Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Political Science

First Advisor

Bradley Hays




patent law, america invents act, liberalism, republicanism


This paper explores the history of American patent law in relation to classical liberalism and classical republicanism. In a basic sense liberalism emphasizes the importance of individuals, while republicanism underscores individual sacrifice for the good of the community. A patent creates a temporary monopoly privilege for an individual to encourage disclosure of his invention to the public. On the one hand, patent law exists to protect an individual's claim to his invention. On the other hand, patent law exists to facilitate the transfer of ideas into the common knowledge pool. In this way, a patent balances an individual's property right with an obligation to sacrifice exclusive hold over an idea by publishing that idea from which the community may benefit. A historical analysis indicates that classical liberalism and classical republicanism balance and shape the development of early patent law. Now, the emergence of multinational pharmaceutical companies has created new concerns adding layers of complexity to the law. These modern developments make the balance between these ideologies more difficult to discern and distort traditional attentions of both. Although new issues dominate patent law, these theories of governance still linger below the surface and a debate between individualism and altruism reappears during the most recent legislation, influencing patent law. Inadvertently, this debate is shallow and overlooks problems of the modern patent system, demonstrating the power of classical liberalism and classical republicanism to obscure political reality in patent law.