The Story Of The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

This is an incomplete draft of a digital version of The Story of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, with significant additions. Special thanks is given to The Office of Public Affairs, USPTO. This chronological listing of the history of the Patent and Trademark Office has been out of print since the printing done for the Bicentennial in 1990, and that was the 1988 version.

One of the major deficiencies of the paper copy was that there was no index. The digital version needs no index. The digital version is word searchable by going to “edit” and using the “find” function. For example, go to edit and search on “african” and one can quickly review every entry on this subject. Refinement of the document will include a review to ensure that key words are included in the text. I have amended the entry for “woman” to read-woman (women, female)– to make the search feature user friendly.

The intent of this effort is to make this handy reference guide available by bringing it up to date and having it reprinted. I have been very frustrated at the amount of time that it has taken me to get to this point with a rough incomplete draft. If you would like an update, please advise me. I am not at all settled on the form and layout of the document, if you have suggestions please share them. Perhaps you would like to contribute to the entry of the history for the past 10 years?

Now for the part that makes this effort worthwhile! As a digital document it can be greatly expanded to include detail that we may never want to take the time to read but that we would greatly appreciate being able to retrieve information therefrom with a few keystrokes! Move this document to a personal folder in Outlook and perhaps also place it on your button bar or on your desktop. The document will always be ready and can be opened with only a few keystrokes. As this document is incomplete I would prefer that it not be widely disseminated at this time.

(Now I need to get back to work on my time machine; it must be malfunctioning because my days always run out before I get finished.)

Draft as of August 17, 2001

The Story
of the
United States Patent and Trademark Office
“The issue of patents for new discoveries has given a spring to invention beyond my conception.”
Thomas Jefferson

“The Patent System added the fuel of interest to the fire of genius.”

Abraham Lincoln

On April 10, 1790, President George Washington signed the bill that laid the foundation of the modern American patent system. Three years earlier, at Philadelphia, the Constitutional Convention had given Congress the power…

“to promote the progress of science and useful arts by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.”

For over 200 years the patent system has encouraged the genius of hundreds of thousands of inventors. It has protected inventors by giving them an opportunity to profit from their labors, and it has benefited society by systematically recording new inventions and releasing them to the public after the inventors’ limited rights have expired.

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO or Office) has recorded and protected the telegraph of Morse, the reaper of McCormick, the telephone of Bell, and the incandescent lamp of Edison. It has fostered the genius of Goodyear and Westinghouse, of Whitney and the Wright Brothers, of Mergenthaler and Ives, of Baekeland and Hall. Under the patent system, American industry has flourished. New products have been invented, new uses for old ones discovered, and employment given to millions. Under the patent system a small, struggling nation has grown into the greatest industrial power on earth.

The patent system is one of the strongest bulwarks of democratic government today. It offers the same protection, the same opportunity, the same hope of reward to every individual. For over two centuries, it has recognized-as it will continue to recognize-the inherent right of an inventor to his or her government’s protection. The American patent system plays no favorites. It is as democratic as the Constitution that begot it.

The fundamentals of the modern American patent system are both simple and brief. In general, any person who has invented any new and useful process, machine, manufacture or composition of matter, or any improvement thereof, may obtain a patent. An application must be filed with the USPTO accompanied by the necessary papers describing the invention and the prescribed fee. Patent examiners then search prior patents and publications to determine whether the application presents something patentable. To be patentable, an invention must be new, useful, unobvious to someone skilled in the art, and fully disclosed. A patent gives inventors the right to exclude all others from making, using, or selling their invention for up to 20 years from the date of application.

The USPTO, an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce, is one of the most unusual branches of the U.S. Government. Its examining staff of over 2,000 is trained in all branches of science, and examines thoroughly every application to determine whether a patent may be granted-a task, in these days, involving the most exhaustive research. Not only must the examiner search U.S. and foreign patents to learn if a similar patent has been issued, but also they must study scientific books and publications to discover whether the idea has ever been described. Previous publications, invention, or use prevents a patent from being issued. To facilitate this enormous amount of research, the examining staff is divided into technology centers, each handling one or more branches of industrial activity.

In addition to issuing patents (including, since 1842, design patents; and since 1930, plant patents), the Office has, since 1870, been in charge of registering trademarks, of which more than 2,000,000 have been registered. The importance of trademarks in building up industrial recognition and goodwill cannot be overestimated.

In its earlier days, the USPTO had on various occasions the responsibility for administering copyright matters, collecting and publishing agricultural information, and even collecting meteorological data. For some years, it was the custodian not only of the famous old Patent Office models-the delight of every visitor to Washington for many years-but also of the Declaration of Independence and other historical documents and relics.

The patent system is the best, most workable method yet devised for protecting inventions, fostering industrial and technical progress, and ultimately giving to the world the benefits of the individual inventor’s genius. By publishing and distributing copies of every U.S. patent, the USPTO has made available to the public the world’s greatest scientific and mechanical library.

The American patent system was the first to recognize by law the inherent right of an inventor to limited protection and to provide for the systematic examination of applications. It has become the model for the patent systems of numerous foreign countries. Truly, as Abraham Lincoln said, the patent system has added the fuel of interest to the fire of genius.

Patents in the United States Before 1790

Before the Constitution of the United States was adopted, many of the American colonies and states granted patents. The Massachusetts General Court granted the first patent on this continent to Samuel Winslow in 1641 for a novel method of making salt. The same court granted the first patent on machinery to Joseph Jenkes in 1646 for a mill for manufacturing scythes.
The colonial and state patents, unlike modern patents, were issued only by special acts of legislature. There were no general laws providing for the granting of patents, and in every instance it was necessary for an inventor to make a special appeal to the governing body of his colony or state.

When the delegates from various states met in Philadelphia in 1787 to draft the Constitution, one of the problems before them was to give protection to inventors. Although there was a wide-spread fear of “monopolies” of the kind granted by European monarchs, no objection was raised to the principle of granting limited monopolies in the form of patents on inventions. A patent, in the larger sense, is of greater benefit to society than to the individual inventor. By giving the inventor a limited amount of protection, it assures society of the benefits of his or her genius. The delegates in Philadelphia fully appreciated this, and from their deliberations came the provision in the Constitution that enabled Congress to enact the first patent law from which the modern patent system has gradually evolved.
The Constitutional Provision

On May 14, 1787, delegates from the various states met in Philadelphia to frame the Constitution of the United States. On August 18, 1787, both James Madison of Virginia and Charles Pinckney of South Carolina submitted proposals regarding the protection of inventors by means of patents. On September 5, 1787, the Convention adopted the clause concerning patents and copyrights. On September 11, 1787, the delegates signed the Constitution. Included in article 1, section 8, was the following provision:

“Congress shall have power… to promote the progress of science and useful arts by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.”

On March 4, 1789, government under the new Constitution began operations. On January 8, 1790, President Washington addressed the second session of the First Congress, meeting in New York City, urging the representatives to give “effectual encouragement… to the exertion of skill and genius at home.” A week later a committee consisting of Edanus Burke of South Carolina, Benjamin Huntington of Connecticut, and Lambert Cadwalader of New Jersey was instructed to bring in separate bills on patents and copyrights. On February 16, 1790, this committee presented the patent bill, and after debate in the House and in the Senate it was passed.

The Story of the Patent and Trademark Office


Act of April 10, 1790

George Washington signs the first patent bill.

For the first time in history, the intrinsic right of an inventor to profit from his or her invention is recognized by law. Previously, privileges granted to an inventor were dependent upon the prerogative of a monarch or upon a special act of a legislature. Now, if an inventor produces a patentable invention, his or her right to certain privileges is established.

Among the Provisions of the Act:

· The subject matter of a U.S. patent is defined as “any useful art, manufacture, engine, machine, or device, or any improvement thereon not before known or used.” To apply for a patent a specification and drawing, and-if possible-a model, must be presented.
· The Board members have the power to issue a patent “if they shall deem the invention or discovery sufficiently useful and important,” for a period not to exceed 14 years. The Board fixes the duration of each patent.
· The Board’s authority to grant patents is absolute, and there is no appeal from its decisions.
· The responsibility for administering the patent laws is given to the Department of State.
· Fees for a patent amount to between $4 and $5.

The Board in charge of granting patents styled itself the “Patent Board,” the “Patent Commission,” or the “Commissioners for the Promotion of Useful Arts.” Its first members were Thomas Jefferson, Secretary of State; Henry Knox, Secretary of War; and Edmund Randolph, Attorney General.

As Secretary of State, Thomas Jefferson was in effect the first administrator of the American patent system-his department having been assigned the task of administering the patent laws. Jefferson, noted for his opposition to monopolies, none the less became a firm believer in the value of limited monopolies for authors an inventors.

“Certainly,” he wrote, “an inventor ought to be allowed a right to the benefit of his invention for some certain time. Nobody wishes more than I do that ingenuity should receive liberal encouragement.” He was likewise of the opinion that “in the arts, and especially in the mechanical arts, many ingenious improvements are made in consequence of the patent right giving exclusive use of them for 14 years.” Jefferson, besides being the first supervisor of the Patent Office, was in effect the first patent “examiner.” As Secretary of State, he became the moving spirit of the Board which decided whether patents were to be granted. According to available records, it appears that he made a personal examination of all the applications that came before the Board.

Jefferson’s interest in patents and inventions was that of a well-educated, brilliant man. A mathematician, astronomer, architect, and student of languages, Jefferson was undoubtedly the most accomplished and versatile man in the public life of his time. Not only did he appreciate the value of patents from an intellectual viewpoint, but also, as an inventor himself, he had first-hand knowledge of the problems of creative workers. Although he never took out a patent, Jefferson made a number of inventions, one of which-an improvement in the mold board of the plough-had a significant effect on the agricultural development of this country and earned him a decoration from the French Institute. He also invented a revolving chair which his enemies accused him of designing “so as to look all ways at once,” a folding chair or stool which could be used as a walking stick, a machine for treating hemp, and a pedometer.

Jefferson’s appreciation of invention was one of his outstanding characteristics. As Minister to France, he continually sent back news of the latest scientific developments in Europe, and he was the first to notify this country to James Watt’s great contribution to civilization-the steam engine. Jefferson was ever zealous in encouraging the introduction of new things. No one could have been more able fitted to administer the first American patent laws.

May 31, 1790 Congress enacts the first Federal Copyright law.

July 31, 1790 Samuel Hopkins of Philadelphia, PA, receives the first U.S. patent for an improvement in “the making of Pot ash and Pearl ash by a new Apparatus and Process.” The grant is signed by George Washington, President of the United States, and also carries the signatures of Edmund Randolph, Attorney General, and Thomas Jefferson, Secretary of State. The original document is still in existence in the collections of the Chicago Historical Society.

November 1790 The government moves from New York City to Philadelphia.

1790 – 1793 During these years, the Board members have difficulty finding sufficient time to spare from their regular duties to devote to patent matters.

Fifty-five patents were granted under the Act of April 10, 1790.

