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  • Writer's pictureJessy Fenty

The first “Right” Americans were granted in the U.S. Constitution was the right to protect ideas.

Updated: Feb 1, 2022

The word “Right” appeared only once in the U.S. Constitution, before the Bill of Rights was signed.

Article I, Section 8, Clause 8 reads:

[The Congress shall have the power] “To promote the progress of science and the useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.

“Science” and “discoveries” refer to Patents.

“Useful arts” and “writings” refer to Copyrights.

Trademarks were added later.

The United States was the first country to establish an Intellectual Property (IP) system to protect individual inventors. Before the signing of the U.S. Constitution in 1787, patent rights were granted by European royalty and governments only to companies and families. The European patent rights were not “property” in the American sense. They could not be sold from one company to another, could not be licensed, did not expire after a fixed term, and the obtaining of patent rights was not a public process open to all.

In England, companies were granted “Letters Patent” by the Crown. The word “patent” simply meant out in the open. A Letters Patent was an open letter that granted a company right to make a particular product or work in a particular industry. The term is still used in the United States but is commonly shortened to just “Patent” to mean a right granted by the U.S. Government. In U.S. law, Intellectual Property are “negative rights” that allow owners of IP to exclude others from making, using, or selling products or services in the United States that “infringe” upon their IP.

This was the first “right” granted to U.S. citizens by the Federal Government. The U.S. government foresaw that if one person or company obtained a Patent or Copyright for their work and received some economic benefit, then other people would seek to develop new inventions and profit from them, and so on. In this manner, society would benefit from the new inventions and inventors would be incentivized to continue creating new ideas and products. Because the system has worked as designed, there have been few changes to the U.S. IP system through the years, and other major countries have copied the U.S. system to stimulate innovation and development in their countries.

Fenty IP Law Can Help You With Filing Patents and Intellectual Property

Do you want to file a patent for a product, service, or invention? Fenty IP Law is at your service. We will help you with the particulars and details of patent law so that you hold the reins of your invention.

We are dedicated to you, the customer, and the community as a whole. We have partnered with Endless IP, a non-profit which aims to educate young investors. Both businesses are operated and owned by Jesse Fenty. To request service or start a conversation, contact us at Fenty IP Law, Washington DC.

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