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The Mountain of IP Legislation

I observed in “Legislation and Law in a Free Society” various problems with using legislation to “make” law. For one thing, it requires a legislature, which requires a state. For another, it conceives of law as being “made” by human will rather than natural principles “found” by people seeking justice. One problem with IP law–mainly patent and copyright, but also trade secret and trademark, to varying degrees–is that it requires modern state legislation. It cannot be created without it.

I was working on lecture #4 for my Mises Academy course “Rethinking Intellectual Property: History, Theory, and Economics,” and was compiling some of the key statutes, treaties, international bodies, and pending legislation and treaties that undergird modern patent, copyright, and other types of IP law. Just seeing it all in one place is striking; it cannot fail to make the libertarian advocate of IP a bit queasy, one would think.

I list some below with minimal commentary, and links.

Key IP Statutes and Treaties


  • 1624: Statute of Monopolies 1623 (England): key patent statute
  • 1710: Statute of Anne 1709 (England): key copyright statute
  • 1691: South Carolina enacts first “general” patent law (as distinguished from authorization to the Crown to make patent grants)

Modern IP (US)

Modern IP Additions (US)

Major International Bodies

IP Treaties

Pending IP Laws and Treaties



Stephan Kinsella

Stephan Kinsella is an attorney in Houston, director of the Center for the Study of Innovative Freedom, and editor of Libertarian Papers.

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