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strife in America, with no probable end, and a very uncertain result, do not tend to support the prediction. But even granted that these results might follow, it is not humanity which has prompted the increased power of destruction. But humanity has had a powerful influence in mitigating the evils of war as regards neutrals; the Declaration of the Congress of Paris does honour to the age in which we live, and leads us to hope that a day is not far distant when the humane principles there enunciated will induce the freedom from capture of neutral's property at sea under all and every state of circumstances, so that nations may adopt and fulfil in some measure towards each other, the Christian and charitable precept, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."
ART. IX. THE POLICY OF PATENTS.
Libre Travail, ou l'Abolition de la Proprieté Intellectuelle. Par P. VERMEIRE. Paris: Guillaumin et Cie., 1864.
HE number of recent publications on the question of the policy of patents is but limited. Not long ago we inserted two very able articles by Mr. William Hawes, and as the subject becomes more and more seen, so will contributions towards its elucidation be multiplied. A thorough and exhaustive treatise on this branch of the larger subject of intellectual property (to use the term adopted by the industriel whose brochure heads the present notice), is a desideratum we long to have supplied. Meanwhile we welcome every worker in this field of inquiry; every vindication of the great principle of freedom of industry. Each new writer appears to impart some new views, or to set some old views in a new and strong light. We gladly acknowledge the obligation due to M. Vermeire. His pamphlet is a republication of papers from
VOL. XVII.-NO. XXXIV,
the Economiste Belge, together with correspondence of other economists of the Continent, where the question has been agitated more than in our own country. Our readers may remember an illustration of the boldness with which monopoly of inventions is contested abroad, in the prominent place given to denunciations of the system as an interference with manufacture and trade, in the French official reports upon the Great Exhibition of 1862. Mr. Macfie gave extracts from these in an appendix to the paper which he read at the Edinburgh Meeting of the Association for the Promotion of Social Science, which he has since published. A more striking proof of the advance of what we must characterise as sound and sensible opinions, is afforded in the circumstance mentioned by M. Vermeire, that thirty-one out of forty-seven chambers of commerce existing in Prussia, have declared in favour of abolishing patents. This declaration has been given, as we understand, in answer to queries judiciously submitted to these bodies by the ministry of commerce of that kingdom. The whole of that gentleman's little work deserves attention. The following extracts (the imperfect translation of which we beg our readers and the author to excuse) will show his style and general sentiments. He contends, it will be seen, not only against patents, but against all recognition of inteìlectual property of whatsoever sort.
Property implies an idea of possession, but possession does not imply an idea of property. In other words, that which is a possession is not necessarily called property. In order that possession may constitute property, it must not be or cannot be within reach of all. Light, for instance, which is one of the elements existing everywhere in nature, is a thing which every one possesses, and which has never been called property.
"The man who first thought of making himself a bow and arrows, and who made them, possessed at the same time the idea of making these instruments, and the instruments themselves. That bow and arrows were his property because they belonged to him alone; to deprive him of them one would be
committing a theft, which is punishable throughout all noncommunist society. Is it the same with the idea attached to the manufacturing of the objects which we take as examples? Could not some one else come into possession of that idea without robbing it of the man who had first conceived it? Evidently, yes.
"The ideas of invention come from one knows not where, if they are not rather to be spoken of as inspirations flowing from a Supreme Being, and the same thought may be born in thousands of heads at the same time, and in millions in a certain lapse of time.
“The man who had made for himself a bow might say to himself, This bow, I hold it, it is mine, and belongs to none but me. A possession of that nature has been called property. But he could not say to himself, The idea of making a bow, I have it, and none can possess it without they come and rob me of it. Therefore legislators up to the time when the sophisms of civilisation had succeeded in obliterating the good sense of people, have taken good care not to call an idea a property, and much less did they call thief, the man who thought like another man.
"All positive religion, as well as natural religion, reproves the theft of a thing which is the tangible property of an individual, but there is none which has ever condemned the profit which society has received from inventions, by the appropriation of ideas put forth.
"Have those been called robbers who have armed themselves like the first inventor of the bow; those who have clothed themselves like the first man who had the idea of covering himself with skins as clothing; those who have fed upon flesh, taking example from him who first was not content to support. life on fruit and vegetables; those who first built themselves houses after the pattern of the man who first had that thought? Is that person a thief who imbibes the virtues of others; he who in conversation collects a phrase, a word, serving as the theme to a speech, he who enriches his mind by the observa
tions and studies for which he is indebted to another mind than his own? Is he a thief who scours through far off lands to study manners, laws, industry, trade, and who wishes to apply in his native land the result of his wanderings? No, no. The action of thought itself proclaims everywhere the community (communisme) of ideas as a constitutive law of the mind, in the same manner that the vibrations of ether spread everywhere the communism of light as an essential condition of the fluid which lights up all nature.
"With regard to ideas, we declare ourselves, therefore, radically communists, and we say, not only that the property of ideas is theft, but also that it is barbarism, the annihilation of progress and the deterioration of mankind.
"What are civilisation, sciences, arts, industry, if not a continuous chain of ideas, having at one end the first man of creation, and at the other the last-come thinker? Cut the chain asunder, no matter where, and you destroy all the prodigies of the human intellect.
"The propagators of the property of ideas, do they do any less? No! they do much more, for with one stroke of their pen they would snap at once all the links of man's perfectibility, by forcing back in the mind of all thinkers any intellectual spark likely to enlighten, animate, or to excite minds on the road of progress.
"In these days, when society has made so many discoveries, when industry has reached to such a high degree of perfection, people seem to think that there are no more inventions wanted, and are blinded as to the bearings of a doctrine which must bring universal trouble to industry whenever applied in the absoluteness (absoluteisme) towards which it tends in so very perceptible a manner; but, as we have already shown, it is sufficient to carry back one's mind to the principle at the original development of anything valuable within the sphere of social activity, in order to perceive that property of ideas is calculated as its destination to break down all incentives to labour, and to break up all the springs of production.
"In the primitive state, all combination, all action, all manners of thinking or of doing, were everyone's inventions and discoveries, because man, a new comer in creation, could produce nothing but novelties. But as soon as there has been a society, there has also been an imitation of processes, a reproduction of movements, a repetition of methods and systems. It is thus that the world has travelled on from progress to progress, heaping up traditionally all the improvements which the spirit of invention had produced.
"If, from the beginning of the growth of society, the imitation called in our days infringement (contrefacon) had been forbidden, where would the civilised world be, where sciences, arts, literature-where would be every sort of social advancement? Of course, in a state of infancy; for all progress made by society implies in itself the application of a new idea issued from the mind of an individual. If the inventor of the alphabet and of the formation of words by the help of signs, had had the property of his invention, and of the latter had passed to his heirs, where would be the art of writing? If the first poet who had the idea of putting together rhythmed phrases and rhyme had had the exclusive privilege, he and his heirs, to handle in this fashion his language, where would poetry be? If the discoveries of all those who have only practised calculation, mechanics, chemistry, botany, geology, medicine, surgery, &c., &c., had not been within the reach of all to practice, where would sciences be? If people had not been able to profit by all the progress made in the producing, the transformation and carriage of useful things, where would agriculture be? Where industry and trade? Evidently, all would be in a primitive state, and instead of engaging in trades and professions we should be living under a system of costs, restrictions, and privileges a thousand times more formidable and repressive than all that has ever existed of this nature.
"The priest, the professor mounting the pulpit to preach