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Patent and Trademark Office - History

Patent and Trademark Office - History

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Patent and Trademark Office - part of the Department of Commerce. The Patent and Trademark Office grants patents and registers trademarks to applicants who pass their examination process. In (fiscal year) 1993, for example, the office registered about 86,122 trademark and renewed 6,182; and issued about 107,000 patents.

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Patent Office

The Patent Office is the agency of the United States government that administers the patent laws of the country. The first patent statute was passed on April 5, 1790, by Congress and signed into law on April 10 by the President. Rhode Island ratified the Constitution and joined the Union as the thirteenth state on May 29, 1790, 49 days after the first patent statute was in effect. The first patent law preceded the thirteenth state. The law, however, did not establish an office for dealing with patents and instead required applicants to petition the Secretary of State. The first patent was issued in 1790. The first patent official was the superintendent of patents, an employee of the Department of State beginning in 1802. A fire destroyed the records of the first 10,280 patents issued between 1790 and 1836. Fewer than 3000 of them were recovered and reissued with a number ending in "X." Patents since 1836 were renumbered starting at one. The Patent Office was housed in its own new building in 1836 under a commissioner for patents, being transferred in 1948 to the new Department of the Interior and eventually in 1925 to the Department of Commerce. In addition to the patent laws, the office administers trademark laws and is now officially known as the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO). Beginning with the new numbering system, patent 10,000 was issued in 1854, patent 100,000 in 1871, patent 1,000,000 in 1912. In total, the PTO has issued more than 8,000,000 patents. It is widely claimed that in 1899 the head of the U.S. Patent Office sent his resignation to President McKinley urging the closing of the office because "everything that could be invented has been invented." Even President Reagan used it in a speech. However, there appears to be no actual evidence that this ever happened.

Patent and Trademark Office - History

History of the United States Patent Office
The Patent Office Pony
A History of the Early Patent Office
Introductory material, table of contents, acknowledgements

[Title Page illustration: Pony Head in patented bridle]

This book honors all of those employees of the U.S. Patent Office, who, over the past two hundred and some years, have in their own respective ways ridden the Patent Office Pony, and especially Pasquale J. "Pat" Federico, who would not let us forget.

Copyright © 1994
Kenneth W. Dobyns

Many people and organizations assisted in the preparation of this book. The vast majority of the information came from the Library of Congress, the National Archives, and the collections of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Copies of many of the illustrations used herein were provided by James Davie of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Additional information has been provided by (in no particular order) the Library of the Historical Society of Washington, DC the Libraries of the Smithsonian Institution in the National Portrait Gallery and the National Museum of American History the Washingtoniana Room of the Martin Luther King Library (DC) the Library of the British Patent Office the Maryland Historical Society Library the Library of the Museum of the Confederacy, Richmond, VA the Virginia State Library the Arlington (VA) Public Library the New Bern (NC) Public Library the New York Public Library the New Orleans Public Library the Bristol (CT) Public Library the Pratt Library, Baltimore, MD the DAR Library the Scientific American Library the Court Clerk of Montgomery Co. MD Brian and Jenny Morse of Medford, OR the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County Cincinnati Historical Society Archives of the University of Cincinnati the Constantine (MI) Township Library Patricia Sluby, Norma Rose, and Ken Dood, all of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Mrs. Noble G. Marshall of Roanoke, VA the Ellsworth Homestead, Windsor, CT Donna Siemiatkoski of Windsor, CT Stephen Loewentheil of Baltimore, MD Edward G. Fenwick Jr. of Arlington, VA San Jose (CA) Public Library Archives of the George Washington University Archives of Howard University Clarksville-Montgomery Co (TN) Public Library the Maine State Library Library of the American Antiquarian Society, Worcester, MA John S. Howkins of Baton Rouge, LA Mrs. William B. Huger of Asheville, NC and John Smith of no fixed address.

Special thanks are due to my panel of reviewers for their thorough readings of various versions of this book in an attempt to minimize my mistakes. They are, in alphabetical order, Louis Allahut, William T. Bryant, Edward J. Connors Jr., Kenneth W. Hairston, and William Cecil Townsend.

Patent and Trademark Office - History

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) issued patent number 10 million on June 19, 2018. This milestone of human ingenuity perhaps exceeds even the Founding Fathers’ expectations when they called for a patent system in the Constitution to “promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts.” Follow the timeline below for important moments, notable inventors, changing patent designs, and other interesting facts over more than two centuries of innovation in America.

