JurisdictionUnited Kingdom
Person NameUnited Kingdom; Patent Office; 1852-; Trademark Branch
EpithetTrademark Branch
ActivityIn the 200 years after the Statute of Monopolies, the patent system developed through the work of lawyers and judges in the courts without government regulation. In the reign of Queen Anne, the law officers of the Crown established as a condition of grant that ""the patentee must by an instrument in writing describe and ascertain the nature of the invention and the manner in which it is to be performed"". James Puckle's 1718 patent for a machine gun was one of the first to be required to provide a ""specification"", as this instrument became known. The famous patent of Arkwright for spinning machines was voided for the lack of an adequate specification in 1785, after it had been in existence for 10 years. On the other hand, extensive litigation on Watt's 1796 patent for steam engines established the important principles that valid patents could be granted for improvements in a known machine, and for ideas or principles, even though the specification might be limited to bare statements of such improvements or principles, provided they could be readily carried into effect, or were ""clothed in practical application"".Britain's patent system served the country well during the dramatic technological changes of the industrial revolution. However, by the mid-19th century it had become extremely inefficient. The Great Exhibition of 1851 accelerated demands for patent reform.Up to that time, any prospective patentee had to present a petition to no less than seven offices, and at each stage to pay certain fees. The procedure was described in exaggerated form, somewhat derisively, by Charles Dickens in his spoof, ""A Poor Man's Tale of a Patent"", published in the 19th-century popular journal ""Household Words""; Dickens' inventor visits 34 offices (including some abolished years before). To meet public concerns over this state of affairs, the Patent Office was established by the Patent Law Amendment Act of 1852, which completely overhauled the British patent system and laid down a simplified procedure for obtaining patents of invention. Legal fees were substantially reduced and the issuing of separate patents for each nation of the Union was replaced by the publication of a single UK patent. The office of Comptroller General of Patents and a staff of patent examiners were brought into being by a subsequent Act in 1883 to carry out a limited form of examination; mainly to ensure that the specification described the invention properly, but without any investigation into novelty.An important milestone in the further development of the British patent system was the Act of 1902 which instituted a limited investigation into the novelty of the invention before a patent was granted. This required patent examiners to perform a search through UK specifications published within 50 years of the date of the application. Even with this restricted search, a vast amount of preparatory work was involved and an additional 190 examiners were recruited to assist the existing staff of 70 examiners. By 1905, to enable searching, patent specifications from 1855 to 1900 had been abridged and classified in 1,022 volumes arranged in 146 classes according to subject. By 1907, the abridgement volumes extended back to the first patent to be given a number: Patent No. 1 of 1617 granted to Rathburn & Burges for ""Engraving and Printing Maps, Plans &c"".The legislation in force at present is the 1977 Patents Act. This was the most radical piece of patents legislation to be passed for nearly 100 years. The Act sets out to ensure that the patent system is well suited to the needs of modern industry, sufficiently flexible to accommodate future changes in technology and adapted to operate in an international context.
Corporate NamePatent Office
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