Since its inception, patent law has had many faces, manifesting different aims and functions. The latest recalibrations of the aims and functions of patent law are striking because – at its core – patent law itself has not changed significantly in this time. This paper examines the chameleon-like nature of the function of patents, tracking historical transformations from the privilege as an instrument of trade policy, to patents as an incentive/reward to invent and disclose the invention, and the most recent shift towards viewing patents as necessary for innovation. In particular, the paper addresses whether the latest shift represents a reversion to privilege-like functions, due to the analogous focus on commercialisation, and argues that this is not the case because of the fundamental move to focusing on patentees rather than society as a whole and to seeing patents as property.
Jessica C Lai, The changing function of patents: a reversion to privileges? Legal Studies. First published: 1 June 2017. DOI: 10.1111/lest.12176.