The United States Patent and Trademark Office will be issuing the tenth millionth utility patent this summer (2018). It is very exciting to those who work in patent law and it may even interest some inventors like you.  Below you will find a timeline of the important moments, notable inventors, changing patent designs and other interesting facts regarding patents.

           Following the passage of the 1790 Patent Act, the first Patent Board, which consisted of Secretary of State, Thomas Jefferson, Secretary of War, Henry Knox, and Attorney General, Edmund Randolph, began meetings at regular times to examine patents. The Patent Act of 1793 shifted patent examination to a simple but less-protective registration system. In 1794, Eli Whitney issued U.S. Patent No. X72 for a “Cotton Gin.”

           In 1800, the patent cover becomes a set form filled in by a calligrapher but is still signed by the president.  In 1802, Dr. William Thornton, who designed the U.S. Capitol, becomes the first superintendent of patents and he is later called the “commissioner of patents,” and he served for 26 years.  The U.S. Patent Office was established in Blodget’s Hotel in Washington, D.C. in 1810.  The Patent Act of 1836 completely rewrote U.S. patent law and in 1836 Charles M. Keller, was the first person named as “patent examiner.” On July 11, 1836, patents numbers were reset and U.S. patent no. 1 was granted to Senator John Ruggles.  John Ruggles also wrote the Patent Act of 1836.

           There was a fire on December 15, 1836 in the Patent Office and many patent documents and models were destroyed.  Today there are still efforts to recover the “X patents” that were lost in the fire.

           In 1840, Samuel Morse received U.S. Patent 1,647 for the telegraph and the related Morse code, Samuel co-invented with Alfred Vail.

           In 1842, the first design patent, “Des. 1”, which is now referred to as U.S. patent D1 was granted to industrialist, George Bruce for “new printing types.”

           In 1849, Abraham Lincoln received U.S. patent no. 6,469 for a “Manner of Buoying Vessels.” He remains the only U.S. president to hold a patent.

           In 1855, Clara Barton worked as a clerk at the Patent Office and paid equal wagers for her work.  After male coworkers complain, she was told to work from home and lost her job but she was later rehired.

           In 1867, patent covers were typeset in a script face and featured engraved illustrations which were often of the Patent Office in Washington, D.C.

           In 1872 the “real McCoy” was patented.  Elijah J. McCoy, whose parents were slaves, was issued U.S. patent no. 129,843 for an automatic lubricating device that enabled steam locomotives to run without stopping for lubricating.  The phrase “real McCoy” was requested by machine operators that were wary of cheap substitutes.  This phrase is still used today.

           In 1872, granted patents were published in the Patent Office’s Official Gazette every Tuesday that followed the issuance.

           In 1873, Louis Pasteur issued patent no. 135,245 for an “Improvement in Brewing Beer and Ale” that is the basis for modern beer brewing methods.

           In 1877, there was a second patent office fire which destroyed many patent models. After this fire, models are not mandatory when applying for a patent but was still frequently requested by the commissioner.  The 10,000th U.S. Design patent was issued to Otto Heinigke for “Design for Pumps” in 1877.

           In 1879, the Parisian sculptor Auguste Bartholdi issued design patent no. 11,023 for the Statue of Liberty.

           In 1880, Thomas Edison issued patent no. 223,898 for the “Electric Lamp.” Thomas Edison is the inventor or co-inventor of over 1,000 US. patents.

           In 1887, the U.S. joined the Paris Convention, which is an international treaty that strengthens and harmonizes the protection of inventors across the world.

           I hope that this article about the history of the patent was interesting to you and that you learned something new.

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