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Authority and ownership: the growth and wilting of medicine patenting in Georgian England


Secret, owned, Georgian medicines were normally known as patent medicines, though few had a current patent. Up to 1830, just 117 medicines had been patented, whilst over 1,300 were listed for taxation as ‘patent medicines’. What were the benefits of patenting? Did medicine patenting affect consumer perception, and how was this used as a marketing tool? What were the boundaries of medical patenting? Patents for therapeutic preparations provided an apparent government guarantee on the source and composition of widely available products, while the patenting of medical devices seems to have been used to grant a temporary monopoly for the inventor's benefit.

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L.F. Cody , ‘“No cure, no money,” or the invisible hand of quackery: the language of commerce, credit, and cash in eighteenth-century British medical advertisements’, Studies in Eighteenth-Century Culture (1999) 28, pp. 103130, 103

H. Barker , ‘Medical advertising and trust in late Georgian England’, Urban History (2009) 36, pp. 379398, 379

Christine MacLeod , Inventing the Industrial Revolution: The English Patent System, 1660–1800, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988

Alessandro Nuvolari and Valentina Tartari , ‘Bennet Woodcroft and the value of English patents, 1617–1841’, Explorations in Economic History (2011) 48, pp. 97115

M.S.R. Jenner and P. Wallis , ‘The medical marketplace’, in Jenner and Wallis (eds.), Medicine and the Market in England and Its Colonies, c.1450–c.1850, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007, pp. 123, 1

W. Cornish , ‘Secrecy and evolution of an early patent system’, in M.J. Adelman , R. Brauneis , J. Drexl and R. Nack (eds.), Patents and Technological Progress in a Globalized World, Berlin: Springer-Verlag, 2009, pp. 751761, 754

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The British Journal for the History of Science
  • ISSN: 0007-0874
  • EISSN: 1474-001X
  • URL: /core/journals/british-journal-for-the-history-of-science
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