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History of patent law in Russia

At first glance, it may seem that patent legislation appeared in our country only in recent history. However, it has quite ancient origins.

Before the introduction of the 1812 Manifesto “On Privileges for Various Inventions and Discoveries in Crafts and Arts” [1], the objects of patent law were indeed in no way regulated. In those days, only individual requests were granted by the sovereign and only some inventors could receive certain grants - privileges, and such privileges could be expressed in completely different concessions for the copyright holder, for example, in the possibility of non-payment of certain duties. However, over time, a kind of rudiments of the concept of exclusive right began to appear in privileges more and more often.

The most indicative here are the letters of grant from the time of Peter I. One of these privileges was received in 1701 by Johann Gregory, whom the sovereign instructed to build a pharmacy in Novonemetskaya Sloboda. The wording of the privilege was as follows: “so that, besides him, in this settlement no one else should open a pharmacie again or secretly sell medicine from their houses.” This is how the monopoly was secured.

Probably the most famous of the privileges is the one issued in 1752 to Mikhail Lomonosov for “making multi-colored glass, beads, bugles and other haberdashery items ” with a very significant phrase: “ So that he, Lomonosov, as the first in Russia to find out those secrets, for the damage incurred they could have enjoyed their work: for the sake of this, from now on, for thirty years, no one else in the establishment of those factories will be given permission.” Why not an exclusive right?!

In a later privilege, issued to Lehmann in 1758, a different wording was used: “so that for twenty years no one will be allowed to oppose the invention of his work, which he himself will invent, wallpaper, carriages and other things to make and start factories (approx. lat. inventio - invention), although essentially the meaning is the same - prohibition of use by third parties.

The issuance of privileges in those days was determined only by the mercy of the sovereign.

The situation changed with the introduction in 1812 of the above-mentioned Manifesto “On Privileges for Various Inventions and Discoveries in Crafts and Arts.”

According to A.A. Pilenko, the publication of the Manifesto was caused by the following circumstances. In 1810, foreigners Geren and Jelglund petitioned Alexander I to grant them the privilege of a distillation device invented by foreigners Adam and Berard. The request was granted, and Geren and Jelglund were granted exclusive rights until May 1, 1820. At the same time, the Emperor instructed the Committee of Ministers to establish the conditions for using this privilege. In response to this, Count Mikhail Speransky, a famous Russian reformer, prepared a draft general law, which was considered by the State Council on May 8, 1812. This is how the first patent law in Russia appeared.

The manifesto established state registration of inventions. Relevant petitions were considered by the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and the decision was made by the State Council.

The Manifesto defined the first requirements for inventions to be registered. Firstly, according to § 6 of the Manifesto, “privileges are not granted for inventions of which the Government will not be presented... with a detailed and accurate description,” i.e., the requirement of sufficiency of disclosure of the invention was established (note that in modern Russia this condition was introduced as a basis for refusing to issue a patent only in 2014). Further, according to § 7, “privileges are not granted to items that do not bring any benefit not only to the State, but also to private people, or can also cause harm,” i.e., a kind of analogue of the patentability condition “industrial applicability” has been established.

In addition to those indicated, another criterion was enshrined in the Manifesto. According to § 17, the privilege may be terminated if “it is proved by the court that the same invention or discovery, at the time when the privilege was applied for, was already described in public Gazettes or writings, published within or outside the Empire” “that the same device and action could have been made and performed without a new description.” Thus, the condition of patentability “novelty” was established, non-compliance with which was considered as a basis for challenging the validity of the privilege.

Privileges were issued for a period of 3, 5 or 10 years and could be transferred to other persons.

After the adoption of the Manifesto, Mikhail Speransky continued his legislative work. So, in 1833, the “Regulations on Privileges” was published [2], which developed the norms laid down in the Manifesto. In particular, a new object of protection was introduced - an improvement, which was considered on a par with inventions. According to § 1 of the Regulations, “every discovery, invention or improvement of any generally useful object, or method of production in the arts, manufactures and crafts, is the property of the person by whom it was made, and this person, in order to ensure his rights to his property, may request receive an exclusive privilege from the Government.

Another reason for refusal has appeared: “for minor discoveries, inventions and improvements that show only the sharpness or ingenuity of the mind and which, however, do not promise any significant benefit, as well as for those that can be detrimental to society or State revenues, privileges are not granted” are issued." Thus, in essence, the patentability condition of “inventive step” was established.

