Patents. (a) Originally the exclusive right, granted to individuals by Elizabeth I, James I and other sovereigns, to produce, import or deal in a commodity; made illegal by the Statute of Monopolies, 1624, but continued by the Stuart kings until the Bill of Rights, 1689, transferred the power to Parliament. (b) In modern times, legal rights to the exclusive use of new inventions for a period, normally of up to sixteen years. Patents may affect the amount, direction and disclosure of invention, but it is difficult to know to what extent. When an invention requires a large amount of capital for development and for production, a patent monopoly may increase the likelihood of an invention being used by reducing the risks of investment. On the other hand, when the capital required is modest and the invention would be used in any case, it is likely to be exploited on a smaller scale under a patent monopoly than in competitive conditions. In some western countries it is thought that the patent laws gives unnecessarily long protection to firms in the chemical and other industries.
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