During the mid-nineteenth century, a debate took place in Europe and Great Britain about the merits of patent monopolies. At its height, the Netherlands repealed its patent law, Switzerland refused to enact one (see Schiff 1971), German economists voted to abolish patent monopolies (see Seckelmann 2001), and there was a succession of inquiries into the workings of the British patent system, the last in 1872, recommending the length of the British patent monopoly be halved from 14 years to 7 years (see Palombi 2009).
Alternatives to patent monopolies were also mooted. John Stuart Mill, a British economist, proposed that inventors be given “pecuniary rewards.” Although supportive of patent monopolies, in his treatise Principles of Political Economy he suggested that in lieu of patents, “a small temporary tax, imposed for the inventors benefit, on all persons making use of the invention” would suffice. In France, Michel Chevalier, an economist and one of France's leading exponents of free trade, agreed. And in Switzerland, the creation of a statutory fund from which inventors would be paid a reward, more like one-off prizes rather than royalty streams paid over time, was considered (see Ritter 2004).
The turning point, however, came with the first international patent convention held in Vienna in August 1873 (see Palombi 2009). This was the event that stemmed the antipatent tide in Europe. By 1883, the convention's resolutions had been incorporated into the world's first international intellectual property treaty, the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property, and by 1893, the United International Bureaux for the Protection of Intellectual Property, the forerunner to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), was established in Berne, Switzerland.