History of United States patent law

History of United States patent law

"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;"" From the United States Constitution, Article I, Section 8, Clause 8. [ Jethro K. Lieberman,1992, The Evolving Constitution, Pg. 610]

Brief history of patent law

The oldest form of a patent was seen in the Medieval times. Dubious|date=September 2008 Medieval rulers would grant an exclusive right to a "monopoly." This was an attempt to raise funds without taxing, although taxes were still imposed.(http://www.ladas.com/Patents/USPatentHistory.html)] This later formalized into letters patent in England. These letters patent were issued by the British Royalty to inventors of their choice. [(http://inventors.about.com/library/weekly/aa073100a.htm) Verify credibility|date=September 2008] (See also History of patent law)

In 1474, in Venice, the first known patent law that granted inventors exclusive rights to their inventions was passed as a result of an economic policy. Thereafter, patents were a formal means of granting and restricting monopolies in Europe.

In 1624, in England, the Statute of Monopolies was passed primarily to restrict the power of British Royals in granting monopolies. The Statute of Monopolies, for the first time in history, defined the following: that inventions had to be “new” to attain a monopoly, and that a monopoly would be granted only for a limited period of time (in this case 14 years.) These aspects have carried forward and helped shape the United States Patent Law. The Statue of Monopolies attempted to reinforce the advantages to society of new inventions; however, a French Patent Law, established in 1791, focused on the inventor and emphasized the invention as the inventor's property. The US Patent Law today adopts both streams of thought; however, the concept of monopolies and patents, in the US, initiated with the British thought of advantages to society.

The US Constitution and the US Patent Law

In the colonial era, all intellectual property in America was owned by Great Britain. In order to protect an invention, a formal approval from the colony's chief was required. The first known patent on US soil was granted to Samuel Winslow in 1641, for a new method of making salt by the Massachusetts General Court. [(http://inventors.about.com/library/weekly/aa073100a.htm)] After independence, and prior to the formal drafting of the United States Constitution, many states had systems in place for protecting inventions. In South Carolina, inventors were granted exclusive rights for machines for a period of 14 years.

The U.S. Constitution, which is the foundation of US patent law, was drafted during the Industrial Revolution. At this time, John Fitch was developing his steam boat. It is believed that the Constitutional Committee went to see a trial of the steam boat. The Industrial Revolution and the quest for technology, prompted a pro-patent environment throughout the 19th century.

In 1790, the first US Patent Act was drafted. The Patent Act empowered any two of: The Secretary of State, the Secretary of War, and the Attorney General to grant patents. This Act granted patents for 14 years to "“useful and important”" and "new" inventions. A description of the invention had to be submitted to attain a patent. Since the Patent Law's inception in 1790, the Patent Act has been periodically amended. One of the first statutory bars to the Patent Act stated that "an invention which had been publicly used could not be granted a patent"; however, this was modified to allow for a grace period.

In 1793 the first Patent Act was modified, by Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson, to include a definition of a patent which persists till date, “any new and useful art, machine, manufacture or composition of matter and any new and useful improvement on any art, machine, manufacture or composition of matter.” [(http://www.answers.com/topic/patent-act-canada?cat=biz-fin) Verify credibility|date=September 2008] . Between 1790-1793, a total of 55 patents were granted, and by July 2 1836 a total of 10,000 patents had been granted. [(http://inventors.about.com/library/weekly/aa073100a.htm)Verify credibility|date=September 2008]

On July 4 1836 the Patent Office became a part of the State Department as a result of the enormous dissatisfaction on hearings on patent appeals. After the transfer, all patent applications had to be submitted to the Patent Office. The Patent Office would determine the “novelty” of the invention and decide if a patent should be granted. At the same time, the law changed to allow for a 7-year extension to the 14-year limit on a patent. In this revision of the Patent Act, inventors had to detail their invention in their patent application. The revision removed the nationality and residency requirement to file for a US patent; however, the filing fees continued to vary per race.

