EARLY U.S. PATENT LAW SYSTEM
The patent law system in early colonial America was virtually nonexistent. In 1776, America was an agrarian society. Crops, primarily cotton and tobacco, were traded with England and France for hard goods such as guns and plows. George Washington was troubled by this situation. The economy of his newly independent country was still quite dependent upon the import of European goods. He knew that there was only one path to true independence: the promotion of innovation and new ideas. Washington firmly and passionately believed that a system of patent laws was essential to provide encouragement to inventors to produce new and useful inventions. It would help his fledgling nation prosper.
The Patent Act of 1790
Washington proposed to the Continental Congress that steps be taken to “promote genius and invention at home.” Due largely to his advocacy, Article I, Section 8, of the United States Constitution was promulgated giving 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 Writing and Discoveries….” The establishment of a patent law system was so important to Washington and the founders that the first Patent Act was the third law passed by Congress. The Patent Act of 1790, was signed into law on April 10, 1790, only a few months after President Washington implored Congress to take action. And, just a few months after that, on July 31, 1790, the very first U.S. Patent was issued to Samuel Hopkins for a method of producing potash (potassium carbonate), an ingredient used in fertilizer. Interestingly, this very first patent was signed by George Washington himself.
Problems with the 1790 Act
The 1790 Act was not without its problems, however. First, the Act gave patent holders only 14 years of patent protection without any possibility of extension. Second, the Act did not allow foreigners to apply for a patent in the U.S. Third, the examination process took an unbearably long time to complete. All three of the people who had the power to grant or reject patent applications – the Secretary of State, the Secretary of War and the Attorney General – also had to conduct the examination. As one could imagine, these individuals had too many other duties to carry out and could not attend to the examination of patent applications in a timely manner. In the time period between 1790 and 1793, only 55 patents were granted.
The Patent Act of 1793 | The Patent Act of 1836
A partial solution came three years later with the enactment of the Patent Act of 1793. It repealed the 1790 Act, and greatly simplified the patent process so that obtaining patents became much easier. But it ended up creating more problems than it solved. Quality was sacrificed for quantity. Patents were granted on inventions that had already been patented. Some patents were not even useful, a requirement of the examination process. It was not until the Patent Act of 1836 that the framework of the modern patent law system in the United States was finally established. It created the Patent Office which paved the way for more efficient examination of patent applications. It also required that information on newly granted patents be made accessible at all public libraries to prevent the filing of patent applications of already patented inventions. The 1836 Act provided for possible extensions of time of up to 7 years in addition to the original 14-year time period. And finally, for the first time, foreigners were allowed to file for U.S. patent protection. The United States was well on its way to becoming the most powerful economy in the world.
Contact Parsons & Goltry today at 480-991-3435 if you want to file for U.S. patent protection for your invention.
"Our company has worked with a number of patent attorneys and were so pleased when we began working with Parsons & Goltry nearly a decade ago. Mike Goltry's knowledge and attention to detail has enabled us to have numerous products patented and trademarks registered. We highly recommend this Law Firm."
"Michael Goltry is the most professional, honest and effective patent attorney whom I ever met in my 40 year professional engineering career. I started to work with him over 20 years ago and plan to work indefinitely."
"Mr. Goltry took a provisional patent that we'd filed ourselves, and quickly and professionally turned our innovation into U.S. and foreign applications. His [patent claims] were a thing of beauty, and I was amazed by how deftly he countered the inevitable office actions. His language held up, and the U.S. Patent just issued. He was easy and efficient to work with, and his fees were remarkably reasonable. We're not planning to go anywhere else, ever."
"I applied for a patent through Parsons & Goltry. After being on the docket for 2 years at the USPTO, I received notification that my patent request had been denied. Michael Goltry contacted me immediately to review my options. After I informed him of my decision to move forward, he filed a response to the USPTO. In his response he got the examiner to fully understand the claims in the patent application and the "denied" decision was reversed. I was able to secure and receive a "patent granted" decision. Thank you, Michael Goltry."
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