U.S. Patent Office
State: District of Columbia
An American legal and administrative system to encourage invention and industry through granting patents traces its history back to the colonial days. In 1790, Congress enacted the first patent law, which created a patent board consisting of the secretaries of war and state and the attorney general to receive petitions for patents and to award fourteen-year patents, subject to presidential approval. Objections to delays in processing petitions and the small number of patents granted under the 1790 legislation lead to the passage of another law in 1793, which terminated the patent board and established an administrative structure within the Department of State for examining and awarding patents based on merit. In 1802, Secretary of State James Madison, faced with an avalanche of patent applications, established the Patent Office to administer the patent system. Dissatisfaction with the 1793 law led Congress to rewrite the patent law in July 1836. Under the new legislation, the Patent Office received responsibility for examining applications, ruling on their merits, validating the claims of inventors, and for determining the usefulness of proposed innovations. The Patent Office could grant patents for fourteen years, with a potential extension of seven additional years if it was found that the inventors experienced problems in production and marketing their devises. In 1842, Congress granted the Patent Office authority to issue trademark patents. The Patent Office came under the jurisdiction of the Department of the Interior when Congress created it in 1849. Congress, in 1861, removed the power to extend patents, reserving this authority for itself, and increased the patent period to seventeen years.
Meyer H. Fishbein, "Patents and the U.S. Patent Office," Dictionary of American History , rev. ed. (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1976), 5:225-27; "An Act to Promote the Progress of Useful Arts," 10 April 1790, Statutes at Large of the United States 1 (1845):109-12; "An Act to Promote the Progress of Useful Arts; and to Repeal the Act Heretofore Made for that Purpose," 21 February 1793, Statutes at Large of the United States 1 (1845):318-23; "An Act to Promote the Progress of Useful Arts, and to Repeal all Acts and Parts of Acts Heretofore Made for that Purpose," 4 July 1836, Statutes at Large of the United States 5 (1856):117-25; "An Act in Addition to an Act to Promote the Progress of the Useful Arts, and to Repeal all Acts and Parts of Acts Heretofore Made for that Purpose," 29 August 1842, Statutes at Large of the United States 5 (1856):543-45; "An Act in Addition to 'An Act to Promote the Progress of Useful Arts,'" 2 March 1861, Statutes at Large of the United States 12 (1863):246-49.