Comments of Citizens for Voluntary Trade
were sold for their revenue benefit to the Crown, whatever thecommercial merits as monopolized services. The sale of patentsfor government offices was so widespread and abused that thepractice was criticized at the
time as being “government bypatentees”.Perhaps the sale of these rights was good business for theCrown, but eventually the Parliament no longer acceptedrampant monopolization created by what today we would call“the administration.” The period 1621 through 1624 wasdominated by issues of how to control the Crown’s powers,especially those in finance, and, thus, focused heavily on theissue of sales and use of monopoly patents. In 1624 Parliamentpassed one of the first statutes specifically limiting theprerogatives of the Crown. In contrast to modern anti-monopolylaws, Parliament’s
Statute of Monopolies
of 1624 was specificallydirected at limiting government grants.
Statute of Monopolies
directly informed the development ofthe first state constitutions in America, and ultimately the federalConstitution of 1787. The Constitution does not grant the nationalgovernment a general patent power, only a limitedpower to securecopyrights and the rights of inventors for limited terms. (The latter
is secured by a “patent”, although that word never appears in theConstitution.)The federal Constitution does not establish whether stategovernments possess a general patent power. The Supreme Court,dating back to the
, has repeatedly upheld theright of states to restrict commercial competition and entry. On theother hand, the Commerce Clause and the Due Process andPrivileges orImmunities Clause of the Fourteenth Amendmentgrant the federal government broad power to preempt state lawsthat restrict the economic liberties of its citizens. As Ballonoff and
others have noted, the Supreme Court’s famous decision in
endorsed the use of the Commerce Clause to preempt a
state’s creation of an economic monopoly.
, however, onlydealt with the subject-matter question of whether the state couldsupersede federal regulation of interstate commerce, not whetherstates possessed general patent power over
Paul A. Ballonoff, “Limits to Regulation Due to Interaction of the Patent and CommerceClauses”,
, Vol. 20, No. 3, p. 403 (Winter 2001).
83 U.S. 36 (1872).
22 U.S. 1(1824).