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These reports and notes of cases on letters patent for inventions are intended to comprise the authorities from which the principles and practice of this branch of the law are derived, and to which recourse must be had in determining the various questions which arise in connexion with those subjects.
Such questions have reference to the general principles of the law, to the practical application of those principles to the subject of inventions, and to matters of practice in soliciting letters patent, or in the extension, protection, and enjoyment, of the rights and property thereby created.
These general principles are derived from that part of the old common law which controlled and directed the prerogative of the crown in its grants of exclusive privileges. The exercise of that prerogative in granting lands, offices, and other things of a similar nature, was well understood and defined, but the peculiar nature of the subject, no less than the manner in which the rights and privileges so created were to be enjoyed, occasioned great difficulties in the application of the principles of the old common law to new inventions.
It has not been unusual to refer to the saving clause of the Statute of Monopolies as the origin, and to the decided cases since that statute as the only authorities in illustration, of this branch of the law. But the statute itself, in declaring that a particular class of grants and certain letters patent, excepted from its operation, should be and remain of like force and effect as if that act had never been made, distinctly recognises the existence of an old common law, which, as modified by that statute, constitutes the present law of letters patent for inventions.
The principles of that common law are not matter of doubt or