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1. Patent law the discovery or production of some new or improved process or machine that is both useful and is not obvious to persons skilled in the particular field
2. Music a short piece consisting of two or three parts usually in imitative counterpoint
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005


the act or process of devising a new machine, technique, etc. As such, invention is sometimes presented in science, in historiography, and especially in popular thinking, as an individual matter and as a catalogue of discrete events associated with named persons, e.g. Watt's steam engine or Arkwright's spinning jenny – a phenomenon of individual genius, individual psychology and individual CREATIVITY, rather than something to be explained sociologically. In fact, however, inventions are often collective products, tending to occur as part of general waves of cultural and economic development (as in the INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION in the UK), in association with particular SCIENTIFIC PARADIGMS, or craft traditions guided by ‘scientific discoveries’, rather than as isolated events. In much of modern industry, technological innovation, and also scientific discovery in general, is far more a matter of routine, bureaucratized ‘research and development’ than of individual creativity, though obviously this plays a part. See also DIFFUSION OF INNOVATIONS, STRUCTURALISM, STRUCTURE AND AGENCY.
Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a small musical piece that indicates the role played in it by inventiveness both in the melody and the musical development and form. The French composer C. Jannequin first used the term in 1555. Widely known are the inventions for keyboard by J. S. Bach (1720–23; he called the three-part inventions “Symphonien”). In Bach’s view they were to serve as studies to work out the technique of double and triple counterpoint and as a stimulus for the creation and development of new musical methods. Occasionally the term “invention” is employed by 20th-century composers—for example, H. Reutter in Germany, B. Blacher in the Federal Republic of Germany, and A. I. Khachaturian in the USSR.



the creative process that results in a new solution to a problem in any area of technology, culture, health, or defense and that has a positive effect.

In the socialist countries invention is an important form of direct participation by the working people in technical progress and in improving production. The most favorable conditions are created in these countries for the extensive use of new technical concepts in the national economy, and the moral and material stimulation of inventors and rationalizers is ensured.

In the Soviet Union the first legislative act on inventions was the decree of the Council of People’s Commissars of the RSFSR, the Statute on Inventions, which was signed by V. I. Lenin on June 30, 1919. The principles set forth in the decree laid the foundation for the refinement of all subsequent legislation on inventions. On Oct. 26, 1930, the Central Committee of the ACP (Bolshevik) adopted a decree on the mass involvement of the people in creating inventions. It pointed out that the organization and use of inventions created by the masses should become a concern of economic, trade-union, Komsomol, and party organizations, and it outlined measures to eliminate weaknesses and ensure the further development of mass involvement in invention.

Since 1956 the supervision of the development of inventions and of the introduction of inventions and discoveries into the national economy in the USSR has been the responsibility of the State Committee on Inventions and Discoveries of the Council of Ministers of the USSR. The All-Union Scientific Research Institute of State Patent Appraisal (VNIIGPE), which is subordinate to the committee, conducts state scientific examinations of applications for proposed inventions and determines the novelty and usefulness of the technical solutions—that is, it recognizes certain proposals as inventions to be entered by the committee in the State Register of Inventions of the USSR. Information on inventions registered in the State Register is published in the bulletin Otkrytiia, izobreteniia, promyshlennye obraztsy, tovarnye znaki (Discoveries, Inventions, Industrial Samples, and Trademarks). The journal Voprosy izobretatel’stva (Problems of Inventions) is also devoted to issues related to inventions.

The Central Scientific Research Institute of Patent Information and Technical-Economic Research (TsNIIPI), which is also subordinate to the State Committee on Inventions and Discoveries, works on the scientific development and organization of patent information in the USSR and conducts technical-economic research on inventions. The patent archives are housed and systematically updated by the All-Union Technical-Patent Library (VPTB).

In the USSR work on inventions is planned: that is, long-term and current topical plans for the development of inventions are drawn up, technical competitions are held, and wide-ranging information on inventions and rationalization proposals is organized.

A feature specific to the USSR is the mass character of work on inventions, which makes inventions very important in accelerating scientific and technical progress. In 1924, 1,818 inventions were entered in the State Register, whereas during the first five-year plan (1929–32), 19,393 inventions were entered, during the eighth five-year plan (1966–70), 125, 866, and in 1970, 32, 466. The category of inventions created by the masses includes not only inventions but also rationalization proposals.

