Intellectual Property and the Common Law in Scotland c.1700-c.1850

Research output: Working paper

Abstract / Description of output

A significant Scottish dimension is apparent in the development of what we would now call intellectual property in the United Kingdom after the Union of 1707. With both patents and copyright under the Statute of Anne, however, that Scottish dimension was always seen in the context of the single market created by the Union; and this was occasionally reinforced by House of Lords cases as well as by the legislature. In Scotland itself there were also issues about how to understand these developing rights within the systematics of Scots law, in particular the doctrine of real rights. While this did not prevent the development of a unified substantive patent law for the United Kingdom long before the abolition of separate Scots and English patents in 1852, there were significant effects in the debate about the existence of rights at common law, beyond grants made under the royal prerogative or by virtue of United Kingdom legislation. The effects were not limited to the literary property arena. The notions of protecting reputation and privacy rather than rights of property also helped from early in the nineteenth century to follow the English development of a concept of a right to protect confidentiality, preventing or sanctioning the taking and use or disclosure of another’s confidential information. Similarly the unauthorised use of badges of another’s trading identity and reputation would provide the platform from which Scots law would move in the second half of the nineteenth century to use the English concept of passing off. But in both common law developments it generally remained clear (as it did not with literary property) that their basis in Scots law was in personal rights, whether by way of delict or contract, and not in any form of property in the confidential information or the badges of identity. It was, however, always a comfort for the Scottish courts that here, as with patents and copyright, the results produced by this different approach were generally in line with those that would be reached in England. The United Kingdom was the inescapable backcloth to the development of intellectual property law.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherUniversity of Edinburgh, School of Law, Working Papers
Number of pages37
Publication statusPublished - 2009

Publication series

NameEdinburgh Law School Working Papers Series


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