Scientific American, v 10 (os), no 7, p 50, 28 October 1854
To Inventors -- About Models
U.S. Patent Office, Oct. 17, 1854
Gentlemen -- The models in the following late applications are too large to meet the requirements of the Office. At your request, they will be reduced by the machinist attached to the Office, for the fees annexed.
1. Robt. White, for constructing R.R. Car platforms, fee $7
2. Edwin Young, for improvement in slate frames, fee $3
3. Nathan Brand, for machine for bending forks for agricultural purposes, fee $2.75
4. Anthony Everson, for connecting canal boats, fee $1.50
5. Horace W. Pearslee, for washing paper stock, fee $3
6. John Fraser, for adjustable vise, fee $1.50
7. Chas. Wilgus, for tentering and napping cloth, fee $1.50
New models will be required in the applications of Thos. S. Whitenack, for grain and grass harvester, and for Jonathan Pearce, for machinery for making rope. Fee for the former $30.00, for the latter $75.00.
Messrs. Munn & Co., New York
Another New Rule of the Patent Office
The people who live under constitutional governments are always the most prosperous and progressive; if any proof is desired for confirmation of this opinion, we point to our own country, England, and France. Under a constitutional government the laws (whatever they may be) have a fixed relationship to the people, hence the farmer, the manufacturer, the mechanic, and merchant, can plant and plan for the future, well knowing that their projects cannot be abruptly disturbed by the dictum of an irresponsible ruler. The sudden disturbance of any fixed policy in any department of a government is impolitic, and in most cases fraught with evils; and such results, we conceive, will be produced by the following new rule, just issued by the Patent Office:
"Patent Office, Oct. 23, 1854
Hereafter, no model will be received at this office, as exhibits in interference or other cases, exceeding one foot in length of height. They should be neatly and substantially made, and of durable materials.
Charles Mason, Commissioner"
On the 20th of last February, the Commissioner issued a circular in which it was asserted that models of more than one foot in length and height would be permitted by the Patent Office, for special reason, to be shown by the applicants; the above order abruptly cancels this right; but we cannot consider it a question of privilege on the one side. The only law relating to this subject, is that of Section 6 -- Act 1837, which says, "he shall (the inventor) furnish a model of his invention, in all cases which admit of a representation by model, of a convenient size to exhibit, advantageously, its several parts." By the strict rendering of this law, we consider that the Patent Office is debarred from making a positive rule like the above. The law is of a flexible character, in favor of the inventor, for him to exhibit advantageously the several parts of his invention! Hitherto, under the present Commissioner of Patents, the practice has been to receive models whose dimensions did not exceed a cubic foot in the gross; that is, they might be long and narrow -- 18 inches or more in length -- so that they did not occupy more than 12 inches every way, without reference or limit to any one of their dimensions taken separately, as is now being done. Although we looked upon this rule as too imperative in many cases, we consider it to be generous and reasonable in comparison with the new order. Under the rule, as heretofore interpreted, many models (such as bridges) were received much longer than twelve inches. If they did not occupy a space more than twelve inches every way, they were accepted by the machinist in office. There are many inventions in which justice cannot be done by a model only twelve inches in length and height, but it may be said, that 'some positive rule -- some fixed standard -- is necessary;' there is both force and justice in this argument; still we think that the cubic foot rule should be maintained, and inventors forewarned of a change, for at least one year before it be revoked.
The above new rule has already operated oppressively -- a number of very fine models (some of them having cost hundreds of dollars, and which were constructed before the new rule was promulgated) have recently been rejected, because they exceeded the standard by only an inch or two. Of the list of models refused by the Office, which was published in the last number of Scientific American, only two exceeded a cubic foot in their dimensions, the rest being within that standard. The owners of these models had not the slightest suspicion of their being rejected, but to suit the abrupt change in the policy of the Patent Office, those nine inventors will be subjected to the expense of $153 for alterations of their models before they will be accepted. We have fifty or sixty models now in our office, which will no doubt be refused in like manner, costing the inventors from three to five hundred dollars to have them razeed, unless the Commissioner countermands the order (which in justice to the inventors he should do) so far as having this new rule immediately enforced. All we ask is, that inventors may be forewarned of these new rules of the Office; and if they do not then comply with the requirements, the Office will be justified in refusing to accept their models. We hope the Commissioner of Patents will exhibit as much generosity towards inventors, with respect to models, for six or twelve months to come, as the law fully allows him to do. We ask no more for our inventors, and they deserve no less; to oppress them by sudden and expensive exactions is neither generous nor wise.
