Spectres of intellectual property in the Soviet Union: the development and recognition of the inventor’s certificate

Jocelyn Bosse*, Johanna Dahlin

*Corresponding author for this work

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After the October Revolution in 1917, the legal protection for inventions in the Soviet Union underwent a series of transformations. One of the key changes was the emergence of the “inventor’s certificate” as a socialist alternative to patents, whereby inventions were declared to be state property, but inventors were entitled to recognition and compensation. Patents were generally available in parallel to inventor’s certificates, but the latter remained the preferred mechanism for encouraging the worker-inventor and mass inventing activity, as well as promoting the free flow of information that capitalist patent systems had failed to achieve. However, as the Soviet Union started to pursue membership of the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property, several socialist countries sought to amend the treaty to recognise their inventor’s certificates as equivalent to patents. This sparked a debate amongst Paris Union members, during which the socialist countries portrayed the inventor’s certificate in a manner analogous to Schrödinger’s cat: it simultaneously was and wasn’t a patent. While the debate was never fully resolved by the Paris Union members, this article revisits the history and international debates about the Soviet protection of inventions to consider what the uncertainty about the inventor’s certificate might reveal about the circulation of technical information and the nature of global intellectual property law.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)293–316
Number of pages24
JournalPólemos: Journal of Law, Literature and Culture
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 01 Dec 2023


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