3.2 Patents: introduction
In contrast to copyright, patents are explicitly intended to protect ideas or inventions. In the UK patents go back to the Statute of Monopolies of 1623, while in the US the ﬁrst patent law was enacted in 1790. Since then the need to protect inventions and similar creations has been recognised worldwide – ﬁrst in national legislation and now in global agreements, as with GATT.
US patent legislation (United States Code Title 35, Section 101) describes the position very well:
Whoever invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvements thereof, may obtain a patent, subject to the conditions and requirements of this title.