July 4 - The Patent Act of 1836 completely rewrites U.S. patent law.

July 5 - Charles M. Keller, who helped Senator John Ruggles write the 1836 Patent Act, is the first person to hold the official title of "patent examiner."

Miniature models of the inventions are now required when applying for a patent.

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U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Resources

When conducting a search for available patents or patent applications, the website of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office can be very helpful, as it contains large amounts of data that can be used for research. All of this data is easily searchable and can find specific issued patents or applications, trademarks, a comprehensive review of intellectual property law and current items in the news.

Once you are on the USPTO’s website, depending on if you are interested in patents or trademarks, you will click on the area that says “patents” or “trademarks.” If you click on patents, a table of contents will appear that will provide an exhaustive list of resources the website provides. One of these resources, and probably the most relevant if you are reading this article, is the “search patents” tab. This will bring you to a number of different search databases. One that is very helpful is the “Patent Number Search,” which can be used to find a copy of a particular patent.

If a patent number is not available or you do not know a specific patent number, you can click on “advanced search” instead. Under advanced search, you can search for a patent by:

  • The owner’s name
  • Patent title
  • Date issued
  • Attorney name
  • Application serial number

A broader search category is the patent classification system. This allows you to search for patents based on a particular subject area. This type of search could be helpful when someone just wants to understand the lay of the land or is just starting out their initial search. Running this search will bring up a classification listing and subclassification listing. The USPTO’s website contains a list of all types of classifications, as well as sub-categories within those classifications if you do not know what to search for. However, this search should be considered preliminary only. A much more comprehensive, thorough search should always be done by an experienced patent agent or attorney.

It should be noted that historically, patent applications that are still pending have not been included in these searches. However, patent law legislation changed this so that recently filed patent applications are now being publicized. This gives the searcher a better understanding of all the patents that have been issued or are currently undergoing a review process. This can be a good way of knowing what competitors are working on or simply keeping track of what has already been done.

If you need help with a patent search, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel’s marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law, and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with, or on behalf of companies like Google, Menlo Ventures, and Airbnb.

A short history of the Netherlands Patent Office

In 1893, the Patent Council began to implement the Trademark Act in the Netherlands. Since 1912, this governmental organisation has been granting Dutch patents as formulated in the Patent Act. Because of the Patent Act 1995, the Patent Council had to change its name to the Netherland Industrial Property Office. Since this Patents Act came into force, only patents that had not been examined were granted. The system and our organisation underwent a radical reorganisation. The Patent Council was abolished in 2004.

As of 1 January 2014, our name became the Netherlands Patent Office. Read more on the history of patents in the Netherlands.

A Brief History of Solar Panels

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Long before the first Earth Day was celebrated on April 22, 1970, generating awareness about the environment and support for environmental protection, scientists were making the first discoveries in solar energy. It all began with Edmond Becquerel, a young physicist working in France, who in 1839 observed and discovered the photovoltaic effect— a process that produces a voltage or electric current when exposed to light or radiant energy. A few decades later, French mathematician Augustin Mouchot was inspired by the physicist’s work. He began registering patents for solar-powered engines in the 1860s. From France to the U.S., inventors were inspired by the patents of the mathematician and filed for patents on solar-powered devices as early as 1888.

Charles Fritts installed the first solar panels on New York City rooftop in 1884. (Courtesy of John Perlin)

Take a light step back to 1883 when New York inventor Charles Fritts created the first solar cell by coating selenium with a thin layer of gold. Fritts reported that the selenium module produced a current “that is continuous, constant, and of considerable force.” This cell achieved an energy conversion rate of 1 to 2 percent. Most modern solar cells work at an efficiency of 15 to 20 percent. So, Fritts created what was a low impact solar cell, but still, it was the beginning of photovoltaic solar panel innovation in America. Named after Italian physicist, chemist and pioneer of electricity and power, Alessandro Volta, photovoltaic is the more technical term for turning light energy into electricity, and used interchangeably with the term photoelectric.

Edward Weston's "Apparatus for Utilizing Solar Radiant Energy," patented September 4, 1888. (U.S. Patent 389,124)

Only a few years later in 1888, inventor Edward Weston received two patents for solar cells – U.S. Patent 389,124 and U.S. Patent 389,425. For both patents, Weston proposed, “to transform radiant energy derived from the sun into electrical energy, or through electrical energy into mechanical energy .” Light energy is focused via a lens (f) onto the solar cell (a), “a thermopile (an electronic device that converts thermal energy into electrical energy) composed of bars of dissimilar metals.” The light heats up the solar cell and causes electrons to be released and current to flow. In this instance, light creates heat, which creates electricity this is the exact reverse of the way an incandescent light bulb works, converting electricity to heat that then generates light.