On July 13 1836, Patent Number 1 was granted. In 1836, The Patent Office also went back and renumbered all previous patents with a suffix "X". Prior to this, patents were listed by names and dates and not numbers. After the renumbering, the very first US Patent became Patent 1X. In December 15 of the same year, a fire demolished the Patent Office, and only 2,845 patents were recovered. This resulted in a law that required all patent applications to be submitted in doubles. This law for double copies of patent applications was dropped in 1870 when the Patent Office started printing. [(http://www.archives.gov/research/guide-fed-records/groups/241.html)]

In 1849, the Patent Office was transferred from the State Department to the Department of the Interior. At the same time, the definition of a patent was expanded to include that "the invention applying for a Patent should be new, useful and also “non obvious” to other professionals in the same field".

The 1890 depression resulted in an unfavorable view of patents. The depression was marked by a strained economy in which patents were perceived as a method of promoting monopolies. This negative attitude towards patents led to the inception of the Sherman Antitrust Act. During the depression, many opposed patents, and this is depicted in the tendency of courts to invalidate patents. The conclusion of the depression also ended the negative attitudes towards patents; however, the Patent Law underwent oppostion again in the Great Depression. This skepticism towards patents again returned after World War II in another period of economic depression.

In 1952, the basic structure of the modern Patent Law was laid out. In this amendment, an inventor had to describe not only his invention but also the basis for its infringement. Furthermore, an invention needed to be new and useful, as well as “non- obvious” [Jethro K. Lieberman, 1992, The Evolving Constitution, pp. 371-2 ] ) to be granted a patent. This amendment, which required patents to be non-obvious, was implemented to keep individuals from taking ownership or taking away from the base pool of knowledge in a particular field.

In the 1980 and '90s the atmosphere once again became pro-patent. The patent was seen as not only a business need but also a means to protect inventors. Patents became important, and they began to signify the importance of technology, invention, and discovery to the US.

In 1982, the Court of Customs and Patent Appeals was abolished, and patent cases were heard in the newly established Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit observed patents favorably and also started to provide more protection to their rightful owners. [ Lawrence M. Friedman, 2002, American Law in the 20th century, p. 427]

Thereafter, the Patent Law has developed to support the vast amount of technology, inventions, and intellectual property in the US today. [ Jethro K. Lieberman, 1992, The Evolving Constitution, p. 610]

