Age of Invention: The Statute of Monopolies…

One of the most frequently mentioned landmarks in the history of intellectual property is the Statute of Monopolies, passed by the English parliament in 1624. I’ve often seen it lauded as the beginning of the system of patents for invention, or the first patent law. I remember giving a talk a few years ago where I downplayed the role of formal institutions in encouraging the Industrial Revolution, prompting an outraged economist in the audience to point to the law as a sort of gotcha — “here’s a better explanation: with patents you incentivise invention, and the Brits had just invented patents”.

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