Dr Sean Bottomley from the Institute of Advanced Study in Toulouse, will give a presentation on ‘The English patent system during the industrial revolution: A reassessment.’

Prior to reform in 1852, the English patent system is usually presented as a decrepit and archaic institution; because patents were prohibitively difficult to obtain and enforce, they supposedly made little contribution to technological development during the industrial revolution. Divided into three parts, the talk seeks to revise this assessment. The first part examines the development of patent law. Contrary to previous work, it shows that the judiciary were not ‘hostile’ towards patentees and patents, but recognised their utility. Consequently, patents were enforceable in court and there were definite developments in the common law of patents. This resurrects the possibility that the patent system was indeed ‘fit for purpose’ and the second part of the talk discusses how patent specifications expedited the diffusion of new technology. The third part veers into economic history, discussing how the protection provided by the patent system – and the profits thus proffered – was integral to encouraging inventive activity.

The series is open to everyone and registration is not required. Seminars are typically held in The Dorfman Room, St Peter’s College at 5.15pm-6:45pm (exceptions are noted on the event page).  Please report to the Porter’s Lodge on arrival for directions. Refreshments are provided. (Please direct enquiries to jennifer.hassan@law.ox.ac.uk)

 Convenors: Graeme Dinwoodie, Dev Gangjee & Robert Pitkethly