In our recent book, The Constitutional Foundations of Intellectual Property – A Natural Rights Perspective, Seth Cooper, my Free State Foundation colleague, and I recounted the roles played by several key figures of the Founding generation with respect to the inclusion of the Intellectual Property Clause in the Constitution. These key figures included, of course, James Madison, the “Father of the Constitution” and Noah Webster, often called “The Father of Copyright.”
They were not alone, of course. As Seth and I said in the opening of our commentary published in The Tennessean on Presidents’ Day: “George Washington – Revolutionary War hero and first President of the United States – is widely known as the Indispensable Man. Less widely known is Washington's indispensable role regarding intellectual property rights protection. Presidents’ Day is a perfect time to recall Washington's role in securing copyrights and patent rights under the Constitution.”
Our commentary closes this way:
In his first Annual Message to Congress (1790), President Washington called for laws protecting intellectual property rights: "I cannot forbear intimating to you the expediency of giving effectual encouragement, as well to the introduction of new and useful inventions from abroad, as to the exertions of skill and genius in producing them at home." He also called for "the promotion of science and literature." His confidante Madison helped the first Congress enact the Copyright Act of 1790 and the Patent Act of 1790. Washington signed these first federal laws protecting IP.
Intellectual property is especially vital to our economy in the Digital Age. Yet protecting IP is more challenging than ever. George Washington's Birthday is perfect time to recall the indispensable role played by the Indispensable Man in establishing intellectual property rights as an important part of American constitutionalism.
In between, our Tennessean commentary recites other aspects of Washington’s role in the development of our constitutional commitment to securing IP rights.
I hope you’ll take a look at the entire commentary. After all, what better time than Presidents’ Day (or close to it!) to reflect on the indispensable role of the Indispensable Man regarding intellectual property rights protection?