Fun_People Archive
29 Mar
Fun_History - The First Patent

Date: Tue, 29 Mar 94 16:54:59 PST
To: Fun_People
Subject: Fun_History - The First Patent

Forwarded-by: elshaw@MIT.EDU (Libby Shaw)
Forwarded-by: Brian E. Bradley <>

    Here's a real good patent trivia question.  Who was the first person in
history to receive a technical invention patent, and for what invention?  An
article on patenting in the computer era appears in the Fall 1993 issue of
the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston "Regional Review" (the article itself is
quite good, and the issue can be obtained by calling 617-973-3397). To quote:

        "Filippo Brunelleschi, the architect of Florence's remarkable
        cathedral, won the world's first patent for a technical
        invention in 1421.  Brunelleschi was a classic man of the
        Renaissance: tough-minded, multi-talented and thoroughly
        self-confident.  He claimed he had invented a new means of
        conveying goods up the Arno River (he was intentionally vague
        on details), which he refused to develop unless the state kept
        others from copying his design.  Florence complied, and
        Brunelleschi walked away with the right to exclude all new
        means of transport on the Arno for three years.

        That Florence acceded to Brunelleschi's demands is hardly
        surprising.  The Italian Renaissance city-states, locked in a
        struggle for wealth and power, habitually gave monopolies to
        those who would build a needed bridge or mill, or who introduced
        some useful craft or industry.  They would issue "letter patents"
        public declarations that openly (patently) announced the
        privilege.  What distinguished Brunelleschi's bargain was
        invention - he was awarded the exclusive use of his own creation.

(more on Brunelleschi can be found in "Brunelleschi's Patent", Journal of
the Patent Office Society 28 (1946), page 109.

Greg Aharonian
Internet Patent News Service

[=] © 1994 Peter Langston []