Scientific American, v 77 (ns), no 8, p 115, 21 August 1897
Official Registration of Patent Attorneys
We have commented before on the need of more stringent requirements by the Patent Office of persons who desire to practice there in the role of attorneys than has heretofore existed, in consequence of the fraudulent practices that have been permitted with regard to applications for patents and their subsequent prosecution. The need of reform in the patent bar, if there is such a thing, has been evident for a long time.
We therefore are glad to note that a step in securing such reform, and which should soon exert an elevating influence on those engaged in soliciting patents, as well as give renewed assurance to the public that it will be honorably and honestly treated, is the new order and amendment to the Rules of Practice, promulgated August 6, 1897, by Hon. Benjamin Butterworth, Commissioner of Patents, which requires a register of attorneys to be kept at the Patent Office. The amendment is so important that we herewith give it in full:
"Department of the Interior
"United States Patent Office
"Washington, D.C. August 6, 1897
"Rule 17 of the Rules of Practice, approved June 18, 1897, is amended to read as follows:
"17. An applicant or an assignee of the entire interest may prosecute his own case; but he is advised, unless familiar with such matters, to employ a competent attorney, as the value of patents depends largely upon the skillful preparation of the specification and claims. The office cannot aid in the selection of an attorney.
"A register of attorneys will be kept in this office, on which will be entered the names of all persons entitled to represent applicants before the Patent Office in the presentation and prosecution of applications for patent. The names of the following persons will, upon their written request, be entered upon this register:
"(a) Any person who at the date of the approval of the present Rules of Practice, June 18, 1897, was engaged in the active prosecution as attorney or agent of applications for patent before this office, or had been so engaged at any time within five years prior thereto and is not disbarred, or is or was during such period a member of a firm so engaged and not disbarred, provided that such person shall, if required, furnish information as to one or more applications for patent so prosecuted by him.
"(b) Any attorney at law who is in good standing in any court of record in the United States or any of the States or Territories thereof, and shall furnish a certificate of the clerk of the United States, State, or Territorial court, duly authenticated under the seal of the court, that he is an attorney in good standing.
"(c) Any person who has been regularly recognized as an attorney or agent to represent claimants before the Department of the Interior or any bureau thereof and is in good standing, provided that such person shall furnish a statement of the date of his admission to practice as such attorney or agent, and shall further show, if required by the Commissioner, that he is possessed of the necessary qualifications to render applicants for patents valuable service and is otherwise competent to advise and assist them in the presentation and protection of their applications before the Patent Office.
"(d) Any person not an attorney at law who shall file a certificate from a judge of a United States State or Territorial court, duly authenticated under the seal of the court, that such person is of good moral character and of good repute and possessed of the necessary qualifications to enable him to render applicants for patents valuable service and is otherwise competent to advise and assist them in the presentation and prosecution of their applications before the Patent Office.
"(e) Any firm which at the date of the approval of the present Rules of Practice was engaged in the active prosecution as attorneys or agents of applications for patents before the Patent Office or had been so engaged at any time within five years prior thereto, provided such firm or any member thereof is not disbarred, provided the names of the individuals composing the firm are stated, and provided, also, that such firm shall, if required, furnish information as to one or more applications prosecuted before the Patent Office by them.
"(f) Any firm not entitled to registration under the preceding sections who shall show that the individuals composing the firm are each and all recognized as patent attorneys or agents or are each and all entitled to be so recognized under the preceding sections of this rule.
"The Commissioner may demand additional proof of qualifications and reserves the right to decline to recognize any attorney, agent, or other person applying for registration under this rule.
"Any person or firm not registered and not entitled to be recognized under this rule as an attorney or agent to represent claimants generally, may, upon a showing of circumstances which render it necessary or justifiable, be recognized by the Commissioner to prosecute as attorney or agent a certain specified application or applications; but this limited recognition shall not extend further than the application or applications named.
"After January 1, 1898, no person not registered in accordance with this rule will be permitted to prosecute applications before the Patent Office.
"Benjamin Butterworth, Commissioner.
"Thomas Ryan, Acting Secretary of the Interior."
The advantage of this rule to the general public is that before entrusting business to an attorney a person may ascertain from the Commissioner of Patents whether such attorney is on the Patent Office public register. An affirmative answer would convey the inference that the attorney could be depended upon to deal with his client honestly -- an assurance which is now lacking, yet which should in the future bring the patent practice up to a higher and better level. All reputable attorneys should at once endeavor to have their names registered and assist in establishing this needed reform. Commissioner Butterworth certainly deserves the thanks of the public and of the patent attorneys in particular for the promulgation so promptly of this excellent amendment.
