Intellectual Property in ancient Greece

In Atheneaus’ Deipnosophistae there is an obscure reference to early Intellectual Property rights. The book was authored somewhere between 150 and 200 AD but seems to be quoting a time period of about 500 BC. The author holds Intellectual Property as an effeminate sign of weakness and worthy of scorn. Speaking of the Sybarites of Syracuse:

And if any confectioner or cook invented any peculiar and excellent dish, no other artist was allowed to make this for a year; but he alone who invented it was entitled to all the profit to be derived from the manufacture of it for that time; in order that others might be induced to labour at excelling in such pursuits.

After thinking I was the only one in the world to ever identify this as an early form of IP, I stumbled across the book “History of the United States Patent Office” by Kenneth W. Dobyns. Dobyns rambles on for a chapter about nothing coherent concluding that IP is real in history. His examples jump from caveman fantasies to cooking in a small city in 500BC to architecture in 1500AD. Epic Fail.

Of course, Intellectual Property has always been and is currently a mechanism for people to engage in Free Riding behavior. The government is always there to create special privileges out of thin air for those who do not want to compete in a free market.

The full text of Deipnosophistae can be found on Google Books.

About christopher fisher

The blog is meant for educational/entertainment purposes. All material can be used and reproduced in any length for any purpose as long as I am cited as the source.
This entry was posted in Economics, History and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Intellectual Property in ancient Greece

  1. Pingback: is music piracy communism? | reality is not optional

  2. Pingback: the first intellectual property pirate | reality is not optional

  3. jamie says:

    maybe u should put all of this in 5 sentences.

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