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Patents stop people doing things. So why are they a good thing?

By Ruth Howells, on 9 March 2012

“So long as men are governed by unexamined prejudices and led away by sounds, it is natural for them to regard Patents as unfavourable to the encrease of wealth. So soon as they obtain clear ideas to annex to these sounds, it is impossible for them to do otherwise than recognize them to be favourable to that encrease: and that in so essential a degree, that the security given to property can not be said to be compleat without it.”

In his Lunch Hour Lecture on 6 March, intellectual property guru The Rt. Hon Professor Sir Robin Jacob (UCL Laws) began his talk about the benefits of patents with the above quote from UCL’s very own ‘spiritual father’, Jeremy Bentham.

Bentham’s younger brother Sam was a naval engineer credited with a number of inventions relating to naval architecture and weapons, so the interest in patents was a family affair.