Intellectual Property Rights

The music industry is currently awash in copyright battles.  New technologies force everyone to protect their slice of the pie.  The Grateful Dead was one band that addressed this issue early on.  Their ‘open door’ policy of encouraging a cult of bootlegging and brand recycling broadened their reach and helped propel their success.  Many bands today explore similar paths.

But navigating the maze of intellectual property rights issues has never been simple.  Over two centuries ago new technologies in pottery making changed the Decorative Arts landscape.  The use and abuse of patent laws led to an equally complex slate of responses.  Many potters relied on patents and copyrights to assure recognition and appropriate compensation for their discoveries.  Some avoided patents, feeling the required detailed description of a particular technique would only make that technique easier to steal.  The most far-sighted saw the possibilities of a bigger picture.

This situation offers a rare chance to liken Josiah Wedgwood to the Grateful Dead.

In a 1789 letter to Thomas Bentley, Wedgwood wrote:

“So far from being afraid of other people’s getting our patterns we should Glory in it, throw out all the hints we can and if possible have all the Artists in Europe working after our models… With respect to myself, there is nothing relating to business I so much wish for as being released from these degrading slavish chains, these mean selfish fears of other people copying my works.”

Wedgwood never sought patents for his Queen’s Ware.  His logic was interesting.  “Instead of 100 manufacturers selling to the world, it would have been just one amusing England…”

…But he did sue people for stealing his process information.

Readings:
The Rise of the Staffordshire Potters.  John Thomas.  Adams & Dart/London.  1971.

Master Potters of the Industrial Revolution: the Turners of Lane End.  Bevis Hillier.  The Born & Hawes Publishing Co./London.  1965.

Staffordshire Pottery and Its History.  Josiah Clement Wedgwood.  S. Low, Marston & Co. Ltd/London.  1913.

A Long Strange Trip: The Inside History of the Grateful Dead.  Dennis McNally.  Broadway/New York.  2002.

 

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3 Responses to “Intellectual Property Rights”

  1. Steve Earp Says:

    August is a very busy month, so this and the next post are simply thrown out there for kicks…

  2. Winds of Change | This Day in Pottery History Says:

    […] On the other hand, no single factory was large enough to possibly handle the orders that rolled in.  As such, everybody did piece work for everybody else.  Shopping out orders while keeping innovations close to the chest must have been quite a delicate dance. […]

  3. The Hit Parade #9: The Portland Vase | This Day in Pottery History Says:

    […] Wedgwood made his name with the Portland Vase.  But he made his fortunes with his ensuing “Queen’s Ware” line.  That was only possible because of the technical know-how he amassed previous to […]

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