Fundamental patents, national intellectual property regimes, and the development of new industries in Britain and America during the second industrial revolution

Peter Scott, Anna Spadavecchia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Several “new” industries of the second industrial revolution were characterised by one, or few, “fundamental” patents, without which manufacture of a viable product was not practicable. The degree of monopoly control that such patents conveyed was mediated by national socio-legal regimes, encompassing both patent law and its interpretation and enforcement. Using four case-studies (two for the UK - a low anti-trust environment, and two for the USA - a high anti-trust environment) we show that fundamental patents were major determinants of monopoly power, industry structure, barriers to competition, and consumer prices. Impacts could extend beyond the life of the patents, owing to first mover advantages and path-dependent processes. Meanwhile national socio-legal environments, the nature of the fundamental patents, the strategies of the patent owners, and the nature of the specific product technology could have important (and sometimes unforeseen) consequences.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)181-208
Number of pages28
JournalJahrbuch für Wirtschaftsgeschichte / Economic History Yearbook
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 27 May 2019



  • fundamental patents
  • barriers to competition
  • anti-trust
  • intellectual property
  • patent regulation

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