Extracted 19MAR2012 from http://tinyurl.com/7e5nqng
1474: Venice passes the first-known written law to grant and protect patents.
The crafts guilds, especially those of Venice’s lucrative glass-blowing trades, had their own restrictions, but the senate was hoping to attract foreign innovators (.pdf) as well. So it gave the new law force throughout all of Venice’s territories:
“Any person in this city who makes any new and ingenious contrivance, not made heretofore in our dominion, shall, as soon as it is perfected so that it can be used and exercised, give notice of the same to our office of Provveditori de Comun [State Judicial Office], it being forbidden up to 10 years for any other person in any territory and place of ours to make a contrivance in the form and resemblance thereof, without the consent and license of the author.”
...Spurred by digital technology and the internet, intellectual-property law has grown quite contentious in recent decades. Not only are there conflicting claims as to who owns what, but a lively global debate rages over what constitutes an invention or original work, as well as the wisdom and propriety of — and need for — such protections in the first place.