Other important dates

* 1790 – First US Patent Act drafted in the US Constitution. The first US Patent, numbered X000001 "(pictured right)", was granted on July 31 1790. The patent was granted by Thomas Jefferson. The patent was granted to Samuel Hopkins, in Vermont, for the "making of pot ash and pearl ash by a new apparatus and process". [(http://inventors.about.com/library/weekly/aa073100a.htm) Verify credibility|date=September 2008] [http://www.uspto.gov/web/offices/ac/ahrpa/opa/kids/kidevents_press.html#x1 Kids - Time Machine - Historic Press Releases - USPTO ] ]
*1800 – Law prohibited foreigners to apply for patents in the US, unless they had been residents for 2 years.
* 1829 – "Pennock v. Dialogue": This trial resulted in the statutory bar that patents couldn't be granted to inventions that were already in public use.
* 1832 -
**All resident aliens with an intent to become US citizens were allowed to apply for patents; however, they had to use their patent within one year in the US.
**Patents were also allowed to be changed if they had errors.
**In "Grant v. Raymond" it was ruled that an insufficient description of a patent was grounds for defense in cases of patent infringement.
* 1836 – On July 13, Patent Number 1 was granted. All old patents were relisted with X's, and the first patent became Patent 1X. [(http://inventors.about.com/library/weekly/aa073100a.htm) Verify credibility|date=September 2008]
* 1839 – Patent Law was amended to provide a grace period of two years to use the patent. Patents that were rejected by the Patent Office could appeal to the Chief Justice in D.C.
*1842- Fabrics were allowed to be patented. [(http://inventors.about.com/library/weekly/aa073100a.htm) Verify credibility|date=September 2008] "Hotchkiss v. Greenwood": Patents were furthered to also be “non-obvious” besides new and useful.
*1861 – Patent Law was amended, with some important amendments including:
**Three chief examiners were nominated to hear patent applications that had been rejected more than twice.
**Utility patents were now granted for 17 years.
**Design patents could be granted for 3½-, 7-, or 14-year periods upon the request of the applicant.
*1864 – An amendment in the Patent Law, that is still in place today, stated that a patent under review could not be edited.
*1870 - All legislations regarding patents were framed under one Act. [ Lawrence M. Friedman, 2002, American Law in the 20th century, p. 427] Approximately 105,000 patents were in place. [(http://inventors.about.com/library/weekly/aa073100a.htm) Verify credibility|date=September 2008]
*1871 - Patent applications had to include black and white drawings of a particular size. [(http://inventors.about.com/library/weekly/aa073100a.htm) Verify credibility|date=September 2008]
*1883 – The Paris Convention (ParC) took place, allowing patents to be valid among member countries. [Muir et al. 1999,Pg 1-2]
*1887 – The US joined the Paris Convention. [Muir et al. 1999,Pg 1-2]
*1890 – Sherman Antitrust Act was established.
*1891 – Evarts Act was established.
*1893 – Patent appeals were heard in Court of Appeal for the District of Columbia.
*1897 – Statutory bars were changed: A application had to be filed in the US within seven months of receiving an International Patent to be valid in the US. Prior knowledge of an invention was only valid if the knowledge came from the US.
*1911 – Approximately one million patents had been granted. [(http://inventors.about.com/library/weekly/aa073100a.htm) Verify credibility|date=September 2008]
*1930 - Plant Patent Act established, which allowed asexual, manmade plants to receive patents.
*1939 – Two-year grace period for using patents, was reduced to one year.
*1941 - "Cuno Engineering v. Automatic Devices Corp": Supreme Court ruled that a patent must show “genius.”
*1946 – In order to receive a patent one had to be the “first to invent,” in the world. This was amended to “first to invent” within the US. ("Storage Battery v. Shimadzu")
*1954 – Plant Patent Act amended to include seeds, mutants and hybrids.
*1968 – Patent Corporation Treaty was signed.
*1975 – Patent Office renamed “The Patent and Trademark Office.”
*1978 – European patent office was opened. [Muir et al. 1999,Pg 1-2]
*1980 –
**Patent fees had to be paid for keeping a patent.
**Supreme Court grants Patent for genetically engineered bacteria.
*1990 – The definition of patent infringement changed.
*1995 –
**United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTSO) opened patent museum.
**Uruguay Round Agreements Act adopted into order to bring fulfill treaty obligations under the TRIPS agreement of the Uruguay Round. Among other changes, the length of a patent was changed from 17 years after being granted to 20 years after application.
*1998 – "State Street Bank v. Signature Financial": ruling stated that business methods could be patented.
*2001 – First official publication of US Patent Application.



* Bellis, Mary. "The 212th Anniversary of the First American Patent Act". 2008. About.com: Inventors. Ed. The New York Times Company. (2008). .
* Friedman, Lawrence M. American Law in the 20th Century. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2002.
* Lieberman, Jethro K. The Evolving Constitution. How the Supreme Court Has Ruled on Issues from Adoption to Zoning. First Edition ed. New York: Random House, Inc, 1992.
* LLP, Ladas & Parry. "A Brief History of the Patent Law of the United States". New York, 1999. Web Page. .
* Muir, Ian, Matthias Brandi-Dohrn, and Stephan Gruber. European Patent Law : Law and Procedure under the Epc and Pct. Oxford ; New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.
* Robert B. Matchette et al. "Records of the Patent and Trademark Office". Maryland, 1995. The National Archives. Ed. US National Archives and Records Administration. website. National Archives. .
* "Welcome to the Uspto Museum". Washington DC, 2006. United States Patent and Trademark Offices. Ed. USPTO. (7/27/2006): USPTO. .

External links

* [http://www.uspto.gov/ United States Patent and Trademark Office official website]
* [http://inventors.about.com/library/weekly/aa073100a.htm The 212 Anniversary of The First American Patent Act]
* [http://www.archives.gov/research/guide-fed-records/groups/241.html Records of the Patent and Trademark Office, Government Archives]

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