1793 Act of February 21

The Patent Laws Are Substantially Changed

The Act of 1793, by omitting the requirement that an invention be “sufficiently useful and important,” and making other changes, alters the whole tenor of the patent laws. The “registration” system is substituted for the “examination” system. An application is no longer examined for novelty and usefulness, but a patent is granted to anyone who applies, submits the proper drawings, and pays the necessary fee. The issuing of patents becomes little more than a clerical function. This system remains in effect for 43 years.

Some Provisions of the Act:

· The Patent Board is abolished, and the duty of granting patents is placed upon the Secretary of State.
· Aliens are unable to obtain patents (in some countries citizens were forbidden to obtain patents outside their own country.) The term of patent remains 14 years.
· The application fee is changed from $5 to $30.
· In the case of an interference (two or more persons applying for the same patent at the same time) the Secretary of State appoints a board consisting of one man chosen by himself and one chosen by each applicant to determine the issue. The board’s decision is final.

March 14, 1794 Eli Whitney, two years out of Yale, receives a patent for his cotton gin.
The cotton gin, by replacing the slow cleaning of seeds by hand labor, makes possible the great textile industry of later years. Whitney’s patent is one of the earliest issued by the Patent Office to have a vital bearing on American civilization.


April 17, 1800 Aliens are given the right to obtain patents provided they have resided in this country for two years and have declared their intention of becoming citizens.

June 1800 The Government moves from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C., and the State Department, including the Patent Office, is assigned temporary quarters in the Treasury Office.

June 1, 1802 The Patent Office Becomes a Separate Unit

Secretary of State James Madison gives the Patent Office the status of a distinct unit or division within the Department of State by appointing Dr. William Thornton, at a salary of $1,400 a year, “to have charge of the issuing of patents.” His salary is later increased to $1,500. With this appointment of a full-time superintendent, the Patent Office is established. Thornton is also charged with registering copyrights.

Dr. William Thornton, was the first “chief” and later “Superintendent” of the Patent Office, from October 1802 to March 28, 1828. Dr. Thornton was a man of marked individuality, culture, and intelligence. Born in the British West Indies and receiving his medical degree at Edinburgh, Scotland, he came to the United States in 1786, and two years later became a citizen. He first achieved prominence in this country by designing the original plans for the Capitol in Washington, D.C., for which he was given $500 and a plot of land. He was a close personal friend of James Madison, and was intimately acquainted with the prominent men of his time. As head of the Patent Office, he devoted himself wholeheartedly to the task of promoting the benefits of the patent system. He even took out a number of patents himself, a practice later forbidden for all Patent Office employees.

May 5, 1809 Mary Kies, of Killingly, Windham County, Conn., is the first woman to obtain a U.S. patent (No. 1,041X). Her invention relates to “weaving straw with silk or thread.” No copy of this patent is known to exist.


1810 Congress refers to the “keeper” of patents. No official designation has yet been given to the head of the Patent Office, but soon afterward Dr. Thornton adopts the title of “Superintendent.” In 1830, this title is officially recognized, and in 1836, the title is changed to “Commissioner of Patents.”

September 1810 The Patent Office is assigned four rooms in the west wing of Blodgett’s Hotel, on the north side of E Street between 7th and 8th Streets, N.W. The building, purchased and repaired by the government in 1810, was never used as a hotel, but rather housed the first theater in Washington.

August 25, 1814 The British burn government buildings in Washington, D.C. Dr. William Thornton, Superintendent of Patents, saves the Patent Office from destruction by pleading with the British Commander not to “burn what would be useful to all mankind.” During the following year, Congress meets in the Patent Office building (Blodgett’s Hotel), while the Capitol is being restored.

April 11, 1816 President Madison, in a special message to Congress, urges that the Patent Office be given the status of a separate bureau.


March 3, 1821 African American Thomas L. Jennings receives a patent for the dry scouring of clothes (patent No. 3,306X). This may be the earliest U.S. patent to an African American. Mr. Jennings used the income from his dry-cleaning business in New York City to support abolitionist activities. No copy of this patent is known to exist.

1824 Daniel Webster, in a speech in Congress, declares that invention is the fruit of a man’s brain, that industries grow in proportion to invention, and that therefore the government must aid progress by fostering the inventive genius of its citizens. He thus expresses the same views of the patent system voiced by his predecessors, Washington, Jefferson, Hamilton, Madison, and Franklin.

March 28, 1828 Dr. William Thornton dies.

1828 Dr. Thomas P. Jones, Superintendent of Patents, April 12, 1828 to June 10,1829.

1829 Dr. John D. Craig, Superintendent of Patents, June 11, 1829 to January 31, 1835.

Dr. John D. Craig, third Superintendent of Patents, points out to Congress that “at present the Patent Office is a source of revenue, which, it is presumed, the framers of its laws never intended; and the compensation received by those connected with it is far less, in proportion to their labor and responsibility, than in any other office of the Government within the District.” This complaint is to be made frequently in the years to come.

An addition to Blodgett’s Hotel, home of the Patent Office and the city Post Office, is built. The Patent Office is housed in the new structure.


February 3, 1831 Emma Steinhauer is granted patent No. 6,362X for a cook stove. This may be the first U.S. patent to a woman inventor for which a copy is known to exist.

June 21, 1834 Cyrus H. McCormick of Virginia receives a U.S. patent (No. 8,277X) for his reaper. McCormick’s invention, one of America’s greatest contributions to agricultural advance, makes the vast grain fields of the West available for full production and assures a sufficient supply of cereals for the world’s needs.

1835 J. C. Pickett, Superintendent of Patents, February 1, 1835 to April 30, 1835.

Henry L. Ellsworth, Superintendent of Patents, July 1, 1835 to July 11, 1836; first Commissioner of Patents, July 11, 1836 to May 6, 1845.

Ellsworth was born in Windsor, Conn., in 1791, the son of Oliver Ellsworth, one?time Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Before being named Superintendent and subsequently Commissioner of Patents, he had been president of the Aetna Insurance Co., Chief Commissioner of Indian Tribes, and mayor of Hartford, Conn. His interest in agriculture led him to obtain the first governmental appropriation in this field. As Commissioner of Patents he was the first Federal official to collect agricultural information for the benefit of the farmers, and he later became known as the “Father of the Department of Agriculture.” His interest in Samuel Morse’s telegraph led him to help obtain a $30,000 grant from Congress for testing the possibilities of that invention.

October 14, 1835 Henry Blair, of Glen Ross, Maryland, receives a patent (No. 8,447X) for an improved corn planter. He may have been the second African American inventor to receive a patent. Two years later, Mr. Blair receives patent No.15 for a cotton planter.

December 31, 1835 John Ruggles, newly appointed Senator from Maine, moves that the Senate appoint a committee to study the Patent Office with a view to making changes in the existing laws. The Senate concurs and appoints Ruggles chairman.

February 25, 1836 Samuel Colt, of Hartford, Conn. receives a patent on a “Revolving Gun”, (patent No. 9,430X) This is the first of the famous “Six?Shooters,” which are to play such an important role in the winning of the West.

March 1836 Texas dissolves its ties with Mexico and becomes an independent republic. Article 2, section 3 of its constitution gives its Congress the power “to grant * * * patents and copyrights and to secure to the authors and inventors the exclusive use thereof for a limited time.”

April 28, 1836 John Ruggles, Senator from Maine, completes his report on the patent laws declaring that: “For more than 40 years the Department of State has issued patents on every application, without any examination into the merits or novelty of the invention…Many patents granted are worthless and void and conflict upon one another, and a great many law suits arise from this condition… Frauds develop. People copying existing patents, make slight changes, and are granted patents…Patents have become of little value, and the object of the patent laws is in great measure defeated.”

John Ruggles, through whose efforts the patent laws were to be so successfully revised, was born in Westboro, Mass., in 1789. After graduating from Brown University in 1813 he moved to Thomaston, Maine, where he practiced law until elected to the State legislature. He was later appointed to the state supreme court, and in 1835, was elected for one term to the U.S. Senate. On leaving Washington in 1841, he returned to his law practice in Maine. He died at Thomaston in 1874.

June 29, 1836 Charles M. Keller, the Patent Office machinist, and later to become the first patent examiner, is granted a patent (No. 9,798X) for Making Staves. This patent is available in the electronic system. While a patent examiner, Keller studies law at night, and in May 1845 leaves the Patent Office to practice law… the first in a long-standing tradition of examiners.

1836 ACT OF JULY 4

Vital Changes are made in the Patent Laws

The Act of 1836 reestablishes the so?called “American” system of granting patents, and creates the machinery for administering the system properly. With the exception of the original Act of 1790, this is the most important patent law ever enacted by the United States. The patent laws of today, in broader outline, are based upon the principles set forth in this act.

The Act of 1836 reestablishes the “examination” system in effect before 1793. Once again it becomes necessary to determine the novelty and the usefulness of a patent application. Once again the “prior art”-that which has been invented or used before-must be searched to determine whether a patent may be granted. The personnel for conducting this work is provided, and the Patent Office becomes a separate bureau under its own chief. As a result the patent system functions smoothly, the courts are relieved of countless unnecessary patent cases, and a patent becomes a far more valuable asset to its owner.

Some Provisions of the Act of 1836:

· The Patent Office is established by law as a distinct and separate bureau in the Department of State.

· A chief to be known as the Commissioner of Patents, appointed by the President by and with the approval of the Senate, is placed in charge of the Office. The Commissioner’s salary is $3,000 a year.

· The Commissioner is to execute and superintend all matters concerning patents, and is to appoint a chief clerk, an examiner of patents, a machinist, two clerks as draftsmen, an inferior clerk, and a messenger.

· To obtain a patent an applicant must file a specification, a drawing, and a model. When issued, the patent is good for 14 years, subject to an extension of 7 years upon the approval of a board consisting of the Secretary of State, the Solicitor of the Treasury, and the Commissioner of Patents. Reasons for requesting an extension must be presented to the Board.

· For the first time appeals are permitted. Should the Examiner of Patents refuse to issue a patent the applicant may take his case to a Board of three disinterested persons appointed by the Secretary of State.

· The application fee is $30 for citizens, $500 for British subjects, and $300 for all other aliens. This apparent discrimination results from similar treatment of American citizens in foreign patent offices.

· The fees collected by the Patent Office are to constitute the Patent Fund, to be used for clerk hire and other expenses. A register of all patents issued is to be kept.

· Employees of the Patent Office are henceforth forbidden to acquire any interest in a patent, except by inheritance or bequest.

· The sum of $1,500 is appropriated for the purchase of a library of scientific works and periodicals.

· The Commissioner is to provide for the arrangement and classification of models in galleries where they are to be displayed to the public.

For a great many years this display of models was one of the greatest tourist attractions in Washington. After 1880, however, models were no longer required. In later years the historically most interesting of these models were used for exhibition purposes by the Smithsonian Institution, where they may be seen today.

July 4, 1836 A law enacted the same day as the important Patent Act provides for the erection of a new, fireproof building for the Patent Office.

July 4, 1836 Henry L. Ellsworth, Superintendent of Patents, is appointed the first Commissioner of Patents.

