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Copyright (c) 2009 Patent and Trademark Office Society, All Rights Reserved
Journal of the Patent and Trademark Office Society

ARTICLE: Galileo and the Venetian Law on Patents

March 2009

91 J. Pat. & Trademark Off. Soc'y 219


Robert Signore *


The so-called "Galileo" spyglass is an instrument of great simplicity. It comprises a tube closed off at one of its ends by a convergent lens (the object glass) and at the other by a divergent lens (the eyepiece). It might have remained an invention among many, like the so-called "Kepler" spyglass. The only thing was: in the expert hands of Galileo it became an unequaled instrument of observation. It allowed its inventor, in a few months, to discover astonishing objects in the sky. Astronomy was drastically changed because of it. The repercussion of these discoveries created the fame of the instrument. The reputation of Galileo contributed thereto. With the passing of the centuries, however, Galileo became a mythical, therefore much debated, character. In the end it was wondered whether he indeed was the first to have invented this spyglass, somewhat the way it is wondered whether Christopher Columbus indeed was the first to have discovered America.

The fourth centenary of this event is the occasion to reexamine this matter, but, it seems to us, by shedding a new light thereon. It involves putting the work of Galileo back into the legal context of the Republic of Venice where Galileo exercised his talents. This State, in fact, practiced a noteworthy policy of encouragement to inventors which, in our opinion, science historians have somewhat ignored. Science history here must be combined with the history of the Industrial Property right, if it is ...
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