Reference numberCD/61/2
TitleDraft memorandum on the report on scientific property
Date[January 1924]
Description[Presented by the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research.]

States that the accompanying report on scientific property was submitted by Senator Ruffini, formerly Minister for Education in the Italian Government, approved by the Committee of the League of Nations on Intellectual Co-operation, and adopted by the Council and Assembly of the League. Explains that the report will be forwarded to all Governments to get their observations on it, so that a final draft can be drawn up.

Explains the contents of the report, which proposes international conventions for the protection of the rights of authors to their scientific discoveries or inventions. Also notes it has a memorandum by Mr John H. Wigmore, Professor of Law in the North Western University of Chicago, which urges consulting professional opinions in at least 10 different nations. Summarises the report, arguing that scientific discovery is a form of intellectual property.

Notes that at present the author of a scientific discovery is unable to derive benefits under patent law or copyright law, unless they take the discovery to the point of industrial application, or make it a published book. Explains that this draft convention seeks to remedy this problem. Explains which inventions (scientific discoveries leading directly to industrial applications) will be protected under this new convention, and how it would work.

Notes that the problem of a possible shortage of research workers in science will probably not be solved by this scheme. Discusses the pitfalls of the scheme. Notes that the privileges that existing copyright and patent laws give are not in terms of abstract ideas or conceptions, but of the use made of them (for example a writer or artist cannot claim the rights over a new conception of literary form or a new idea of painting, only over the product of their work). Therefore thinks that it is impossible to defend the idea that a scientist should have these sorts of rights over new scientific principles. Thinks that it is not in the best interests of science to suggest that a different standard should be given for scientific activities. Also discusses the problems this new law would have in industry, and the practical difficulties of administering the scheme.

Recommends that Her Majesty's Government [of Great Britain] should not agree to setting up an international convention on this subject without an enquiry. However, recognises that the general conditions of scientific work in many countries could use improvement. Suggests the Government recommend that scientific work should receive adequate reward.
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