Notwithstanding my admiration for the novels of Milan Kundera, Czech is one of those languages I doubt I will ever get around to learning. My ability to dig into primary sources of Czech law therefore is likely to remain limited as well. So I'm happy to note that Professor Marketa Trimble has posted a very interesting paper on ssrn, which I just finished reading, titled The Patent System in Pre-1989 Czechoslovakia, which will appear as a chapter in a forthcoming edited volume titled Intellectual Property in Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States (Mira T. Sundara Rajan, ed., LexisNexis). Highly recommended!
Here is her abstract:
The chapter analyzes patent law in Czechoslovakia in the period from 1945 until the end of communist rule in 1989. In addition to reviewing the legislative development of patent law – the laws on the books – the chapter explains the law in action, which includes the application of the law in practice and the attitudes of Czechoslovak society toward inventive activities and patenting. The chapter shows that post-1945 Czechoslovak patent law drew on a highly developed pre-1940 Czechoslovak patent law and practice that was based on the Austrian patent law inherited by Czechoslovakia in 1918 when it split from the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Although Czechoslovak patent experts after 1948 were under severe pressure to adopt the Soviet patent law model, it was not until 1972 that the Soviet model was fully imposed upon the Czechoslovak patent system. Notwithstanding the political distortions forced upon the Czechoslovak patent system in the 1950s, 1970s and 1980s, the legacy of a high level of technical expertise developed under the Austro-Hungarian Empire survived in Czechoslovakia in large measure through the end of communist rule in 1989.
The chapter aims to achieve three goals. First, it aims to dispel misperceptions that have appeared in some recent scholarship that no developed patent system existed in Czechoslovakia prior to 1989. Second, the chapter contributes to the recent trend in the historiography of the Soviet bloc countries with a showing that patent law development was not uniform across the Soviet bloc, with an explanation that the development did not occur in complete isolation from the West, and with a presentation of the practical everyday effects of the patent system on the people of Czechoslovakia. Third, the chapter presents features of the Czechoslovak patent system that might be of interest to current critics of patent systems in various countries. Critics interested in changing from the property rule to the liability rule in patent law may find the Czechoslovak system interesting because the Czechoslovak system de facto deprived most inventors of injunctions. Critics who are concerned about rewards for unpatentable discoveries may find it useful to learn about the protection for such discoveries that appeared in Czechoslovak law until 1990. The lessons learned in Czechoslovakia in the pre-1989 period are not easily transferable to current practice, and particularly not to any democratic society with a functioning market economy; however, it is helpful to recall and understand the functioning of the features and the impact that they had on inventive activity within their past context to see if any of the lessons might be relevant today.