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The first patent

Industrial privilege request for 1822 coffee hulling machine

In recent years, businessmen, economists, lawyers, researchers and Brazilian government authorities have started to value industrial property rights as they had never done before. The effects of globalization, the battle to lower the prices of important medicines, and the increasing need for providing support for the discoveries arising from studies by universities and research institutes are leading everyone today to strive to protect a larger number of Brazilian patents here and abroad. The current efforts are indispensable, but the oldest measures for granting patents date from the beginning of the 19th century.

The first resolution was taken in 1809, one year after the Portuguese royal family transferred the Court to Brazil. Until then, a writ of Queen Dona Maria I, of 1785, prohibited factories, manufacturing and industries in the distant Colony. This was actually a way of having commercial monopolies that would transfer the wealth of the colonies to the metropolis. But once the Portuguese government had been installed in Brazil, it became necessary to create the means for industrial development – among them, the granting of privileges to the inventors and introducers of new machines, who would have the exclusive right to exploit their inventions for 14 years.

Another charter allowed funds to be released to encourage inventions and to give prizes. These and other acts culminated with an industrial privilege request for a machine that hulled and burnished (polished) coffee, in July 1822. It was the first Brazilian patent, requested by Luiz Louvain and Simão Clothe, on the basis of the 1809 charter, according to the book entitled Propriedade Industrial no Brasil – 50 Anos de História (Industrial Property in Brazil – 50 Years of History), of the Brazilian Association of Industrial Property (Abapi in the Portuguese Acronym).

Louvain and Clothe asked for a five year privilege for the invention, a “machine for hulling coffee, which besides being entirely the invention of the petitioners, produces very good results (…) for the perfection with which it hulls the coffee without breaking the beans, that is, for its quickness, economy and simplicity of work”. The 1824 Constitution brought the principle of the “property of the inventor”, and already talked of remuneration “in the case of the invention becoming commonplace”.

The first patent law arose in 1830, and, besides bringing a broader policy for the development of industry, protected inventors, assuring them the exclusive use of their discovery for periods of between five and 20 years. The oldest known legislation on the theme was created in Venice, Italy, in 1474, when the city was a great center for trade. In the case of Brazil, advances took place solely as a consequence of the policy for the development of industry. Today, the concept is different: patents deals with the rights that any citizen, company or institution has over anything that results from intelligence or creativity.