Friday, April 20, 2018

John Prince-Smith (1863)-a Voice Promoting the Abolition of Patents

by Steve Reiss (

"John Prince-Smith was convinced that patents, 'in so far as they are to secure rewards to inventors, are the worst and most deceptive form of reward, causing more often losses than profits even to the inventors.'"

Cited in, The Patent Controversy in the Nineteenth Century, by: Fritz Machlup and Edith Penrose, The Journal of Economic History, Vol. 10, No. 1 (May, 1950), pp. 1-29.

John Prince-Smith (London, 20 January 1809 – Berlin, 3 February 1874) was an English-born, German free trade liberal and politician ( The 1850's-1875 were the peak times for strong patent abolition movements on the European continent. Reform of the patent system was not proposed; outright abolition was.

Machlup/Penrose went as far as saying, "for a few years it looked as if the abolitionist movement was going to be victorious." However, "the whole story was later forgotten and now seems to be unknown even to experts in this field is probably due to the absence of any modern historical accounts of the debates that were carried on in the nineteenth century."

John Prince Smith
John Prince-Smith

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