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History of the Paris Convention

During the last century, before the existence of any international agreement in the field of industrial property, it was difficult to find protection for industrial property rights in the various countries of the world due to the multiplicity of their laws. Patent applications had to be filed at approximately the same time in all countries to prevent a publication in one country from destroying the novelty of the invention in the other countries. These practical problems created a strong desire to overcome such difficulties.

During the second half of the last century, the expansion of a further globally oriented flow of technology, as well as the increase in international trade, caused industrial property laws to be harmonized. The government of the Empire of Austria-Hungary invited the other countries to participate in a world exhibition of inventions held in 1873 in Vienna. Participation was hampered by the fact that many foreign visitors were unwilling to display their inventions at that exhibition in view of the insufficient legal protection afforded to the inventions on display. This led to two developments. A particular Austrian law guaranteed momentary protection to all foreigners participating in the exhibition for their inventions, trademarks and industrial designs. The Vienna Congress for Patent Reform was convened during the same year. He elaborated numerous principles on which an effective and useful patent system should be based and urged governments to reach an international understanding on patent protection as soon as possible.

As a follow-up to the Congress of Vienna, an International Congress on Industrial Property was convened in Paris in 1878. In France a final project was prepared proposing an international union for the protection of industrial property. The draft was sent by the French government to several other countries with an invitation to attend the 1880 International Conference in Paris. That Conference adopted a draft convention that contained, in essence, the substantive provisions that today remain the main features of the Paris Convention.

A Diplomatic Conference was convened in Paris in 1883, which culminated in final approval with the signing of the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property. The Paris Convention was signed by 11 States. It came into force on July 7, 1884. It was only during the first quarter of the 20th century and then mainly after World War II that the Paris Convention increased its membership most noticeably. The Paris Convention has been periodically revised since its signing in 1883.