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The "French connection": French Scientists and International Debates on Scientific Property during the Interwar Period


  • Gabriel Galvez-Behar

    () (IRHiS - Institut de Recherches Historiques du Septentrion (IRHiS) - UMR 8529 - CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique - Université de Lille)


Debates on "scientific property" happened during the interwar years. In 1921 the Confederation of Intellectual Workers and the French Union of Inventors proposed a project to improve the protection of scientists' rights on their discoveries to the International Commission of Intellectual Cooperation (ICIC). A report, published in 1923 by Italian Senator Francesco Ruffini, called for the recognition of specific intellectual property for scientific discovery, in addition to industrial property - which protects the technical invention - and the copyright. Between 1923 and 1927, consultations with governments and the representatives of industry took place and gave rise to a second report written by the French senator and lawyer Marcel Plaisant. Although less ambitious than Ruffini's draft, Plaisant's report was still criticized and received unfavorable opinions from more than two thirds of the forty countries that had given a response. The issue of scientific ownership declined in the early 1930s and it disappeared with the global crisis. In 1946, however, the newly founded UNESCO seized the matter again. Despite the event and the issue's importance, few works have been devoted to this history. Only one conference by Soraya Boudia (2001) and an article by David Miller (2008). Paradoxically, the French reactions are not discussed in detail even though the debate on scientific property began in France and found strong echoes there afterward. Our aim is to illustrate how French scientists were led to claim a proper right on their findings thanks to a strong involvement in transnational institutions. By crossing archives of international organizations (UNESCO and Leage of Nations archives) with national sources we will highlight the international circulation of the concept of scientific property and its adaptation to various national contexts.

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  • Gabriel Galvez-Behar, 2013. "The "French connection": French Scientists and International Debates on Scientific Property during the Interwar Period," Post-Print halshs-00839580, HAL.
  • Handle: RePEc:hal:journl:halshs-00839580
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    History; intellectual property; patents; Histoire; propriété intellectuelle; science; brevets;

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