Seeds Without Patents: Science and Morality in British Plant Breeding in the Long Nineteenth-Century
Areas of innovation where patents could not be or were not in use present a challenge to historians. On the one hand, the existence of patent-free innovation seems to show that, contrary to traditional views, obtaining patents is not the only motivation for those who innovate. On the other hand, such places and periods reveal an abundance of alternative strategies by which innovators sought to protect their ability to profit from their work. Drawing on three case studies from the history of British plant breeding in the long nineteenth-century, this paper substantiates the new revisionism about patents and innovation in a general way while at the same time throwing new light on how a specific community of innovators attempted to make their innovative work pay. Two conclusions emerge in what follows. One is that, during the period in question, science played an important part in British plant breeders' efforts to add value to their varieties. The other is that science was able to play this role only thanks to a pre-existing moral economy among the breeders.
Intellectual Property Law