That same year, a Russian scientist by the name of Aleksandr Stoletov created the first solar cell based on the photoelectric effect, which is when light falls on a material and electrons are released. This effect was first observed by a German physicist, Heinrich Hertz. In his research, Hertz discovered that more power was created by ultraviolet light than visible light. Today, solar cells use the photoelectric effect to convert sunlight into power. In 1894, American inventor Melvin Severy received patents 527,377 for an "Apparatus for mounting and operating thermopiles" and 527,379 for an "Apparatus for generating electricity by solar heat." Both patents were essentially early solar cells based on the discovery of the photoelectric effect. The first generated “electricity by the action of solar heat upon a thermo-pile” and could produce a constant electric current during the daily and annual movements of the sun, which alleviated anyone from having to move the thermopile according to the sun’s movements. Severy’s second patent from 1889 was also meant for using the sun’s thermal energy to produce electricity for heat, light and power. The “thermos piles,” or solar cells as we call them today, were mounted on a standard to allow them to be controlled in the vertical direction as well as on a turntable, which enabled them to move in a horizontal plane. “By the combination of these two movements, the face of the pile can be maintained opposite the sun all times of the day and all seasons of the year,” reads the patent.

Melvin L. Severy's "Apparatus for Mounting and Operating Thermopiles," patented October 9, 1894 (U.S. Patent 527,377) Melvin L. Severy's "Apparatus for Generating Electricity by Solar Heat," patented October 9, 1894 (U.S. Patent 527,379)

Almost a decade later, American inventor Harry Reagan received patents for thermal batteries, which are structures used to store and release thermal energy. The thermal battery was invented to collect and store heat by having a large mass that can heat up and release energy. It does not store electricity but “heat,” however, systems today use this technology to generate electricity by conventional turbines. In 1897, Reagan was granted U.S. patent 588,177 for an “application of solar heat to thermo batteries.” In the claims of the patent, Reagan said his invention included “a novel construction of apparatus in which the sun’s rays are utilized for heating thermo-batteries, the object being to concentrate the sun’s rays to a focus and have one set of junctions of a thermo-battery at the focus of the rays, while suitable cooling devices are applied to the other junctions of said thermo-battery.” His invention was a means to collecting, storing and distributing solar heat as needed.

H.C. Reagan's "Application of Solar Heat to Thermo Batteries," patented August 17, 1897 (U.S. Patent 588,177)

In 1913, William Coblentz, of Washington, D.C., received patent 1,077,219 for a “thermal generator,” which was a device that used light rays “to generate an electric current of such a capacity to do useful work.” He also meant for the invention to have cheap and strong construction. Although this patent was not for a solar panel, these thermal generators were invented to either convert heat directly into electricity or to transform that energy into power for heating and cooling.

W.W. Coblentz's "Thermal Generator," patented October 28, 1913 (U.S. Patent 1,077,219)

By the 1950s, Bell Laboratories realized that semiconducting materials such as silicon were more efficient than selenium. They managed to create a solar cell that was 6 percent efficient. Inventors Daryl Chapin, Calvin Fuller, and Gerald Pearson (inducted to the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2008) were the brains behind the silicon solar cell at Bell Labs. While it was considered the first practical device for converting solar energy to electricity, it was still cost prohibitive for most people. Silicon solar cells are expensive to produce, and when you combine multiple cells to create a solar panel, it's even more expensive for the public to purchase. University of Delaware is credited with creating one of the first solar buildings, “Solar One,” in 1973. The construction ran on a combination of solar thermal and solar photovoltaic power. The building didn’t use solar panels instead, solar was integrated into the rooftop.

D. M. Chapin et al's "Solar Energy Converting Apparatus," patented February 5, 1957 (U.S. Patent 2,780,765)

It was around this time in the 1970s that an energy crisis emerged in the United States. Congress passed the Solar Energy Research, Development and Demonstration Act of 1974, and the federal government was committed more than ever “to make solar viable and affordable and market it to the public.” After the debut of “Solar One,” people saw solar energy as an option for their homes. Growth slowed in the 1980s due to the drop in traditional energy prices. But in the next decades, the federal government was more involved with solar energy research and development, creating grants and tax incentives for those who used solar systems. According to Solar Energy Industries Association, solar has had an average annual growth rate of 50 percent in the last 10 years in the United States, largely due to the Solar Investment Tax Credit enacted in 2006. Installing solar is also more affordable now due to installation costs dropping over 70 percent in the last decade.

