Recent Australian decisions such as Apotex v Sanofi-Aventis  HCA 50 and Anaesthetic Supplies Pty Ltd v Rescare Ltd (1994) 50 FCR 1 have permitted medical process patents. Such an approach is sometimes criticised as against traditional canon of medical ethics.
This paper explores the interaction of British medical practitioners with the nascent intellectual property system in the nineteenth century. It challenges the generally accepted view that throughout the nineteenth century there was a settled or professionally agreed hostility to patenting. It demonstrates that medical practitioners made more substantial use of the patent system and related forms of protection than has previously been recognised. While the rate of patenting remained lower than in other fields of technical endeavour, this can largely be explained by the public nature of medical practice during this period.
This paper therefore seeks to retell the history of the exclusion of medical methods from patent protection, an exclusion whose history has produced a substantial body of scholarship. However, its aims go beyond this in that it also seeks to illuminate how medical practitioners engaged with the broader political and policy landscape in order to secure financial remuneration for their inventions.