"...Considering the exclusive right to invention as given not of natural right, but for the benefit of society, I know well the difficulty of drawing a line between the things which are worth to the public the embarrassment of an exclusive patent, and those which are not. As a member of the patent board for several years, while the law authorized a board to grant or refuse patents, I saw with what slow progress a system of general rules could be matured."
-Thomas Jefferson to Isaac McPherson, 13 Aug. 1813
HT: The Conversable Economist
Economics of Ideas: Paul Romer and Thomas Jefferson