July 13, 1836 Patent No. 1 issued to John Ruggles, Senator from Maine, who was so largely responsible for the passage of the Act of July 4. The patent, on a Locomotive Steam?Engine for Rail and Other Roads, is “designed to give a multiplied tractive power to the locomotive and to prevent the evil of the sliding of the wheels.” (cog railway)

July 13, 1836 The present system of numbering patents consecutively begins with the patents issued under the new law. Previously issued patents are not numbered but are identified by name and date. They are subsequently numbered chronologically, and an X suffix is used to distinguish them from the new patents. Thus, the first patent issued on July 31, 1790 is 1X. In PTO’s scanned document system, it is X000001 (you can enter it as X1).

December 15, 1836 The Patent Office is completely destroyed by fire. The loss is estimated at 7,000 models, 9,000 drawings, and 230 books. More serious is the loss of all records of patent applications and grants.

1837 After the fire, the Patent Office is given quarters in the old City Hall, now the old District Courthouse.


Some provisions of the Act:

· Congress appropriates $100,000 to replace the records and the most valuable and interesting patent models destroyed in the recent fire.

· The act requires that two sets of patent drawings be furnished by the inventor, one to be attached to the patent itself and one to be filed at the Patent Office. In this manner a double record-a safeguard against future fires-is kept.

· One examiner is added to the Patent Office staff.

· An annual report is to be sent to Congress each January.

1837 A committee is formed to help replace the records lost in the fire. With the help of U.S. court clerks and owners of patents, a partial restoration of the records is made in the next few years.

Nearly 10,000 name-and-date patents had been issued but only about 2,845 were restored. The restored files available in the USPTO files number about 1,900. These original restored records are now at the National Archives in College Park Maryland.

January 28, 1839 President Mirabeau Bonapart Lamar of the Republic of Texas signs “An act securing patent rights to inventors.” Nathaniel Amory, Chief Clerk in the Texas State Department, becomes the first administrator of the act. During his first 11 months in office he grants six patents, mostly concerning improvements in machinery.

ACT OF MARCH 3, 1839

Some provisions of the Act:

· Agriculture is a new job for the Patent Office. Provisions of the Act included the assignment to the Commissioner of Patents the duty of collecting and publishing statistics and other information on agriculture. For 23 years, until the creation of the Department of Agriculture in 1862, the Patent Office continues this work. The annual reports of the Patent Commissioners during these years devote considerable space to agricultural topics. For many years part of the Patent Office Fund is used for distributing free seeds to farmers.

· The Act of March 3 provides that appeals from the Patent Commissioner may be taken to the Chief Justice of the U.S. Court for the District of Columbia.

· The Act permits an American inventor to use publicly or sell his article for two years before applying for a patent without forfeiting his right to a patent.

· Two assistant examiners are added to the Patent Office staff.


Spring of 1840 The Patent Office moves into its new home at F and Eighth Streets, NW. The building to which wings were completed in 1852, 1856, and 1867, becomes the home of the Patent Office for the next 92 years.

June 20, 1840 Samuel F. B. Morse, of New York, receives Patent No. 1,647 for “Telegraph Signs.” This is the telegraph, which, by making possible instantaneous communication between far corners of the land, plays an important role in bringing the peoples of the world closer together.

1841 An empty large hall in the new Patent Office Building becomes a national gallery. Displayed are personal effects of James Smithson, founder of the Smithsonian Institution, the collections of the Wilkes expedition, and valuable items of the State Department.


Designs Are Made Patentable

“Any person, who by his own industry, genius, efforts and expense, has invented any new and original design” becomes entitled to a design patent. The term of a design patent is seven years.

The Act of August 29 requires the owner of a patent to mark his article as patented, including the date on which the patent was issued. Any failure to do so results in a $100 fine-one half to go to the informer. A similar penalty is provided for falsely marking any article as patented.

November 1842 George Bruce of New York, N.Y. receives Design Patent No. 1, for Printing Types. No copy of the drawing for this patent is known to exist.

January 1844 The first Commissioner of Patents, Henry L. Ellsworth, states in his annual report for 1843, while commenting on important inventions which have been made, that “the advancement of the arts, from year to year, taxes our credulity and seems to presage the arrival of that period when human improvement must end.” This rhetorical flourish is probably the origin of the unfounded story of the Patent Office official who resigned because everything had been invented.

June 15, 1844 Charles Goodyear of New York receives Patent No. 3,633 for an “Improvement in the Manner of Preparing Fabrics of Caoutchouc or India?Rubber.”
The vulcanization of rubber, which Goodyear’s process made possible, gives rise to great industries in the years to come.

1845 Edmund Burke, second Commissioner of Patents, May 7, 1845, to May 10, 1849.

1845 The Republic of Texas joins the Union. The following year Commissioner Burke urges that steps be taken to validate the patents issued by Texas, but no action appears to have been taken.

1845 The Patent Office technical staff consists of the Commissioner, two examiners, and two assistant examiners. During the year, 1,246 applications are filed.

September 10, 1846 Elias Howe, Jr., of Cambridge, Mass., receives Patent No. 4,750 for an “Improvement in Sewing Machines.” By inventing a “new and useful machine for sewing seams in cloth or other articles,” Howe gives a new stimulus to industry.

1848 Beginning early this year, patents are issued every Tuesday…. as they are today.

ACT OF MAY 27, 1848

Some provisions of the Act:

· Congress places in the hands of the Commissioner of Patents the power of extending patents. Since 1836 this power had been vested in a Board consisting of the Secretary of State, the Commissioner of Patents, and the Solicitor of the Treasury.

· Two principal and two assistant examiners are added to the Patent Office staff.

The Act of March 3 transfers the Patent Office from the State Department to the newly created Department of the Interior. Not until April 1925 does the Patent Office come under the jurisdiction of the Department of Commerce.

1849 Thomas Ewbank, third Commissioner of Patents, May 10, 1849 to November 8, 1852.

May 22, 1849 Abraham Lincoln, Congressman from Illinois, receives Patent No. 6,469 for “A Device for Buoying Vessels over Shoals.”

The invention consists of a set of bellows attached to the hull of a ship just below the water line. On reaching a shallow place the bellows are filled with air, and the vessel, thus buoyed, is expected to float clear. Lincoln whittled the model for his application with his own hands. It can be seen at the National Museum of American History (Smithsonian Institution) in Washington. When a young man, Lincoln took a boatload of merchandise down the Mississippi River from New Salem to New Orleans. At one point the boat slid onto a dam, and was set free only after heroic efforts. In later years, while crossing the Great Lakes, Lincoln’s ship ran afoul of a sandbar. The two similar experiences led him to conceive his invention. Lincoln’s appreciation of inventions was later to be of great service to the Nation. John Ericcson’s Monitor, the ironclad which defeated the Merrimac, would never have been built except for Lincoln’s insistence, nor would the Spencer repeating rifle have been adopted by the Army.


Appeals from the Patent Office may now be made to the Assistant Justices of the U.S. Court for the District of Columbia as well as to the Chief Justice.


1852 Silas Henry Hodges, fourth Commissioner of Patents, November 8, 1852 to March 25, 1853.

1853 Charles Mason, fifth Commissioner of Patents, May 16, 1853 to August 4, 1857.

1854?59 The Patent Office, in conjunction with the Smithsonian Institution, collects meteorological data from thousands of observers throughout the country. The information is required as part of the agricultural service rendered by the Patent Office before the creation of the Department of Agriculture.

1855 Commissioner Mason, for the first time in Government, employs women clerks to work in a government office. Prior to this time some women had been employed to do clerical work such as copying in their own homes. A great deal of objection was raised to the innovation in the Patent Office, but Commissioner Mason steadfastly adhered to his plans.

1855 Clara Barton, later founder of the American Red Cross, is employed as a clerk in the Patent Office, at first on a piece?work basis but later at a salary of $1,400 per year, near the top for a clerical salary. Leaving in 1857, she returned to the Patent Office in 1860 and was employed there until 1865.

1856 The Patent Office staff consists of a Commissioner, a chief clerk, 12 examiners, 12 assistant examiners, a draftsman, an agricultural clerk, a machinist, a librarian and about 50 clerical employees.

1857 Joseph Holt, sixth Commissioner of Patents, September 10, 1857 to March 14, 1859. Holt afterwards becomes Postmaster General, Secretary of War, Judge Advocate General of the Army, and in 1864 refuses the post of Attorney General.

1857 The United States issues 2,910 patents-about 35 percent more than Great Britain, which has a far larger population. Prussia grants 48 patents, Russia 24.

February 5, 1859 Copyright matters are transferred from the Department of State to the Department of the Interior. The Secretary of the Interior directs the Commissioner of Patents to take charge of the work.

1859 The Patent Office adds a “Librarian of Copyrights” to its staff.

1859 Abraham Lincoln, in a lecture at Springfield, III., pays tribute to the patent system:
“The patent system added the fuel of interest to the fire of genius.” This statement was to be widely quoted in later years.

1959 William Darius Bishop, seventh Commissioner of Patents, May 23, 1859 to February 15, 1860. At 31, he is the youngest man ever appointed to this post.


1860 Philip Francis Thomas, eighth Commissioner of Patents, February 16, 1860 to December 10, 1860. He later becomes Secretary of the Treasury.

Commissioner Thomas sets aside one of his ablest examiners to hear and determine interferences. An “interference” is a proceeding for determining who is the original inventor when two or more seek a patent for the same invention at the same time. The one who made the invention first is entitled to the patent.

ACT OF MARCH 2, 1861

Patents Now Granted for 17 Years

· The Act of 1861 increases the term of a patent grant from 14 to 17 years, at the same time withdrawing the power of the Commissioner of Patents to extend patents.

Prior to this time a patent had been granted for 14 years, but the Commissioner had the discretion to extend patents for an additional seven years-thus making possible a total term of 21years. Congress changes the term of a patent grant to 17 years-a compromise between those in favor of retaining the original 14?year period with extensions and those desiring to abolish extensions.

Among the Other Provisions of the Act:

· The penalty for failing to mark articles patented is withdrawn- but unless a manufacturer marks his article patented he cannot obtain damages from a competitor who is illegally copying his product until after notice is given.

· The Commissioner of Patents is authorized to appoint additional examiners provided the expense is kept within the income of the Patent Office.

· Appeals.-A permanent Board of Appeals, consisting of three Examiners?in?Chief, is created to relieve the Commissioner of much of the burden of hearing appeals. Should an applicant for a patent be unsuccessful before the Board, however, he may still appeal to the Commissioner. The Board is enlarged to five members by the Act of February 15, 1916, to six by the Act of February 14, 1927, to nine by the Act of April 11, 1930, and to 15 by the Act of September 6, 1958.

· Design patents.-Design patents may now be issued for terms of 3?1/2, 7, or 14 years, according to the wish of the applicant.

· Fees.-The fee for obtaining a patent becomes $35, of which $15 is to be paid at the time of application and $20 when the patent is granted.

· The Act eliminates all discrimination in the matter of fees, etc., against foreign applicants, except in the case of citizens of foreign countries discriminating against the United States.

1861 Due to the outbreak of the Civil War, there is a great decrease in the activities of the Patent Office. Receipts fall off, and, as the statutes forbid a deficit in the Patent Office, a number of minor employees are dismissed and many examiners are reduced in grade.

