Contesting the history of invention
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The authors of Patently Contestable have written an important book that engages with both historical and contemporary debates about the nature of invention and its histories. It also challenges some of the current thinking about the ways in which patents work as intellectual property. The authors, Stathis Arapostathis and Graeme Gooday, focus in particular on how the legal culture of the British patent system helped to shape the electrical industries of telephony, wireless telegraphy, incandescent lamps, and power generation and distribution, and in the process created a potent and still-resonant history of credit for key electrical inventions. Theirs is not, however, a book focused on the niceties of legal argument. Instead, they provide a cultural analysis of how the patent system operated to generate two kinds of rewards—financial and reputational—in late-nineteenth century Britain. More often than not the two existed in opposition to each other.
The British patent system, like the...