (also known as judicial precedent or judge-made law, or case law Case law is the collection of past legal decisions wr ...
, and one of the first occasions in which the self-confident House of Commons overruled the king, eventually leading to the
English Civil War The English Civil War (1642–1651) was a series of civil wars A civil war, also known as an intrastate war in polemology, is a war War is an intense armed conflict between states State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, ...
. Chris R. Kyle, writing in the ''Journal of Legal History'', notes that this is not the case; not only did the Statute of Monopolies only restate the previous common law, leading to no infringement upon the Royal Prerogative, James I was in the later stages of the bill supportive of its principles. James I was not opposed to the motion; during the 1621 session of Parliament, he voided several monopolies (included those for silver thread and inns), and both James and the
Privy Council A privy council is a body that advises the head of state A head of state (or chief of state) is the public persona A persona (plural personae or personas), depending on the context, can refer to either the public image of one's per ...
were active during the passage of the bill to ensure it was supported. Furthermore, the Prince, later
Charles I Charles is a masculine given name predominantly found in English language, English and French language, French speaking countries. It is from the French form ''Charles'' of the Proto-Germanic, Proto-Germanic name ᚲᚨᚱᛁᛚᚨᛉ (in r ...

Charles I
offered amendments in the House of Lords to support its passage. The statute required extensive judicial action to make it work, particularly on the interpretation of Section 6. Sir Edward Coke, in his ''
Institutes of the Lawes of England The ''Institutes of the Lawes of England'' are a series of legal treatises written by Sir Edward Coke Sir Edward Coke ( "cook", formerly ; 1 February 1552 – 3 September 1634) was an English , judge, and politician who is considered the g ...
'', wrote that The subject was also discussed in ''Bircot's Case'', where it was decided that an inventive improvement to an existing industry or invention was not a new "material", and could not be patented; such an improvement was described as "to put but a new button to an old coat". ''Hasting's Case'' confirmed that a patent would not be issued, even for a new "material", that was extremely close to an old one, something originally laid down in ''Matthey's Case''. The statute did not stop the monarch issuing such patents in return for money; after James I's death,
Charles I Charles is a masculine given name predominantly found in English language, English and French language, French speaking countries. It is from the French form ''Charles'' of the Proto-Germanic, Proto-Germanic name ᚲᚨᚱᛁᛚᚨᛉ (in r ...

Charles I
continued issuing them and avoided having to obey the law by having any cases heard in the conciliar courts, such as the
Star Chamber The Star Chamber (Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be in r ...
. In response to this abuse and others, the Star Chamber was abolished by the
Habeas Corpus Act 1640 The Habeas Corpus Act 1640 (16 Car 1 c 10) was an Act of the Parliament of England The Parliament of England was the legislature A legislature is a deliberative assembly with the authority In the fields of sociology Sociology i ...
. After the
English Restoration The Restoration of the Stuart monarchy The House of Stuart, originally Stewart, was a dynasty, royal house of Kingdom of Scotland, Scotland, Kingdom of England, England, Kingdom of Ireland, Ireland and later Kingdom of Great Britain, Gre ...
, these activities largely ceased because of the dominant power of Parliament and the
Bill of Rights 1689 The Bill of Rights 1689, also known as the Bill of Rights 1688, is a landmark Act in the constitutional law Constitutional law is a body of law which defines the role, powers, and structure of different entities within a , namely, the , the ...
, which completely abolished the king's ability to disobey or alter statute. The Statute of Monopolies dominated patent law for centuries; it was received into the laws of many common law jurisdictions and still forms the basis for the modern patent laws of those countries: for example, the patent law of Australia is dominated by the Patents Act 1990, which states that one test for if something is patentable is if it relates to "a manner of manufacture within the meaning of section 6 of the Statute of Monopolies". In England and Wales, some sections of the statute are still technically in force, although the
Statute Law Revision Act 1863 The Statute Law Revision Act 1863 (26 & 27 Vict c 125) is an Acts of Parliament in the United Kingdom, Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It was intended, in particular, to facilitate the preparation of a revised edition of the statut ...
, Patents, Designs and Trade Marks Act 1883,
Statute Law Revision Act 1948 The Statute Law Revision Act 1948 (11 & 12 Geo 6 c 62) is an Acts of Parliament in the United Kingdom, Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Section 5(3) of the Statute Law Revision Act 1950 provided that this Act, so far as it repealed ...
,
Administration of Justice Act 1965 Administration may refer to: Management of organizations * Management, the act of directing people towards accomplishing a goal ** Administration (government), management in or of government *** Administrative division ** Academic administration ...
and
Statute Law (Repeals) Act 1969 The Statute Law (Repeals) Act 1969 (c 52) is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom The Parliament of the United Kingdom is the supreme legislative body A legislature is an assembly Assembly may refer to: Organisations and m ...
repealed most of the legislation. In practice however, with the
Patents Act 1977 A patent is a type of intellectual property that gives its owner the legal right to exclude others from making, using, or selling an invention for a limited period of years in exchange for publishing an sufficiency of disclosure, enabling discl ...
(which brought the United Kingdom into line with the
European Patent Convention The European Patent Convention (EPC), also known as the Convention on the Grant of European Patents of 5 October 1973, is a multilateral treaty A treaty is a formal, legally binding written agreement between actors in international law ...
), the statute has been implicitly repealed within England and Wales.Dent (2009) p.420


See also

*
Statute of Anne The Statute of Anne, also known as the Copyright Act 1710 (cited either as 8 Ann. c. 21 or as 8 Ann. c. 19), is an act of the Parliament of Great Britain The Parliament of Great Britain was formed in May 1707 following the ratification ...

Statute of Anne
*
Intellectual property Intellectual property (IP) is a category of property Property is a system of rights that gives people legal control of valuable things, and also refers to the valuable things themselves. Depending on the nature of the property, an owner o ...
*
Patent A patent is a type of intellectual property Intellectual property (IP) is a category of property Property is a system of rights that gives people legal control of valuable things, and also refers to the valuable things themselves. Depe ...

Patent


References


Bibliography

* * * * * * * * *


External links


Statute of Monopolies (original text, modern spelling)
{{DEFAULTSORT:Statute Of Monopolies 1624 in law Acts of the Parliament of England Monopoly (economics) United Kingdom patent law 1624 in England History of patent law History of competition law Patent legislation