Google recently announced its funky Books Ngram Viewer
, which lets you put in various terms, and see how often they appear in books throughout history. Just for the hell of it, I decided to see how often the terms patents, copyright, trademark and intellectual property appeared in books from 1776 forward, and got the following chart
As you can see, copyright initially got much less coverage than patents, but that changed somewhere around 1950. Trademark first popped up around 1900, but didn't really get much attention at all until about 1970 or so. That's not all that surprising if you're familiar with the history of trademark law. What struck me as most interesting -- by far -- is the fact that there's basically nothing doing
on "intellectual property" until you get to 1980. I always find it amusing when people insist that "intellectual property" has been a common term for patents and copyright going back ages, when the reality is that, as a popular term, it's really quite recent.