PA PENT, or Letters Patent, is a writ or grant in the king's name, and under the great zeal, designed to secure to the proprietor of any new invention the monopoly of its advantages for the term of fourteen years ; but this term is some times extended, under extraordinary circumstances, by act of Parliament, to a longer period. The term patent is also applied to the right conveyed, as well as to the instrument conveying it. Monopolies, unless granted for a limited period, and with the view to the ultimate benefit of the public. During the reign of Elizabeth, many unmerited monopolies had been granted, which had so prejudicial an effect upon the commerce of the country, that, towards the end of that monarch's reign, the clamour was so loud and general as to induce her to send a message to Par liament, announcing her intention to immediately cancel the most oppressive of the exclusive privileges she had granted. But however just may be the feelings of opposition to monopolies in general, it will be readily allowed, that a patent for a new invention, for a few years, is only a just and reasonable compensation to the inventor, who is thus enabled to mature his discovery, and give it to the public, at the termination of his monopoly, in a perfect or highly improved state. And were it not for the exclusive privilege thus granted, many impor tant inventions, that ultimately prove beneficial to the public, would never be persisted in, but entirely fail ; as that powerful incentive would have no existence, which induces ingenious men to study and labour incessantly, and to expend large sums of money to bring their inventions into practical operation.
The basis of the present law of patents is derived from the 21st of James I., ch. 3, which is regarded as the declaration statute ; and the sixth section of this statute states, that patents for new inventions are exceptions to the general law of the statute. The general law is, that all monopohes, and all commissions, grants, licenses, letters patent, &c. for the sole buying, selling, snaking, using, &c. of any thing, shall be void ; the excepting clause declares. that "any decla
ration before mentioned shall not extend to any letters patent, and grants of privilege, for the term of fourteen years or under, hereafter to be made, of the sole working and making of any manner of new manufacture within this realm, to the true and first inventor or inventors of such manufactures, which others, at the time of making such letters and grants, shall not use, so as also they be not contrary to law, nor mischievous to the state, by raising the prices of commodities at home, or hurt of trade, or generally inconvenient." The great importance of the subject of patents to engineers, machinists, and manufacturers in general, renders it desirable to extend this article to an account of the process of obtaining &patent ; also the nature and conditions of the grant, and the expenses attending it; 'which information the writer of this article and compiler of the work is enabled to afford with perfect accuracy, he being pro fessionally a patent agent. It is by no means necessary that the applicant for a patent should employ an agent,—be may solicit the grant himself; there are however, but few persons whose experience and knowledge of the matter suffi; ciently qualifies them to transact the business of a patent with security to their own interests.
The first thing an inventor should attend to, is to endeavour to ascertain if he has not been anticipated by others, which is not an unfrequent occurrence, although rarely discovered until too late to benefit by it; owing, perhaps, to the injudicious flattery of friends, or the ignorance of legal advisers in matters of invention or discovery. Having deternuned.the invention to be entirely origi nal, and that it is calculated to compensate him for the expenses of a patent, the inventor's first step to obtain one, is to make an affidavit of the fact of his invention before a Muter in Chancery, if in London, or if in the country, before Muter Extraordinary, in the following form ; the words in italics being assumed to afford precise examples.