1861?65 The war stimulates the use of a number of comparatively new inventions. The field telegraph has an important influence on tactics, machinery is employed on a large scale to manufacture clothes and equipment for the armed forces, and the breech loading rifle is widely used. The importance of the reaper, mower, and thresher in providing food for the armies cannot be overestimated.

1861 David P. Holloway, ninth U.S. Commissioner of Patents, March 28, 1861 to August 16, 1865.

April-May 1861 Soldiers of the First Rhode Island Regiment are quartered in the Patent Office model rooms. Broken glass in model cases give ready access for theft.

October 1861 – January 15, 1863 The north and west wings of the Patent Office are used as a hospital.

May 21, 1861 The Constitution of the Confederate States of America provides for the establishment of a Patent Office.

Rufus R. Rhodes, of Louisiana, former examiner in the Patent Office at Washington, becomes the first and only Patent Commissioner of the Confederate States. The Patent Office is located in the Mechanics Building at Richmond. Upon acceptance by the Commissioner, and upon payment of a $40 fee, patents are granted for a 14?year period. The Commissioner’s salary is $3,000. Under Confederate patent law, slaves could receive patents for their inventions. Slaves were not permitted patents under U.S. law as they were not considered citizens of any country thus could not take the required oath of citizenship.

August 1, 1861 The first Confederate patent is issued to one Van Houten of Savannah, Ga. for a “Breech Loading Gun.” About one?third of the 266 patents issued by the Confederacy concerned implements of war. Most of the records of the Confederate Patent Office are believed to have been destroyed.

The Confederate Commissioner of Patents finds his work seriously hampered by the lack of reference books. “There is not a polytechnic journal for sale at Richmond,” he complains, “and the supply of other books of the kind required by the office is exceedingly limited.”

1862 The Federal Congress makes a deficiency appropriation of $50,000 to keep the Patent Office going.

July 1, 1862 Agriculture section of Patent Office is separated into a new bureau.

November 4, 1862 Richard J. Gatling, of Indianapolis, Ind., receives Patent No. 36,836 for an “Improvement in Revolving Battery Guns.” This is one of the early successful machine guns.

March 6, 1865 Lincoln’s second inaugural ball is held in the Patent Office.

1865 As soon as the war is over there is a noticeable increase in patent applications. This year there are 10,000 applications (almost double the number of 1864); in 1866 15,000 applications; and in 1867, 20,000. Until 1880 the number of annual applications is approximately 20,000.

1865 Thomas C. Theaker, tenth Commissioner of Patents, August 16, 1865 to January 20, 1868.

ACT OF JULY 20, 1865

Congress directs the Commissioner of Patents to turn over to the Treasury the Patent Fund kept at his disposal for Patent Office expenditures. All money received by the Patent Office for its services is subsequently paid directly to the Treasury, and the expenses of the Office, like those of other government departments, are met by congressional appropriations.

June 23, 1862 Patent No. 79,265 granted to Christopher L. Sholes and others for a typewriter.

1868 Elisha Foote, eleventh Commissioner of Patents, August 1, 1868 to April 25, 1869.

April 13, 1869 George Westinghouse, Jr., of Schenectady, N.Y., receives Patent No. 88,929 for an “Improvement in Steam?Power Brake Devices.” This is the famous Westinghouse Air Brake which is to make possible the safe speeding up and lengthening of trains, thus reducing transportation costs and enabling the railroads to handle the vast traffic essential to modern industrial civilization.

1869 Samuel Sparks Fisher, twelfth Commissioner of Patents, April 26, 1869 to November 10, 1870.

Adoption of Merit System by the Patent Office

Commissioner Fisher introduces the merit system for selecting appointees to the technical staff of the Patent Office. By requiring candidates to pass rigid competitive examinations, the Patent Office anticipates the civil service system by a number of years. On his own initiative, Fisher contracts to have l0 copies of each drawing in the Patent Office reproduced by photolithography. The law requires an applicant to furnish one drawing for the use of the Patent Office, but some drawings have been in the Office for 30 years and are almost in tatters due to constant handling. Fisher then orders all drawings to conform to a uniform standard-to simplify the process of reproduction. (The specifications and drawings of all patents thereafter granted are issued in printed form. The specifications and drawings of previously issued patents are reproduced in printed form from time to time until all issued since July 1836 are printed.) Commissioner Fisher takes active steps to revise the patent laws and organize Patent Office procedure on sounder lines. As a result of his efforts the important Patent Act of July 8, l870 is passed.


ACT OF JULY 8, 1870

The Most Important Patent Act Since 1836

The Act of July 8 consolidates the 25 acts and parts of acts concerning patents passed in the last 34 years, and includes a number of new provisions. The numerous sections of the Act serve to reorganize and revise the patent laws.

Among the more important new provisions in the Act are the following:

· Trademarks-The Commissioner of Patents is given jurisdiction to register trademarks and the power to make appropriate rules and regulations concerning them. This is the first law enacted by Congress concerning trademarks.

· Copyrights-The Librarian of Congress is made custodian of all records and matters concerning copyrights.

· Appeals-Appeals from decisions of the Patent Commissioner are to go to the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia sitting as a body rather than to individual justices of the court as has been the practice heretofore.

· Interferences-The duties of the Examiner of Interferences are defined and legal status thus given to an office previously created by the Commissioner. The Examiner of Interferences determines questions of priority when two inventors apply for a patent for the same invention at the same time.

· Other provisions.-The Commissioner of Patents is given the power to make rules and regulations, not inconsistent with law, concerning the conduct of proceedings in the Patent Office-subject to the approval of the Secretary of the Interior.

· Authority is granted to the Commissioner to disbar any patent agent from practice for misconduct.

· The Commissioner is authorized to print copies of the current issues of patents, and to publish copies of laws, decisions, and rules for the information of the public.
· Increases are made in the personnel of the Office and salaries of some of the examiners are raised.

· The office of Assistant Commissioner is created. The office of First Assistant Commissioner is created by the Act of March 4, 1909; an additional Assistant Commissioner is authorized by the Act of April 11, 1930.

1870 The appropriation for the next fiscal year provides for the appointment of an Assistant Commissioner.

James A. Bland may be the first African American clerk employed by the Patent Office.

July 12, 1870 John W. Hyatt, Jr., and Isaiah S. Hyatt, of Albany, N.Y., receives Patent No. 105,338 for “Improvements in Treating and Molding Pyroxyline.” From this invention springs the great celluloid industry supplying toilet articles, camera film, and thousands of other articles.

January 11, 1871 Congress orders the discontinuance of the old Patent Office Reports and directs the Commissioner to have copies of patents printed, some for free distribution to libraries and others to be offered for sale to the public.

For the first time printed patent specifications become available to the public at a nominal charge. In order to study the patents, it had been necessary to consult the original drawings and specifications in the Patent Office or have copies made at considerable expense.

1871 Gen. Mortimer D. Leggett, thirteenth Commissioner of Patents, January 16, 1871 to October 31, 1874.

December 19, 1871 Mark Twain (Samuel L. Clemens) receives Patent No. 121,992 for “An Improvement in Adjustable and Detachable Straps for Garments.” Twain, who later lost a fortune in investing money in the inventions of others, actually received three U.S. patents. The second in 1873 on his famous “Mark Twain’s Self?Pasting Scrapbook,” patent No.140,245, and the third in 1885 for a game to help players remember important historical dates, patent No. 324,535.

The scrapbook, on which he made a sizable profit, was simply a series of blank pages coated with gum or veneer. The sale of 25,000 copies during the first royalty period led one of Twain’s biographers to remark that this “was well enough for a book that did not contain a single word that critics could praise or condemn.”

In his Connecticut Yankee at King Arthur’s Court, Twain’s character “Sir Boss” remarked that “a country without a patent office and good patent laws is just a crab and can’t travel anyway but sideways and backways.”

January 3, 1872 The first Official Gazette of the United States Patent Office is issued. Published weekly thereafter, it has systematically recorded excerpts from patents, the more important decisions concerning Patent Office practice, and related matters.

January 28, 1873 Louis Pasteur, of Paris, France, founder of the modern science of bacteriology, receives Patent No. 132,245, for “Improvements in the Process of Making Beer.” On July 22 he receives Patent No. 141,072, for “Improvements in the Manufacture and Preservation of Beer and in the Treatment of Yeast and Wort, Together With Apparatus for the Same.” These patents involve some of Pasteur’s fundamental discoveries.

April 2, 1873 Eli H. Janney, an African-American of Alexandria, Va., receives Patent No. 138,405 for “Car Couplings.” Janney’s automatic car coupler, together with Westinghouse’s air brake, makes possible the gigantic railroad industry of the twentieth century. Without the car coupler the toll of railroad accidents would be appalling.

1873 The Appropriation Act of 1873, in its provisions for assistant examiners states that two of these positions may be held by women.

July 8, 1873 Anna R. G. Nichols, of Melrose, Mass., becomes the first woman patent examiner.

ACT OF JUNE 18, 1874

· The Patent Office is given charge of the registration of copyrights for prints and labels for articles of manufacture.

1874 John Marshall Thacher, fourteenth Commissioner of Patents November 1, 1874 to September 30, 1875.

November 24, 1874 Joseph F. Glidden, of De Kalb, III., receives Patent No. 157,124, for an “Improvement in Wire Fences.” His improvement becomes known as barbed wire and makes possible the cheap and efficient fencing of vast areas of western farm lands.

1875 The Patent Office staff numbers 351. Of this number 24 are principal examiners, 24 first assistant examiners, 24 second assistant examiners, and 24 third assistant examiners.

1875 Robert Holland Duell, fifteenth Commissioner of Patents, October 1, 1875 to December 31, 1876.

January 17, 1876 Henry E. Baker, an African American from Mississippi, was appointed as an assistant examiner.

What we know about early African-American inventors comes mostly from the work of Henry Baker. He was dedicated to uncovering and publicizing the contributions of Black inventors. Around 1900, the Patent Office conducted a survey to gather information about Black inventors and their inventions. Letters were sent to patent attorneys, company presidents, newspaper editors, and prominent African-Americans. Baker recorded the replies and followed-up on leads. Baker’s research also provided the information used to select Black inventions exhibited at the Cotton Centennial in New Orleans, the World’s Fair in Chicago, and the Southern Exposition in Atlanta. By the time of his death, Baker had compiled four massive volumes.

1876 Centennial Exhibition held at Philadelphia. The wonders of the industrial progress of the last century are shown to the public. A Swiss shoe manufacturer and commissioner to the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition is impressed with the American Patent System. On returning home he tells his countrymen, “We must introduce the patent system. America has shown us how. May our sister republic serve as our model in this.” Switzerland subsequently introduces a patent system in 1888. Albert Einstein later becomes an examiner in the Swiss Patent Office.

March 7, 1876 Alexander Graham Bell, of Salem, Mass., receives Patent No. 134,465 on “Telegraphy.” This is the invention in electrical communication known as the telephone.

