Each month Ipkat will nominate a Kool Kat who has made a big impact on intellectual property law. We start this month with Jacopo (or Giacomo) Aconcio, an Italian cleric who served many years as clerk to the Bishop of Trento, in northern Italy. Aconcio, who lived in the 16th century, was a man of great versatility and compassion. After suffering a crisis of conscience over his religious faith he left the service of the Catholic Church and moved to Switzerland, where the Reformation had taken hold. But he did not stay there long.

In the 1550s he emigrated to England, where he was engaged in assessing the fortifications of Berwick Castle, some remnants of which can still be seen today. Later he moved to London where he became an inventor and devised a method for the draining of Plumstead Marshes. In 1559 he wrote to Queen Elizabeth and asked for a monopoly in an invention he had made, to stop others copying it unfairly after he had spent so much time and effort perfecting it. Although patents had been granted in England since 1331 this was the first time anyone had asked for a patent because he was an inventor. The Queen, realising that Aconcio was an old man by that time, did not give him a patent monopoly but granted him a pension for life. Nonetheless, the idea that patents should be given as rewards for invention began to gain popularity at that point and, by the Statute of Monopolies in 1624, had become the chief justification for patent grants.

Aconcio did not live long on his pension and his end was sad. Having written a powerful tract urging tolerance of Protestant groups by the Catholic church, and vice versa, he was rejected by both and died a religious outcast. But without his petition to the Queen, the patent system in England would not have gained its early impetus.

On Aconcio himself click here
For sources on the Reformation click here
To find out about Queen Elizabeth, the Virgin Queen, click here, here or (for the Bette Davis version) here
Find out more about Plumstead here
KOOL KAT OF THE MONTH - JULY <strong>KOOL KAT OF THE MONTH - JULY</strong> Reviewed by Jeremy on Friday, July 18, 2003 Rating: 5

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