That said, at least until recently, the means to find a viable and affordable energy solution is more important than making solar cells aesthetically pleasing or beautiful. Traditional solar panels on American rooftops aren’t exactly subtle or pleasing to the eye. They’ve been an eyesore for neighbors at times, and surely a pain for homeowners associations to deal with, but the benefits to the environment are substantial. So, where’s the balance? Today, companies are striving towards better looking and advanced solar technology, such as building-applied photovoltaic (BAPV ). This type of discreet solar cell is integrated into existing roof tiles or ceramic and glass facades of buildings.

Solus Engineering, Enpulz, Guardian Industries Corporation, SolarCity Corporation, United Solar Systems, and Tesla (after their merger with SolarCity) have all been issued patents for solar cells that are much more discreet than the traditional solar panel. All of the patents incorporate photovoltaic systems, which transform light into electricity using semiconducting materials such as silicon. Solar panels and solar technology has come a long way, so these patented inventions are proof that the technology is still improving its efficiency and aesthetics.

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Break Up The United States Patent And Trademark Office

The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board has probably never in its illustrious history received so much publicity as it has over the last week, since issuing its opinion in the “Washington Redskins” case.

Too bad most people hear “Patent Office” and really don’t know what the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board is, or have ever heard of it.

Some news stories about the Redskins talked about the “Trademark Office.” Others talked about the “Patent and Trademark Office.” Many venerable publications, including the Wall Street Journal and the Boston Globe, co-mingled “patent” for “trademark,” or even erred entirely, like the Journal's front page story on Thursday, where a photo caption incorrectly referred to “patent protection.”

A lot of this confusion comes from the very name of the nation’s leading trademark authorities. The Patent and Trademark Office is in fact a single governmental body. The Patent and Trademark Office is part of the Commerce Department. There is a surprisingly small community of entities which own federal trademark registrations (likely well under 10% of all U.S. businesses). Apart from them, and even sometimes among them, the United States Patent and Trademark Office is often referred to simply as the “Patent Office.” That is the start of the confusion. The Patent Office holds jurisdiction over patents which are typically inventions for new machines, new chemical compounds or pharmaceuticals, improvements in electronics, or any number of other things. Trademarks are names, symbols, and indications of origin. Usually they are words and logos which comprise the overwhelming majority of registered trademarks. Within the Patent and Trademark Office, the branch that deals with trademarks is the Trademark Office. There is a separate Commissioner of Trademarks, and a separate administrative law board called the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board staffed by about two dozen administrative law judges. Their job is to decide appeals from within the Trademark Office regarding issues of what marks can or can’t be registered (like “Redskins”), and decide what marks cannot be registered because they would cause confusion among potential competitors.

The third major branch of intellectual property protection is copyright. The copyright registrations are governed by the Copyright Office, which is part of the Library of Congress.

The Patent Office side of the Patent and Trademark Office has its own administrative structure and its own appeal board. In point of fact, the patent part of the Patent and Trademark Office dwarfs the Trademark Office, in both revenue and staff size, by a factor of ten.

The world has changed since the first trademark was registered in the United States in 1870. The value of machines and inventions was always considered to contribute more to the economy than simple brand names. But it’s now been 20 years since reports were first released indicating that the estimated value of all the trademarks registered in the Trademark Office exceeded the value of all of the inventions patented in the Patent Office.

What is wrong with this picture, if the Trademark Office’s own name encourages public confusion over what is a patent and what is a trademark? Why not have our very own Patent and Trademark Office take the lead in ending this confusion? If we have a separate United States Trademark Office which examines and registers trademarks, it is a lot less likely that the media and the public will forever misunderstand there is a difference between the two.

From time to time, legislation has been proposed to peel away the Trademark Office from the Patent Office, but such opinions have generally fallen upon deaf ears. Canada, like some other countries, calls its patent and trademark office the Canadian Intellectual Property Office. That type of change would help, but would not assist too much in clarifying the difference between patents and trademarks.

Rebranding is like charity: it may best begin at home. Let’s start the chant: Free the Trademark Office!

Watch the video: USPTO - United States Patent and Trademark Office - US Patent Office #rolfclaessen (August 2022).