1877 Ellis Spear, sixteenth Commissioner of Patents, January 29, 1877 to October 31,1878.

September 24, 1877 Fire breaks out in part of the Patent Office and destroys many models, but the important records of the Office are saved.

February 19, 1878 Thomas A. Edison, of Menlo Park, NJ, receives Patent No. 200,521 for a “Phonograph or Speaking Machine.” (Edison obtained 1,093 patents, four being issued posthumously.)

1878 Gen. Halbert Eleazer Paine, seventeenth Commissioner of Patents, November 1, 1878 to May 6,1880.

Commissioner Paine installs the first typewriters in the Office.

1879 The Supreme Court declares the Trademark Law of 1870 unconstitutional, on the ground that the patent provision in the Constitution is not broad enough to cover trademarks and that the law is not based on the interstate commerce provision in the Constitution.


January 27, 1880 Thomas A. Edison, of Menlo Park, NJ, receives Patent No. 223,898 for “An Electric Lamp for Giving Light by Incandescence.”

1880 Edgar M. Marble, eighteenth Commissioner of Patents, May 7, 1880 to October 31,1883.

ACT OF MARCH 3, 1881

New Trademark Law

Provision is made for the registration by the Patent Office of trademarks used in commerce with foreign nations and with the Indian tribes. The law makes no provision, however, for the registration of marks used in interstate commerce and, therefore, is of little value.

1881 This year inaugurates one of the greatest decades of invention of all time. The trolley car, the incandescent light, the automobile, the cash register, the dynamo, the pneumatic tire, smokeless powder, transparent film, electrical welding, the cyanide process, the steam turbine, the aluminum manufacturing process, and the electric furnace are all invented or introduced during the next 10 years.

1883 Benjamin Butterworth, nineteenth Commissioner of Patents, November 1, 1883 to March 3, 1885. He will serve a second term from April 13, 1897, to January 16, 1898.

1883 Herman Hollerith, a former Census clerk and MIT instructor, becomes an assistant patent examiner. He resigns within a year and applies for patents. He had been working on a method of tabulating census results with punched cards. The patents are granted, and the Census Bureau uses the cards for the 1890 census.

September 23, 1884 Judy W. Reed may not have been able to sign her name, but she may be the first African American woman to receive a patent. Signed with an “X,” Patent No. 305,474 is for a dough kneader and roller.

1885 The number of employees of the Patent Office passes 500.

1885 Martin V. B. Montgomery, twentieth Commissioner of Patents, March 18, 1885 to April 11, 1887.

July 14, 1885 Sarah E. Goode is one of the first black women to obtain a U.S. patent. She receives Patent No. 322,177 for a Folding Cabinet Bed.

August 10, 1886 Elihu Thomson, of Lynn Mass., receives Patent No. 347,140 for “Apparatus for Electrical Welding.” This process supplants riveting and brazing in many instances-as in structural iron work, ship building, etc. Dr. Thomson was granted 696 U.S. patents.

1887 The United States becomes a member of the International Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property (patents and trademarks), formed in Paris in 1883.

This convention, revised in 1890, 1897, 1911, 1925, 1958, and 1967, has 98 countries as members by 1988. It becomes an important instrumentality for protecting the patent and trademark rights of Americans in foreign countries and of foreigners in the United States. Each member of the Convention gives to nationals whose governments belong to the Convention the rights it gives to its own citizens.

1887 Benton J. Hall, twenty?first Commissioner of Patents, April 11, 1887 to March 31, 1889.

1887 Hundreds of thousands of words of testimony are taken in one of the most memorable hearings in the entire history of the Patent Office. The country’s most distinguished lawyers argue the cases of McDonough v.Gray v. Bell v. Edison to determine the original inventor of the telephone. Nationwide attention is attracted to the numerous hearings that continue over two years. Bell’s claims are completely substantiated.

May 1,1888 Nikola Tesla of New York receives Patent No. 382,280 for the “Electrical Transmission of Power.” This invention is the genesis of the induction type of electric motor so widely used in modern industry.

1889 Charles Elliott Mitchell, twenty?second Commissioner of Patents, April 1, 1889 to July 31, 1891.

April 2, 1889 Charles M. Hall, of Oberlin, Ohio, receives Patent No. 400,665 for the “Manufacture of Aluminum.” This light, strong metal becomes an indispensable requirement of numerous industries.


September 16, 1890 Ottmar Mergenthaler, of Baltimore, Md., receives Patent No. 436,532 for a “Machine for Producing Linotypes, Type Matrices, etc.” The cheap and rapid reproduction of newspapers, books, and magazines is largely dependent on Mergenthaler’s invention of the linotype.

1890 One?third of the 157 assistant examiners in the Patent Office are graduates of technical schools. (At present almost every examiner has a scientific or engineering degree and many have law degrees as well.)

April 8, 9, 10, 1891 The Congress of Inventors and Manufacturers of Inventions to Celebrate the Beginning of the Second Century of the American Patent System meets in Washington for three days of gala festivities. Prof. Alexander Graham Bell, inventor of the telephone, is among the distinguished guests.

Circuit Courts of Appeals are established in the United States to relieve the burden on the Supreme Court.

1891 William Edgar Simonds, twenty?third Commissioner of Patents, August 1, 1981 to April 15, 1893. As a Congressman, Simonds obtained passage of the first International Copyright Act of the United States.

April 11, 1893 Frederic E. Ives, of Philadelphia, receives Patent No. 495,341 for a “Photogravure Printing Plate.” The cheap, rapid reproduction of illustrations for newspapers, magazines, and books is made possible by this invention. The process of reproduction becomes known as “half?tone printing.”

August 29, 1893 Patent No. 504,038 is granted to Whitcomb L. Judson for a Slide Fastener (now commonly known as the Zipper).

The Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia is established. Appeals in patent cases are taken directly from the Commissioner of Patents to this court.

1893 John S. Seymour twenty?fourth Commissioner of Patents, April 16, 1893 to April 12, 1897.

May 19, 1896 Edward G. Acheson, of Monongahela City, Pa., receives Patent No. 560,391 for an “Electrical Furnace.” The furnace makes possible the production of an artificial material known as Carborundum which is one of the hardest substances known and is widely employed in industry for its fast cutting qualities.

1897 Benjamin Butterworth, Commissioner of Patents for a second term April 13, 1897 to January 16, 1898. Prior to his first service as Commissioner in 1883, he served in the 47th Congress. He returned to Congress for three additional terms from 1885 to 1891, being named Chairman of the House Patents Committee in the 51st Congress.

April 20, 1897 Simone Lake, famous American pioneer in submarine development, receives Patent No. 581,213 for “New and Useful Improvements in Submarine Vessels.”

July 13, 1897 Guglielmo Marconi, a subject of the King of Italy, receives Patent No. 586,193 for “New and Useful Improvements in Transmitting Electrical Impulses and Signals and in the Apparatus Thereof… by means of oscillations of high frequency.” In other words, wireless telegraphy.

1898 Charles Holland Duell, twenty?fifth Commissioner of Patents (Butterworth’s second term being separately counted), February 5, 1898 to March 31, 1901. Duell was the son of Robert Holland Duell, fifteenth Commissioner of Patents. In 1904, he was appointed by President Theodore Roosevelt to be an Associate Justice on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, serving until 1906.

June 10, 1898 Congress authorizes the establishment of a Classification Division to reclassify all patents, foreign patents, scientific publications, etc. to make it easier for the examiners and the public to determine the novelty of an application. This act materially speeds up the work of the Patent Office.

August 9, 1898 Rudolph Diesel of Berlin, Germany, receives Patent No. 608,845, for “New and Useful Improvements in Internal?Combustion Engines.”

August 30, 1898 Henry Ford, of Detroit, Mich., receives Patent No. 610,040 for “New and Useful Improvements in Carburetors… especially designed for use in connection with gas or vapor engines.” In 1901 he receives Patent No. 686,046 for “New and Useful Improvements in Motor?Carriages.” Ford was granted a total of 161 U.S. patents.

November 23, 1898 Andrew Jackson Beard receives Patent No. 594,059 for a railway car coupler. Born a slave, Beard worked in a number of occupations including the railroad industry. This led to his improved coupler that was credited with preventing many serious injuries and fatalities among railroad workers.

March 14, 1899 Ferdinand Zeppelin, of Stuttgart, Germany, receives Patent No. 631,195 for “Improvements in and Relating to Navigable Balloons.”


1900 About this time a Japanese commissioner, in Washington to study the American patent system, states: “We have looked about us to see what nations are the greatest, so that we can be like them * * * We said, ‘What is it that makes the United States such a great nation?’ and we investigated and found that it was patents, and we will have patents.”

1900 Since 1809 approximately one out of every 1,000 patents has been issued to a woman inventor.

1901 Frederick Innes Allen, twenty?sixth Commissioner of Patents, April 1, 1901 to May 31, 1907.

November 19, 1901 Granville T. Woods receives Patent No. 687,098 for a third rail to operate electrified railways. This African American inventor from Columbus, Ohio, dedicated his life to developing a variety of inventions relating to the railroad industry and held more than 60 patents.

August 2, 1904 Michael J. Owens, of Toledo, Ohio, receives Patent No. 766,768 for a “Glass Shaping Machine.” The immense production of glass bottles, jars, etc., owes its inception to this invention.


Trademarks Achieve a New Value

This act, by authorizing the registration of trademarks used in interstate commerce (as well as in commerce with foreign nations and with the Indian tribes), becomes of vital importance to American business. Under the protection of this act great industries are built upon the goodwill of a name.

May 22, 1906 Orville and Wilbur Wright, of Dayton, Ohio, receive Patent No. 831,393 for certain “New and Useful Improvements in Flying?Machines.”

1907 Edward Bruce Moore, twenty?seventh Commissioner of Patents, June 1, 1907 to August 14, 1913. He began his career as a Senate page.

1908 Various changes are made in the patent laws.

ACT OF MARCH 4, 1909

The Office of First Assistant Commissioner is created.

December 7, 1909 Leo H. Baekeland, of Yonkers, N.Y., receives Patent No. 942,809 for “New and Useful Improvements in Condensation Products and Method of Making Same.” Bakelite is the direct result of this invention, and the modern plastics industry-producing thousands of articles for industrial and home use-is greatly indebted to Baekeland’s discoveries.


1910 Caveats, established by the Act of 1836, are abolished. A caveat was written notice to the Patent Office from an inventor who was not yet prepared to file his application, and gave him the right for a period of one year to be notified if someone else applied for a patent for the same invention.

August 8, 1911 Patent No. 1,000,000 is issued to Francis H. Holton. Sumnmit, Ohio, for Vehicle Tire.

1913 Thomas Ewing, twenty?eighth Commissioner of Patents, August 15, 1913 to August 15, 1917. He was the grandson of Thomas Ewing, first Secretary of the Interior (1849).

1917 The call to arms and the high salaries paid by private industries cause many members of the Patent Office staff to take up other duties. As a result, it soon becomes necessary to dispense with full civil service requirements in order to induce people to enter the Office. Patent Office salaries remain low while those in private industry reach new heights.

1917 An Army and Navy Patent Board is organized at the Patent Office to determine the possible military value of new patent applications.