Changes in United States Patent Laws
From notices published in the foreign press concerning the changes in United States patent law that will take effect on January 1, 1898, it is clear that the new conditions created by the amended law are not fully understood abroad. Thus we have seen several statements to the effect that an application for United States patent lodged after January 1, 1898, will be rejected in all cases if it is filed more than seven months after the filing of an application for a foreign patent for the same invention. This interpretation of the new law is erroneous. The actual meaning is this: If a foreign patent issues before the issue of the Untied States patent for the same invention, the United States patent, to be valid, must have been applied for within seven months after the filing of the application for the foreign patent; and as soon as a foreign patent issues, the United States Patent Office may reject an application covering the same invention if the United States application was filed more than seven months after the foreign application; and as soon as a foreign patent issues, the United States Patent Office may reject an application covering the same invention if the United States application was filed more than seven months after the foreign application. It is, therefore, apparent that when the United States patent issues first, the interval between the dates of filing is of no moment whatever. Further, a rejection of the United States application under the seven months' clause of the new law can be declared only after the issue of a foreign patent for the same invention. Thus it will appear that even when the United States patent is applied for more than seven months after the filing of a foreign patent application relating to the same invention, a valid patent may be obtained in this country, provided the applicant succeeds in securing the issue of the United States patent before that of the foreign patent. This fact will be of particular importance in the case of inventions protected by British, German, Russian or Scandinavian applications, since the issue of patents upon such foreign applications can be delayed for a considerable time if the inventor desires.
The new law changes the requirements for novelty in other respects also, and after January 1, 1898, an application for United States patent may be rejected, inter alia, upon reference to any foreign patent issued (to another inventor) more than two years before the filing of the United States application. Another ground of rejection is the issue of a foreign patent antedating the applicant's invention. In regard to this provision, we would observe that the date of an invention made abroad can be established only by the issue of a foreign patent, or the issue of a printed publication describing the invention, or the communication of the invention (for instance, by letter) to a person residing in the United States.
After January 1, 1898, it will often be of vital importance that an application for United States patent should be filed before the required date. Informalities in application papers are liable to cause a refusal of the Patent Office to accept the application for filing until corrected, and the delay may prove fatal.
Some Curious Old Patents
In our German contemporary Glaser's Annalen some interesting particulars are given as to early British patents. It will be seen that the idea, at least, of some of our modern invention was anticipated by these curious old patents. We give some interesting examples.
The first patent specification, accompanied by drawings, is that belonging to British patent No. [?] of 1673, which describes a machine for grinding seeds and extracting oils; also a machine for cleaning and dredging rivers, harbors, etc. The second patent, with drawings, is the British patent No. 186, of 1675, relating to a mining pump.
Thomas Master, a Pennsylvania planter, secured a British patent, No. 401, of 1715, for a processing for treating corn. This patent is remarkable in that it states that the invention was made by Mrs. Sibilla Masters. This is, perhaps, the first case of a patent granted for an invention made by a woman.
An English patent (making steel, etc.) granted May 6, 1671 to Prince Rupert, Duke of Cumberland, was assigned to King Charles II.
A patent granted to Prince Rupert, Duke of Cumberland, gave him the right to take oath from his workingmen, that they would keep the invention secret.
The Marquis of Worcester, on November 15, 1664[?], secured a British patent, No 131, covering the following inventions: A self-winding clock, rapid-firing guns and pistols, a device for detaching runaway horses, and lastly, a ship constructed to sail against the wind and capable, when anchored, of use as a water motor or windmill.
The patent 183, of October 25, 1675, grants [?] merchant, Justinian Angell, the right to erect two lighthouses at the mouth of the Humber, and to collect a duty from the skippers.
By letters patent No. 255, of August 23, 1687[?], the Duke of Albemarle secured the sole right of erecting sawmills, driven by wind or by water, in some colonies (excluding New England.)
A repeating rifle is described in the patent to Charles Cardiffe, No. 216, of February 16, 1682.
Patent No. 184, of 1675, shows how to convert foul water and salt water into palatable drinking water in large quantities and quickly.
The idea of catching fish by the aid of lamps is found in the patent No. 295, of April 22, 1692.
The first patent for a burglar alarm is the British patent No. 331, of January 11, 1694.
Patent No. 314, of January 31, 1693, covers a process for utilizing the heat generated when slaking lime.
The first English patent containing a mention of coffee is that granted to Richard Bull, No. 373, of December 22, 1704, for a coffee roasting machine.
The first patent containing a reference to potatoes is No. 413, of May 17, 1717, for a process for making starch from potatoes.
A chemical fire extinguisher is described in patent No. 458, of November 12, 1723.
Thomas Savery's patent for a steam engine is numbered 356 and dated July 25, 1698.
A wave motor is described in patent No. 315, of 1693.
The use of the hydraulic jet for the propulsion of vessels is described in the British patent No. 132, of May 16, 1661, granted to Thomas Toogood and James Bayes.
The British patent No. 236, of 1684, granted to John Cliquet, relates to a carriagelike machine adapted for use as a conveyance for one or two persons. The inventor apparently had a motor carriage in view.
The first patent relating to street lighting is that granted in England to Vernatty, No 227, of 1683.
The first patent relating to street cleaning is a British patent granted February 21, 1674, to Thomas Toogood.
On June 20, 1699, Edmund Heming secured a British patent, No 364, for a street sweeping machine.
The British patent of Edmund Heming, No 282, of October 17, 1691, is for the "making of iron plates tinned over, commonly called tinned plates, as good as those brought from and made in Germany." The use of the words "made in Germany" at such an early period is significant.