History of patents

The origins of patents for invention are obscure and no one country can claim to have been the first in the field with a patent system. However, Britain does have the longest continuous patent tradition in the world. Its origins came from the 15th century, when the Crown started making specific grants of privilege to manufacturers and traders.

Open letters marked with the King's Great Seal called Letters Patent, signified such grants. Henry VI granted the earliest known English patent for invention to Flemish-born John of Utynam in 1449. The patent gave John a 20-year monopoly for a method of making stained glass, required for the windows of Eton College that had not been previously known in England.

Tudors and Stuarts

The first monopolies for trades and manufacturers.

The 18th century

The requirement for a specification.

The 19th century

The industrial revolution and beyond.

The 20th century

The introduction of patent searching.