1917 An Act of Congress gives the Federal Trade Commission, and later the Commissioner of Patents, the power to order kept secret and withhold from publication any invention disclosed in a patent application whose disclosure might “be detrimental to the public safety * * * assist the enemy, or endanger the successful prosecution of the war.”

1917 During the war about 2,100 applications-of which some 1,000 were patentable-were kept secret under these laws.

1917 Thomas Ewing, former Commissioner of Patents, is named Chairman of the Munitions Patent Board of the War and Navy Departments.

1917 The Patent Office Society is formed. Composed principally of members of the examining corps of the Patent Office, its purpose is “to promote and foster a true appreciation of the American Patent System.” In 1918 the society begins to publish the Journal of the Patent Office Society, a monthly organ devoted to patent matters, which is still being published.

1917 James T. Newton, twenty?ninth Commissioner of Patents, August 27, 1917 to July 19, 1920. Coming “up from the ranks,” Newton joined the Patent Office in 1891 and served as fourth assistant examiner, third assistant examiner, law clerk, chief clerk, primary examiner, Assistant Commissioner, First Assistant Commissioner, and Examiner?in?Chief prior to his appointment as Commissioner.

1918 The Patent Office is inadequately staffed to handle the immense amount of business which comes in following the Armistice.

1919 One hundred two patents are issued to John F. O’Connor of Chicago during this year.


1920 The number of employees of the Patent Office passes 1,000.

March 19, 1920 A new trademark act is passed making certain additions to the Trademark Act of 1905. Provisions are made for compliance with an Inter?American trademark treaty and for the registration of certain marks that could not be registered under the prior act.

1920 Robert Frederick Whitehead, thirtieth Commissioner of Patents, August 10, 1920 to February 5, 1921.

ACT OF MARCH 3, 1921

The Nolan Act gives foreign inventors desiring U.S. patents certain benefits in matters regarding time of application, fees, etc., in order to alleviate difficulties caused by the war. The act is reciprocal, granting these benefits only to nationals whose governments give U.S. citizens similar privileges.

March 1, 1921 Harry Houdini, the magician, receives Patent No. 1,370,316 for a “Diver’s Suit,” enabling the wearer “to quickly divest himself of the suit while being submerged and to safely escape and reach the surface of the water.” Whether Houdini used this in any of his famous tricks is unfortunately not recorded in the Patent Office.

1921 During the last 15 years approximately 1.5 percent of all U.S. patents have been issued to women inventors.

1921 Melvin H. Coulston, thirty?first Commissioner of Patents, March 3, 1921 to April 5, 1921.

1921 Thomas E. Robertson, thirty?second Commissioner of Patents, April 6, 1921 to June 25, 1933.


Some provisions of the Act:

· The Commissioner of Patents is given the power to require patent agents and patent attorneys to have certain qualifications before being allowed to practice before the Patent Office. He is also authorized to suspend or disbar such persons for cause.

· The salaries of the Commissioner and other officers of the Patent Office are increased, and 49 more positions are created on the technical staff. The fee for filing a patent application is increased from $15 to $20.

· The office of Solicitor is created.

· The Patent Office begins to publish circulars of general information concerning patents, trademarks, etc.

1923 Some of the Examining Divisions of the Patent Office are moved to the old Land Office Building, which was built on the site of Blodgett’s Hotel, one of the earliest homes of the Patent Office.

1923 The Appropriation Act of January 24, allows for 45 additional technical and 40 additional clerical employees.

November 20, 1923 Garrett Morgan receives Patent No. 1,475,024 for his traffic signal, the forerunner of the modern “stop light.” Mr. Morgan was also the inventor of a gas mask but had difficulty promoting it because he was African American.

1925 Congress appropriates $10,000 for the work of removing some 150,000 old Patent Office models-relics of the days before 1880 when a model was required as part of a patent application. Some are transferred to the U.S. National Museum (Smithsonian Institution), others are returned to the original inventors or their relatives, and still others are sold at public auction.

1925 George Washington Carver receives Patent No. 1,541,478 for his “paint and stain process.” This was one of three patents obtained by Dr. Carver, an African-American born into slavery and famous for his agricultural research work at Tuskegee Institute where he developed 300 products from peanuts, 118 products from sweet potatoes, and 60 products from pecan nuts.

April 1, 1925 The Patent Office is transferred to the Department of Commerce by Executive Order.

1926 The Patent Office conducts an exhibit at the Philadelphia Sesquicentennial Exposition. Thousands of visitors see a collection of old Patent Office models and show interest in the patent system.

March 2, 1927 The time for response to Patent Office actions is reduced from one year to six months, and the appeal procedure is revised.

1928 Congress passes a special act providing for extending the patents of certain war veterans. Only six mechanical patents are extend.

1929 Patent appeals, which since 1893 have been taken to the Court of Appeals of the District of Columbia, are transferred to the U.S. Court of Customs and Patent Appeals. This court, in existence for many years as the Court of Customs Appeals, assumes the new duties of hearing patent appeal cases direct from the Patent Office.


1930 The Patent Office is still a year behind in its work.

ACT OF APRIL 11, 1930

Some provision of the Act:

· Application and issue fees are raised from $20 to $25.

· One hundred and twenty additional examiners are provided for.

· The number of Examiners?in?Chief is raised to nine, and provision is made for another Assistant Commissioner. Due to the pressure of business, the number of Interference Divisions is increased from one to three.

ACT OF MAY 23, 1930

Plants Are Now Patentable

· For the first time since 1842, an addition is made to what constitutes patentable subject matter. A patent may now be obtained by anyone “who has invented or discovered and asexually reproduced any distinct and new variety of plant other than a tuber?propagated plant.” Designed to help agriculture by stimulating the invention of new types of plants, the act has the approval of such notable men as Luther Burbank and Thomas Edison. Edison, in urging the passage of the bill, had stated that “nothing Congress could do to help farming would be of greater value and permanence than to give the plant breeder the same status as the mechanical and chemical inventors now have through the patent law.”

· The Department of Agriculture is to help the Patent Office in determining the patentability of a plant. The word “asexual” is included in order to prevent a monopoly on the cereal grains, and the limitation “other than tuber?propagated” to prevent a monopoly on potatoes, etc. No plant already known to the public prior to the passage of the act can be patented.

[who?]One supporter of the act states that “the production of a new plant often requires more patience, skill, ingenuity, resourcefulness, knowledge and observation than the making of a mechanical invention.”

November 11, 1930 Albert Einstein of Berlin, Germany receives, with his co-inventor, Patent No. 1,781,541 for “An Apparatus for Producing Refrigeration.”

August 18, 1931 Plant Patent No. 1 is issued to Henry F. Bosenberg, of New Brunswick, N.J., for “a climbing rose…characterized by its everblooming habit.”

1932 Application and issue fees for patents are increased to $30. The Patent Office moves to the Department of Commerce Building, taking up over eight acres of office space. The task of moving the Patent Office records requires four months’ time. The old Patent Office building is taken over by the Civil Service Commission.

1933 Conway P. Coe, thirty?third Commissioner of Patents, June 26, 1933 to June 15, 1945.

July 1933 The Secretary of Commerce appoints a Patent Office Advisory Committee to assist him in matters of general policy. Loyd H. Sutton of Washington is the first chairman. The committee members include representatives of industry, general law, and patent law.

1934 Florence E. Allen of Ohio is appointed to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and becomes the first woman to sit as a judge in patent cases.

April 30, 1935 Patent No. 2,000,000 is issued to Joseph Ledwinka, Philadelphia, Pa., for Vehicle Wheel Construction.

June 16, 1936 Design Patent No. 100,000 is issued.

The centennial of the Patent Act of 1836 is celebrated. The Patent Office Society presents the Patent Office with a bronze bust of Thomas Jefferson.

December 7, 1937 Alfred E. Ischinger of Mount Penn, Pa., receives the largest patent heretofore granted by the Patent Office. The patent, on “Uninterrupted Knitting of Shaped Fabrics,” includes 170 sheets of drawings and 146 pages of specifications.
July 31, 1939 The registration of copyrights for prints and labels is transferred from the Patent Office to the Library of Congress, effective July 1, 1940. This ends the connection of the Patent Office with copyright matters.

August 1939 Following the hearings before the Temporary National Economic Committee, when the Commissioner of Patents made various recommendations for changes in the patent laws, five acts designed to expedite the issuance of patents and to simplify the patent laws in certain respects are passed.

One act changed the two year priority period to one year effective August 5, 1940, one year after the date of enactment; one act created a board of interference examiners to decide priority contests; one act authorized the Commissioner of Patents optionally to reduce the time for response to an Office Action to not less than 30 days; and one act abolished renewals and authorized delayed payment of a final fee.


April 10, 1940 President F. D. Roosevelt, pursuant to a Resolution of Congress, designated this day as “Inventors’ and Patent Day” to commemorate the sesquicentennial anniversary of the signing of the first patent act. Addresses of commemoration are made in the Senate by Senator Homer T. Bone and in the House of Representatives by Congressmen Charles Kramer and Fred A. Hartley, Jr.

Many special celebrations including radio programs, dinners, and the like, are held in different parts of the country at about this time. The National Association of Manufacturers sponsors a series of “Modern Pioneer” dinners at which some 500 living American inventors are honored for their contributions to the progress and high standard of living of this country and presented with Modern Pioneer Awards. Under a commission set up by Congress, a National Patent Law Sesquicentennial Committee is formed. Dr. Charles F. Kettering is general chairman and Thomas Midgley, inventor of Ethyl gasoline, head of the executive committee; famous inventors and scientists are among its members. It stages, through employees of the Patent Office, a “Parade of Progress,” an exhibit of modern inventions, in the Department of Commerce auditorium. The celebration is climaxed by a gigantic banquet at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington.

July 1, 1940 Congress passes an act giving the Commissioner of Patents temporary authority to order defense inventions to be kept secret. Amended from time to time, this authority is now a permanent part of the patent law.

December 7, 1941 Pearl Harbor attacked. United States enters World War II.

December 12, 1941 President F. D. Roosevelt, by executive order, establishes a National Patent Planning Commission to study the American Patent System and make recommendations for its improvement. The members appointed are Charles F. Kettering, Owen D. Young, Chester C. Davis, Edward F. McGrady and Francis P. Gaines. Three reports are issued, one in 1943 and two in 1945, even though operating funds are denied by Congress.

January 31, 1942 The bulk of the Patent Office begins to move to Richmond, Va. All the examining divisions and many of the associated service divisions are moved leaving only a minor portion of the Patent Office in Washington. The Richmond branch of the Patent Office is located at 900 North Lombardy Street for the next five years. The staff of the Patent Office declines during the year, the number of assistant examiners dropping from 516 at the beginning to 430 at the end. The decline continues and the number of assistant examiners remains at slightly over 400 for the next three years. Many employees enter the armed services, the number in service reaching 250.

November 10, 1943 Dr. Charles R. Drew, a black physician from Washington, D.C., is listed as assignee for Patent No. 2,301,710, “Apparatus for Preserving Blood.” This method of preserving blood aided in the treatment of thousands of soldiers during World War II. He later becomes the first director of The American Red Cross Blood Bank.