A rule was introduced regarding dependent inventions, albeit in a form that is unusual for the modern average person: “if in an invention for which a privilege has been issued to one person, some improvement is made by another person, then a special privilege cannot be issued to this latter for this improvement” , unless he first proves that he has made an agreement with the owner of the first privilege regarding his use of the remaining parts of the object; but on the expiration of the first privilege a special privilege may be granted on the improved part.

In addition, the Regulations provided that the privilege could terminate due to non-use of the protected object within a quarter of the period of validity of the privilege.

In accordance with the Regulations, applications for privileges were submitted to the Department of Manufactures and Internal Trade and considered by the Manufacture Council.

Further development of legal science led to a limitation of the categories of objects that may be the subject of a privilege. Thus, according to Article 1984 of the Charter on Industry [3], privileges cannot be issued for inventions and improvements on “scientific discoveries and abstract theories”, “contrary to public order, morality and decency”, “privileged already in Russia or received application without a privilege, or described in the literature in sufficient detail to reproduce them, prior to the date of filing the application for the grant of privilege.” In addition, privileges were not granted to chemical, food and flavoring substances and to compound medicines, as well as to methods and apparatus used for their production. This restriction was introduced probably due to the difficulty of proving a violation in those years.

According to articles 19816 and 19826 of the Charter, privileges were issued for a period not exceeding fifteen years and could be challenged by any person within two years from the date of their promulgation.

Later, the unstable domestic and foreign political situation required the introduction of new measures. Thus, in 1912, the Rules on the compulsory alienation of privileges for inventions and improvements were adopted [4], according to which privileges can be forcibly alienated “if there is a state necessity, in favor of the state,” while providing for the payment of remuneration to the owner of the alienated privilege.

Thus, in the Russian Empire the system of protection of inventions gradually developed and improved.

However, the change in the political system led to fundamental changes in legal science. The entire clearly structured system of privileges was abolished by the Decree of the Council of People's Commissars of June 30, 1919: “Any invention recognized as useful by the Committee for Inventions, perhaps, by resolution of the Presidium of the Supreme Council of the National Economy, is declared the property of the RSFSR,” “All laws and regulations on privileges for inventions published before the publication of this decree are cancelled.” Thus began a new era - the time of copyright certificates, assigning only the right of authorship to inventors.

Although it should be recognized that the legislator has made attempts to return to the previous concept of protection. Thus, on September 12, 1924, the Patent Regulation was adopted [5], created according to the German model and providing for the possibility of granting the patent holder exclusive rights, similar to those that existed in the Russian Empire. However, this system was not popular among domestic inventors. Indeed, if the inventor received a copyright certificate, thereby alienating his exclusive right in favor of the state, he could count on payment of remuneration. The patent system, for obvious reasons, did not provide for any rewards. In this regard, the further development of the invention protection system in the USSR leaned more and more towards copyright certificates, and patents were issued for the most part only to foreigners.

The next change of the political system in 1991 again nullified the concept of copyright certificates created in the Soviet years. In many ways, the patent legislation of our country in the 90s was borrowed from Western sources. In addition, norms from numerous international acts signed by the Russian Federation were implemented, including the TRIPS Agreement [6], which is valid for the Russian Federation as a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO). Although not all foreign norms have taken root in the legislation of our country, and Russian identity is still gradually making its own adjustments, including to patent law.

The further development of Russia will certainly require various changes to legislation. However, as history has shown, our country is capable of responding to any challenges of the time.



  1. Pilenko A.A. Inventor's right (privileges for inventions and their protection in Russian and international law). Historical and dogmatic research. In 2 parts. St. Petersburg, 1902-1903;
  2. Revinsky D.O. Patenting inventions in Russia, 1812-1870. // Economic history: Yearbook, 2001. M. 2002. pp. 339-376.


  1. Manifesto on privileges for various inventions and discoveries in the arts and crafts of June 17, 1812 - Complete collection of laws of the Russian Empire. Collection 1st. T. 32. No. 25143
  2. Regulations on privileges November 22, 1833 - Complete collection of laws of the Russian Empire. Collection 2nd. T.8. Dept. 1. No. 6588
  3. St. Zak. vol. XI part 2, ed. 1893
  4. Collection Uzak. 1300, 1912
  5. Resolution of the Central Executive Committee and Council of People's Commissars of the RSFSR on patents for inventions dated September 12, 1924
  6. Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), WTO, Marrakech, April 15, 1994