1 The Trouble with Ownership

This delightful book has just strayed across the IPKat's busy little desk and he proposes to keep it by him for some time to come. Entitled The Trouble with Ownership: Literary Property and Authorial Liability in England, 1660-1730, this book is a celebration of the academic pursuit of an enjoyably interesting quarry for its own sake.

The author, Jody Greene (left), is Associate Professor of Literature and Women's Studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz. She is obviously a person who likes to shine the bright light of modern (and occasionally anachronistic) concepts into the darkest corners of intellectual property history, first identifying the key players in the development of a right that grew bigger than even its most fervent early supports could have believed. Greene then lets these players speak to us through her treatment of their words and deeds. This is not in any sense a political or legislative history of copyright so much as a socio-cultural one and it's good to be reminded from time to time that legal history is not owned by the lawyers. According to the Penn Press blurb:
"Copyright and intellectual property issues are intricately woven into any written work, but the precise nature of this relationship has plagued authors, printers, and booksellers for centuries. What does it mean to own the products of our intellectual labours in our own time? And what was the meaning three centuries ago, when copyright laws were first put into place?

Jody Greene argues that while "owning" one's book is critical to the development of modern notions of authorship, studies of authorial property rights have in fact lost sight of the most critical valence of owning in early modern England: that is, owning up to or taking responsibility for one's work. Greene puts forth what she calls a "paranoid theory of copyright," under which literary property rights are a means of state regulation to assign responsibility for printed works, to identify one person who will step forward and claim the work in exchange for the right to reap the benefits of the literary marketplace. Blending research from legal, historical, and literary archives and drawing on the troubled authorial careers of figures such as Roger L'Estrange, Elizabeth Cellier, Daniel Defoe, John Gay, and Alexander Pope, The Trouble with Ownership looks to the literary culture of early modern England to reveal the intimate relationship between proprietary authorship and authorial liability".
Says the IPKat, this is definitely one for the Christmas stocking. It's IP-related and it makes you think outside the terms in which you usually view copyright.

2 Soft-soaping the Patents Court

This little patents case appeared today on the ever-vigilant All England Direct subscription service: Lever Faberge Ltd v Colgate-Palmolive Ltd, a Patents Court ruling of Mr Justice Lewison. Colgate owned a rather elderly patent for a method of packaging soap bars. Lever, makers of LUX soap, sought a declaration of invalidity in respect of the patent. Colgate objected to the declaration being made, since the patent was shortly to lapse anyway. In any event, Colgate argued, the court should be reluctant to make a declaration in the absence of a judgment following the hearing of evidence.

Lewison J granted declaration of invalidity. He said that, in the olden days before the 1998 Civil Procedure Rules, the courts were indeed reluctant to grant a declaration of invalidity for a patent without fully investigating the facts. But now things have changed: the claim form and any grounds of invalidity had to be supported by a statement of truth (formerly known as an affidavit - and still informally referred to as one). The court can make a declaration even without a full judgment, so long as its terms make it crystal clear as to what was the basis of its decision. Here the patent was clearly invalid so there was no real problem.

The IPKat notes that even elderly patents with only a short unexpired term ahead of them can have substantial nuisance value in the market-place - less so, however, if they're invalid.

Make your own soap here ... and here
Singing in the bath here and here

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