1943 A patent exceeding in size the Ischinger patent of 1937 is granted to John H. Voss for Telephone System, No. 2,320,548; containing 174 sheets of drawings, 220 pages of specification, totaling 394 pages.

1945 Casper W. Ooms, thirty?fourth Commissioner of Patents, July 20, 1945 to September 9, 1947.

September 2, 1945 Hostilities ended in the Pacific area; in the European area on May 8.

January 1945 Some examining divisions are moved back to Washington.

July 5, 1945 Act of Congress changes fee for printed copies of patents from 10¢ to 35¢.


A new trademark law, commonly known as the Lanham Act, is enacted. This law, which came into effect on July 5, 1947, repealed prior trade mark laws and made a number of significant changes. Some of the changes are: provisions for registering service marks and certification marks; incontestability of trademark registrations under certain conditions; cancellation of registrations after the sixth year if an affidavit of use is not filed during the six years; and many others. Registrations under this Act are numbered beginning with 500,001 dated December 30, 1947; the last registration under the Act of 1905 was numbered 444,811 and dated June 19,1946.

August 1, 1946 The Atomic Energy Act, for the control of atomic energy, becomes law. Inventions for the production of fissionable material and the military utilization of atomic energy are excluded from the scope of the patent law.

August 8, 1946 Congress passes war moratorium legislation with respect to patents. This act provides for the extension of times for doing various acts in connection with patent
applications in favor of citizens of foreign countries that grant similar rights to American citizens. By means of similar legislation in other countries Americans are enabled to preserve their patent rights in over 25 foreign countries.

September 1946 All the units of the Patent Office remaining in Richmond, Va., begin moving to temporary quarters at Gravelly Point outside Washington. The postwar surge in the number of patent applications filed results in 91,972 applications filed this year. The Patent Office begins recruiting additional staff to build up force depleted during the war.

February 1947 The parts of the Patent Office at Gravelly Point begin moving back to the Department of Commerce Building. The entire Patent Office is together again, although scattered about the building and in very cramped quarters.

August 6, 1947 In view of the peace treaties signed with Italy, Bulgaria, Hungary, and Rumania, legislation is enacted resuming normal patent relations with these countries. Nationals of Germany and Japan are also permitted to obtain patents in this country, but qualified to exclude inventions made during the war period.

1947 Lawrence C. Kingsland, thirty?fifth Commissioner of Patents, September 10, 1947 to December 1, 1949.

June 30, 1948 Total number of patent applications pending in the Patent Office reaches 233,000, of which 148,000 are awaiting action by the examiner. The Office is far behind in its work, many of the examining divisions being over two years behind in reaching an application for action.

1948 Recruitment of additional staff continues, the number of assistant examiners is brought up to 780 by the end of the year, and the total personnel to 1970.

March 1, 1949 New Patent Office Rules of Practice take effect. For the first time in over 50 years the Rules of Practice of the Patent Office are completely revised. A committee of Patent Office employees produced a draft that is published and the comments and suggestions of the public invited. A public hearing is held in September 1948 and the new rules promulgated on December 31. Besides changing the arrangement and language of the rules to make them easier to understand, a number of changes in procedure are introduced.

1949 John A. Marzall, thirty?sixth Commissioner of Patents, December 2, 1949 to February 3, 1953.


June 30, 1950 An act providing for the extension of the term of patents of veterans of World War II is passed.. Under this act, that allowed one year to apply for an extension, 107 patents are extended; under an amendatory act of July 1, 1952, which enlarges the definition of “sole owner” to include the interest of a spouse, six additional patents are extended, making a total of 113 patents extended under the Veterans Patent Extension Act. Great progress is made in reducing the number of cases on hand and making the Office more current. At the beginning of the year five of the examining divisions are still over two years behind and 44 of the 70 divisions are over 15 months behind. At the end of the year not one examining division is over 13 months behind. At the beginning of the year there are135,000 applications on hand waiting action by the examiners, which number was reduced to 121,000 by the end of the year.

1951 Progress in catching up on the work continues. No examining division is over 10 months behind in reaching cases for action. The number of applications awaiting action by the examiners is 105,000.
July 19, 1952 President Truman signs a new act revising and codifying the patent laws. For the first time since 1830, the patent laws are completely rewritten in one act with changes in arrangement and language making the law comparatively easy to understand; many changes in procedure and substance, primarily of noncontroversial nature are also made.

In January 1950, the Committee on the Judiciary of the House of Representatives published a preliminary draft of a proposed revision of the patent laws, requesting suggestions and comments. This was widely circulated, and a bill, formulated after consideration of the response by the public, was introduced July 17. This bill in turn was widely’ circulated and reintroduced in revised form April 18, 1951. Public hearings were held in June as a result of which the bill was further revised before being enacted. The new law came into effect on January 1, 1953.

Despite some loss of staff, gains on the backlog continue. The number of applications on hand awaiting action by the examiner at the end of the year is 95,000 and no division is over nine months behind.

1953 Robert C. Watson, thirty?seventh Commissioner of Patents, February 18, 1953 to March 1, 1961.

August 1, 1953 Mrs. Robert W. (Daphne) Leeds takes oath of office as Assistant Commissioner, being the first woman appointed to that position.

August 23, 1954 Congress extends to Japanese and German nationals rights of priority and other benefits of the war moratorium legislation of August 8, 1946.

August 30, 1954 Enactment of the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 revises and replaces the first comprehensive law enacted in 1946. The Act makes important changes in patent provisions. The prohibition of the patenting of inventions in the production of fissionable materials is removed, but the prohibition of the patenting of atomic energy weapons is retained.

September 1954 Secretary of Commerce Weeks announces formation of an Advisory Committee on Application of Machines to Patent Office Operations. The report of the Committee, recommending initiation of research and development on the subject, is published in December. The Patent Office has commenced study of the problems involved.

October 12 to November 5, 1954 Exhibit of Electronic Inventions, the first in a series of exhibits illustrating technological advances made by inventors and companies inspired by the American Patent System, is held in the main lobby of the Commerce Building in Washington, D.C.

This exhibit inaugurated a continuing annual program of affording a media through which industry could participate in bringing to the attention of the public the many mutual benefits enjoyed under the patent system and to generate better understanding of the incentives this system affords and the opportunities still available. Exhibitors have shown their inspiring displays at sales shows and conventions throughout the United States and thereby contributed further to public education concerning an important function of their National Government.

March 10?16, 1955 A plant patent exhibit is presented at the National Capital Flower and Garden Show, commemorating the 25th anniversary of the Plant Patent Act. In addition to patent matters, numerous varieties of growing flowers, fruits, and plants covered by patents obtained under this act are exhibited.

May 11, 1955 A subcommittee of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary is granted by Senate Resolution 92, 84th Congress, authority and funds “for an examination and review of the administration of the Patent Office and of the statutes relating to patents, trademarks, and copyrights.”

The subcommittee made a preliminary report on January 30, 1956, and has continued its work under yearly resolutions of the Senate since that time. Over 50 papers dealing with facets of the investigation and work of the subcommittee have been printed.

May 17, 1955 Patent No. 2,708,656 for “Neutronic Reactor” is issued on an application filed December 19, 1944, by Enrico Fermi and Leo Szilard.

June 1955 Reductions in appropriations for fiscal years 1953, 1954, and 1955 below the amounts for each preceding year, coupled with increased printing and salary costs, and increased filing of applications, result in the office falling behind in its work. By the end of June the total number of patent applications pending in the Office exceeds 220,000, of which 139,000 are awaiting action by the examiner. The average length of time between the filing of an application and the issuance of a patent is three years and six months.

June 30, 1955 Congress appropriates $14 million for operation of the Patent Office for the fiscal year July 1, 1955 to June 30, 1956, the largest appropriation in history. The allowance of this amount approves expansion of the examining staff to initiate a program extending over a number of years to reduce the backlog of pending applications to a reasonable figure, perfect the classification of patents, and effectuate other improvements in Patent Office operations.

May 28 through June 2, 1956 The International Association for the Protection of Industrial Property (A.I.P.P.I.) holds for the first time in this country its biennial Congress. In addition to business meetings, the program includes tours of the Patent Office arranged and conducted by Patent Office employees for the foreign delegates and visitors.

July 29, 1958 The National Aeronautics and Space Act imposes new functions and responsibilities upon the Patent Office with respect to inventions made in connection with research into problems of flight within and outside the earth’s atmosphere.

August 8, 1958 Congress enacts law creating a Trademark Trial and Appeal Board in the Patent Office, and revising the appeal procedure with respect to trademarks.

September 6, 1958 Act of Congress authorizes enlargement of Patent Board of Appeals to a complement of not to exceed 15 members.

October 6?31, 1958 Robert C. Watson heads U.S. delegation to Lisbon Diplomatic Conference for Revision of International Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property.


February 23, 1960 Patent exceeding in size the Voss patent of 1943, granted to Amos E. Joel, Jr., for Accounting System, No. 2,925,957; contains 354 sheets of drawings, 266 pages of specifications, 620 pages total (243 claims).

1961 David Lowell Ladd, thirty?eighth Commissioner of Patents, April 17,1961 to October 1, 1963.

September 12,1961 Patent No. 3,000,000 for an Automatic Reading System is issued to Kenneth R. Eldredge, Palo Alto, Calif., assignor, to General Electric Co.

September 22, 1961 President Kennedy signs into law a resolution authorizing a celebration of the American Patent System. On the same day, he issues Proclamation No. 3434 relating to American Patent System Week (October 15, 1961).

October 18 through 20, 1961 Celebration of the 125th anniversary of the July 4, 1836 Patent Act takes place. Program includes an industrial exhibit, seminars on the patent system and the modern economy, meetings on information retrieval with guests from foreign patent offices, tours of the Patent Office, luncheon meetings, and a gala dinner and reception.

October 23 through 25, 1961 The International Patent Office Workshop on Information Retrieval is held in Washington and the continuing ICIREPAT (International Cooperation in Information Retrieval Among Examining Patent Offices) organization is created.

January 4, 1962 The Lisbon 1958 Revision of the International Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property comes into force in the United States.

March 12, 1962 The Final Report of the Management Survey of the Patent Office, 1961?62, conducted under the auspices of the Civil Service Commission and under the direction of Earl W. Kintner, former Chairman of the Federal Trade Commission, is submitted. One hundred seventy?nine formal recommendations are made.

May 21, 1962 In line with the management survey report, an official responsible for research and development has for the first time been appointed to fill one of the three statutory assistant commissioner positions. Ezra Glaser, of Virginia, is sworn in on this date.

October 10, 1962 The Drug Amendments Act authorizes the Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare, upon request from the Commissioner of Patents, to furnish information with respect to such questions relating to drugs as the Commissioner may submit concerning any patent application.

November 1962 The Patent Office Academy, an advanced training program for new examiners, is inaugurated. The program aims to develop a well?trained examiner brought to maximum effectiveness in a minimum time; secure more uniform examining practice throughout the Office; and create close control of the quality of work done in the examining operation.