Table 1. Inventions and rationalization proposals in the USSR economy
Inventors and rationalizers submitting
proposals (thousands)..........
Number of proposals received
Number of inventions and rationalization
proposals introduced in production

The trade unions play a large part in the development of the work of the masses on inventions in the USSR. In 1958 on a decision of the Presidium of the All-Union Central Council of Trade Unions, the All-Union Society of Inventors and Rationalizers (VOIR) was formed. With the participation of VOIR and various scientific technical societies, the Committee on Inventions and Discoveries monitors the introduction and realization of proposals protected by author’s certificates. The basic tasks in organizing work on inventions are carried out by enterprises, ministries, and departments where divisions and bureaus of invention and rationalization work have been established.

In the foreign socialist countries work on inventions is also done on a mass scale. Divisions and bureaus of invention and rationalization have been formed in the ministries, departments, production associations, enterprises, and organizations of these countries. There are also central institutions on inventions (for example, the Institute on Inventions and Rationalization Proposals in Bulgaria and the Department of Patent and Invention Affairs in the German Democratic Republic).

In the capitalist countries inventions serve the interests of the monopolies. The state agencies that conduct patent examinations and register inventions are central patent departments (for example, the Patent Office in the USA and the National Institute for the Protection of Industrial Property in France). Capitalist firms have patent bureaus that protect their interests with regard to inventions. In most cases, the holders of patents are not the inventors but the capitalist firms and corporations, which buy up patents. In the early 1970’s about 350,000 patents for inventions were issued every year in the capitalist countries, including about 70,000 in the USA, 40,000 in Great Britain, 35,000 in France, and 30,000 in Japan.




in the broad sense, a new technical solution to a problem that raises the existing level of technology. In the narrow sense, an invention is a technical solution that is recognized as an invention by the state and legally protected by it.

In states where legislative protection of inventions has been established, the law defines the characteristics that must be satisfied by a proposal that seeks recognition as an invention. The legislation of most countries defines an invention as a technical solution to a problem that is distinguished by fundamental novelty. (In some countries, however, an invention must also be useful or progressive.) The problem solved by the invention must be utilitarian rather than cognitive—that is, it must be related to the satisfaction of a practical need. Therefore, scientific theses— in particular, discoveries—are not recognized as inventions. Unfeasible and erroneous proposals (for example, for the construction of a perpetual-motion machine) are not recognized as inventions. An invention should include a theoretical solution to a problem, not the concrete implementation of the solution (that is, a manufactured item or production process). In addition, in order to be recognized as an invention a proposal should lend itself to being reproduced many times. A technical solution is a proposal related to devices (including diagrams), methods (technology), and substances. However, in a number of countries, including the USSR, the law specifies that nontechnical concepts such as methods of treating diseases and strains that produce substances may also be recognized as inventions. Some laws, on the contrary, exclude particular technical concepts from recognition as inventions (for example, substances obtained by chemical reactions).

The novelty of a proposed invention is tested by its priority date (in a majority of cases, the date when the application for the invention was received in the department in charge of inventions). For this purpose, sources accessible to the public are used: for example, author’s certificates and patents issued at an earlier time; domestic and foreign literature; information on usage; displays at exhibits; and public statements. A proposal is not recognized as an invention in a particular country if an application for a similar invention was submitted earlier in the same country. Most countries use a system to determine world (absolute) novelty, but some countries establish local novelty, which is based on information known in a particular country on the date when the application for an invention was submitted. The fundamental novelty of a proposal (“level of invention” or step) is decided on the basis of whether the solutions or effects obtained by applying the proposal are unexpected (not obvious) to specialists in a given technical field. The usefulness of an invention ordinarily means the possible expediency of employing the proposed solution immediately or in the future, after essential prerequisites have been met.

The state recognizes a proposal as an invention when certain documents (the application) are submitted in the established manner to a special body—the department of inventions, which issues a protective document to the inventor (an author’s certificate or patent).

In the USSR the characteristics of an invention and the system for classifying it are determined by the Statute of 1973 on Discoveries, Inventions, and Rationalization Proposals. The State Committee of the Council of Ministers of the USSR for Inventions and Discoveries examines applications for inventions, issues author’s certificates, and grants patents.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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