Volume 1, Issue 4 (Originally Published 19 March 2012)
March 19, 1474 - Venice Passes First Ever (Written) Patent Law
On this day in 1474, this Italian island city cemented its status at the forefront of Italian commerce when the Venetian senate enacted the world’s first written patent law. The Venetian Statute of 1474 was issued by the Republic of Venice in a bid to encourage foreign innovators in craftwork, while offering protection for Venice’s local (and lucrative) glass- blowing trade.
The law decreed that ‘any new and ingenious contrivance’ must be reported to the Provveditori di Comun (State Judicial Office) as soon the invention could be used, exercised or put into practice. This conferred legal protection against potential infringement for a period of 10 years. The Republic also had discretion to extend the protection period to 25 years for special inventions.
Violation of infringement could result in a fine of up to 100 ducats (fetching probably ~8,000 USD today).
As Venetians began taking their coveted glass-making skills elsewhere, the need for similar patent protection arose across Europe. It would be another 149 years before the enactment of the English Statute of Monopolies of 1623, upon which Australia bases its system of patent law.
For more patently interesting technology trivia, visit www.wired.com/science/discoveries/ne ws/2008/03/dayintech_0319