'What One Man Can Invent Another Can Discover:' The British Patent Controversy and the Sherlock Holmes Canon
Canon Law: Lawyers, Law and the Sherlockian Canon (2018)
12 Pages Posted: 9 May 2019
Date Written: August 4, 2017
Over the course of the 19th Century in Great Britain, patent law and policy developed quickly in an atmosphere of heated debate. In the first half of the century, some advocated for a patent system that provided greater ownership to inventors, while others advocated for abolition of patents altogether. The one thing people could agree on, it seemed, was that the then-existing system was flawed. In the latter half of the 19th Century and beginning of the 20th, Parliament overhauled the patent system, including unifying the patent systems of England, Ireland, and Scotland, establishing the Patent Office, and passing the Patents Designs and Trademarks Act. In the midst of this atmosphere of debate and change, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote 54 stories and 4 novels about the detective Sherlock Holmes, some of which address inventions. This chapter considers the treatment of patents and patent law in the Sherlock Holmes novels and stories to illuminate popular Victorian and Edwardian understandings of, and ambivalence about, the patent law of the time.
Keywords: Patents, Law and Literature, Legal History, UK Law
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