Two classes of 60 examiners each, attending half?day sessions daily, completed the courses in May 1963. These groups included all examiners hired since September 1, 1961.

March 1963 Automated Printing: Photocomposition of a new edition of the roster of Attorneys and Agents Registered to Practice Before the U.S. Patent Office, issued March 1963, is accomplished by using magnetic tape storage and computer processing. This is the first pamphlet to be printed by the Government Printing Office using this method, which by means of electronic computers and automatic type setting equipment permits cheaper and faster printing of certain public documents.

May 1963 Movement of all examining groups incident to the reorganization of the Patent Examining Corps, as recommended in the 1963 Patent Office management survey, is completed.

October 12, 1963 President Kennedy’s Memorandum and Statement of Government Patent Policy is issued (28 F. R. 10943).

June 23, 1964 Jack S. Kilby received Patent No. 3,138,743 for “Miniaturized Electronic Circuits.” Kilby’s invention was the first of what we now call the integrated circuit.

1964 A private law was enacted authorizing the payment of $100,000 to Frank B. Rowlett for cryptologic inventions that he had been unable to patent because of their secret nature.
l964 Edward J. Brenner, thirty?ninth Commissioner of Patents, March 11, 1964 to May 6, 1969.

July 1, 1964 New examining procedures designed ultimately to reduce the pendency period of patent applications and decrease the backlog of pending cases are instituted. Details of these procedures are set forth in Commissioner Brenner’s address to the examining corps on June 8, 1964 (published June 23, 1964, 803 O. G. 896).

1965 Pursuant to item 9 of subsection (a) of section 41 of Public Law 89-83, the Office begins furnishing applicants free of charge, copies of the references cited by the examiner in Office actions. The automatic supplying of cited references to the applicant and the examiner enables the patent practitioner to begin work on a response promptly and obviates the need for the examiner to retrieve cited references for a second time.

January 5, 1965 Design Patent No. 200,000 issues to Howard A. Richards and Jack L. Williams, Waukegan, III, assignors to Abbott Laboratories, North Chicago, III., for Dispensing Container for Tablets.

April?October, 1965 Commemoration of the 175th Anniversary of the Patent System. Meetings, conferences, and seminars are held with industry and bar representatives, foreign visitors, government officials participating; luncheons, receptions, and distinguished speakers address dinners.

[check dates] April 8, 1965 By Executive Order 11215, a President’s Commission on the Patent System is established to make the first basic study of the System since its creation in its present form in 1836. (30 F. R. 4661, April 10, 1965).

[check dates] April 10, 1965 An Executive Order establishes the President’s Commission on the Patent System. The Commission is charged with the duty of making the first basic study of the patent system since the enactment of the Patent Law of 1836.

July 24, 1965 An Act of Congress effective October 25, 1965, increases substantially the fees chargeable by the Patent Office.

1965 The backlog is reduced, but pendency remains at slightly over three years.

December 2, 1966 President Johnson releases the report of the President’s Commission on the Patent System, which had been established April 8, 1965. The report considers the patent system as a whole and contemplates revision by means of a coordinated plan of interrelated recommendations.

April 7, 1967 Movement of the Electrical Examining Operation from the Department of Commerce Building to quarters rented by the General Services Administration at Crystal Plaza (a new apartment?office shopping complex on U.S. Highway 1 in Arlington County, Virginia, between Washington and Alexandria) is commenced. Movement of other units and employees continues as construction of the facility advances.

June 30, 1967 The largest number of invention patents in history, 70,028, are granted in fiscal year 1967.

November 1967 Additional units of the Patent Office, including all the remainder of the patent examining operation, are moved to Crystal Plaza. The Commissioner, Assistant Commissioners, Solicitor, and other related units and their staffs occupy quarters November 13.

June?July, 1968 Patent Office units are moved to Building 2 of Crystal Plaza, leaving only the patent files, record room, numerical set of foreign patents, and bindery shop still to be moved from the Commerce Building.

1968 At the end of the fiscal year, the backlog of pending patent applications is 189,909, the lowest since May 1954.

1969 William E. Schuyler, Jr., fortieth Commissioner of Patents, May 7, 1969 to August 25, 1971.

September 3, 1969 Patent No. 3,400,371 issued with 495 sheets of drawings and 469 pages of specification, a larger number of total pages than any preceding patent. There are 16 joint inventors, Gene M. Amdahl, et al., assignors to International Business Machines Corp., New York, N.Y.


1970 At the direction of President Nixon, a program of priority processing of applications relating to improvement of the environment is initiated on February 17, 1970.

February 28, 1970 The Senate ratifies Convention establishing the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), signed at Stockholm on July 14, 1967; and Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property of March 20, 1883, as revised at Stockholm on July 14, 1967.

March 10, 1970 Patent No. 3,500,000, for Self?Adaptive Echo Canceller, is issued to John L. Kelly, Jr., deceased by Myldred P. Kelly, executrix, Berkeley Heights, N.J., and Benjamin F. Logan, Jr., Madison, N. J., assignors to Bell Telephone Laboratories, Inc.

May 25?June 17, 1970 Diplomatic Conference on the Patent Cooperation Treaty is held in Washington with 77 nations and 22 international organizations represented. The final draft of the treaty is signed on June 19 by 20 nations. The treaty remains open for signature until December 31, 1970.

1970 A record number of patent applications are received in fiscal year 1970. For the first time, the Patent Office receives over 100,000 applications for patents (100,573), and examination of 103,692 patent applications are completed. The average pendency is reduced by one month to 29 months.

1971 The Office of Technology Assessment and Forecast (OTAF) is established within the Patent Office. The mission of OTAF is to stimulate and enhance the useability of the U.S. patent file, and to assemble, analyze, and make available meaningful data about the file.

January 4, 1971 The Patent Office establishes the Disclosure Document Program which permits inventors to deposit with the Office papers disclosing their inventions. The papers can be used as evidence in establishing dates of conception of the inventions.

August 1971 The Patent Office installs an electronic security system in its public search facilities to avoid losses and to improve the integrity of its search files and patented files.

December 28, 1971 Plant Patent No. 4,000 is granted to James C. Mikkelsen of Ashtabula, Ohio for a Poinsettia.

1972 Robert Gottschalk, forty?first Commissioner of Patents, January 7, 1972 to June 20, 1973.

February 23, 1972 The United States ratifies the Locarno Agreement Establishing an International Classification for Industrial Designs. The agreement enters into force with respect to the United States on May 25, 1972.

September 12, 1972 President Nixon forwards The Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) to the U.S. Senate for its advice and consent to ratification.

October The Patent Office installs a computer?controlled data system to facilitate immediate public access to U.S. patent classification data.

1972 The average pendency time of a patent application was reduced from 29 to 25 months in
fiscal year 1972.

February 11, 1973 The National Inventors Hall of Fame is founded to honor the Nation’s inventors. Located in the Patent Office, it is co?sponsored by the National Council of Patent Law Associations. Thomas A. Edison is the first inductee into the Inventors Hall of Fame.

May 17?June 12, 1973 The Diplomatic Conference on the Trademark Registration Treaty is convened in Vienna, Austria, where 56 nations, including the United States, sign the final text on June 12, 1973.

May 22, 1973 The United States ratifies the substantive provisions of the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property of March 30, 1883, as revised at Stockholm on July 14, 1967. The substantive provisions enter into force with respect to the United States on August 25, 1973. The administrative provisions had been ratified in 1970.

September 1, 1973 The Patent Office adopts the International Classification of Goods and Services, established under the Nice Agreement, as the primary system of trademark classification.

December 21, 1973 The United States ratifies the Strasburg Agreement concerning the International Patent Classification System. The International Classification has been printed on U.S. patents as a secondary classification since the beginning of 1969.

January 1974 The Trademark Manual of Examining Procedure is first published.

1974 C. Marshall Dann, the forty?second Commissioner of Patents, February 11, 1974?August 31, 1977.

1974 During fiscal year 1974, two new programs are instituted for the purpose of maintaining and improving the quality of the examination. First, a quality review program is established for evaluating the quality of a selected sample of patent applications prior to their issuance. Second, an experimental program is developed under which a sample of 2,000 applicants are invited to expose their patent applications to public protest proceedings prior to issuance.

Average pendency time is reduced from 24 months in fiscal year 1973 to 22.4 months in fiscal year 1974.

February 1974 Alexander Graham Bell, Eli Whitney, John Bardeen, William Bradford Shockley, and Walter H. Brattain are inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame. Bell is inducted, posthumously, for his telegraphy (Patent No. 174,465); Whitney is inducted posthumously, for his cotton gin (Patent No. X ); Bardeen, Shockley, and Brattain are inducted for their semiconductor amplifier: three-electrode circuit element utilizing semiconductive materials (Patent Nos. 2,502,488 and 2,524,035).

December 17. 1974 The one?millionth U.S. trademark is registered to Cumberland Packing Corporation of Brooklyn, New York for a simple G clef and staff design used on “Sweet’n Low.”

January 2, 1975 Public Law 93?596 changes the name of the “Patent Office” to the “Patent and Trademark Office” and the title “Commissioner of Patents” to the “Commissioner of Patents and Trademarks”.

January 2, 1975 Public Law 93?601 gives the Secretary of Commerce the authority to appoint Examiners?in?Chief. Positions of Examiners-in?Chief were previously presidential appointments.

February 1975 William D. Coolidge, Guglielmo Marconi, Samuel F.B. Morse, Orville and Wilbur Wright, and Nikola Tesla are inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame. Collidge is inducted for his vacuum tube (Patent No. 1,203,495); Marconi is inducted, posthumously, for transmitting electrical signals (Patent No. 586,193); Morse is inducted, posthumously, for improvement in the mode of communication by signals by the application of electro-magnetism (Patent No. 1,647); the Wright brothers are inducted, posthumously, for their flying machine (Patent No. 821,393); and Tesla is inducted, posthumously, for an electro-magnetic motor (Patent No. 381,968).

November 26, 1975 Following enactment of legislation for implementing the Patent Cooperation Treaty on November 14, 1975 (Public Law 94?131), the treaty is ratified by the United States, and its instrument of ratification is deposited with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in Geneva, Switzerland.

February 1976 Rudolf Diesel, Enrico Fermi, Charles Goodyear, Charles Martin Hall, Cyrus Hall McCormick, and Charles Hard Townes are inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame. Diesel is inducted, posthumously, for his internal-combustion engine (Patent No. 608,845); Fermi is inducted posthumously, for the neutronic reactor (Patent No. 2,708,656); Goodyear is inducted, posthumously, for improvements in india-rubber fabrics (Patent No. 3,633); Hall is inducted, posthumously, for the manufacture of aluminum (Patent No. 400,665); McCormick is inducted, posthumously, for improvement in machines for reaping small grain (Patent No. X ); and Townes is inducted for the production of electromagnetic energy masers and maser communications system (Patent Nos. 2,879,439 and 2,929,922).

December 28, 1976 Patent No. 4,000,000 is issued to Robert L. Mendenhall of Las Vegas, Nevada, for a “Process for Recycling Asphalt Aggregate Compositions.”

January 19, 1977 The Pat