The New Razeeing Process
The reception of another unwelcome bill of between of between two and three hundred dollars, presented through us to some half dozen inventors, by the Commissioner of Patents, for alterations of their models, calls our attention once more to the practical working of the new razeeing process.
The requirements of the patent law, relative to models, occurs in the act of 1836, section 6, in the following language: -- "And he (the inventor) shall, moreover, furnish a model of his inventor, in all cases which admit of a representation by model, of a convenient size to exhibit advantageously its several parts." In other words, the laws says to the inventor, "We will not require you to go to the expense of furnishing a full-sized, working machine, but you may delineate your invention by model, making it on such a scale as you may deem most convenient and advantageous as a display of your improvement." This has been the admitted interpretation of the law by all Commissioners excepting the present.
Of late years, owing to the rapid accumulation of models and the lack of space for their storage, the Commissioners have been in the habit of recommending inventors to bring the dimensions of their models within a cubic foot; no matter what the length, breadth, or depth was, so long as the sum total did not exceed 1728 cubic inches. Very recently, however, Commissioner Mason, without giving any previous notice, has issued an imperative order for the further curtailment of models, irrespective of the subject of invention or the proportion of parts. He ruled that no model should be accepted if it exceeded twelve inches in any of its dimensions.
Owing to the neglect of the Commissioner to give prior notice of this change, or to take proper steps to circulate the intelligence, many models have been and are still being sent to the Patent Office, which transgress the new ukase. Under these circumstances the practice of the Office is to notify the inventor that his model is too large; and further, that as it may be inconvenient for him to send for the model in order to reduce it, the Office will undertake the work of alteration on the reception of a given fee.
Thus, for example, George Copeland (see another column) is informed by the Commissioner that for a sum of one hundred and twenty-five dollars, the Office will engage to produce a model which will exactly suits its ideas of dimensions. As we prepare this case, we know something concerning it. The model is a loom for weaving seamless bags, and represents a most ingenious invention. The model sent to the Patent Office was a beautiful and costly one, but some of its parts perhaps projected a little above the line of a twelve-foot rule, for which excess the Commissioner proposes to mulct the inventor in $125. The model was completed before the new rule went into operation.
Messrs. Hiller & Allen are to be mulcted in $60. This invention is an improvement in switches, and the fault in their model is that the miniature track is too long.
Mr. Jonathan Pearce, inventor of a rope making machine is to be mulcted in $75, for the same reason. This name was noticed in a list published a week or two since.
We might go on a fill a whole page with similar instances, in which unwarrantable expenses have been heaped upon poor, toil-worn inventors.
One of the worst features of the whole is, that these costs are imposed before the case is examined by the Patent Office. It frequently happens that after the inventor has been put to great expense in order to make his model a few inches smaller, his case is rejected -- the patent refused. While we accord to Commissioner Mason all honor for the wise, vigorous, and independent manner in which he has thus far conducted the affairs of the Patent Office, we feel that we should be wanting in duty if we failed to lift our voice against a practice which bears with much needless severity upon a large class of our most useful citizens.
The rule we complain of originates, we doubt not, from a worthy desire on the part of Mr. Mason to economize the space set apart for the reception of models. But we tell him distinctly, that the operations of the rule are having a disheartening effect upon inventors, and that they denounce his practice as an imposition and a robbery.
It seems to us to matter but very little moment whether a model exceeds by an inch or two, a specified measure. We should think that the Commissioner would prefer to receive such models without objection, rather than increase his already arduous duties by the creation of a new correspondence and the hearing of new appeals. The old recommendation regarding the cubical contents is the best. Mr. Mason well knows, and so does every other sensible individual, that owing to the rapid increase in the number of inventions, the system of preserving models must of necessity soon be abolished. Why then continue to split hairs on a sinking platform.
William P. Elliot, of Washington City, civil engineer, architect, and patent agent, died suddenly at his residence on the afternoon of the 3rd inst., by an attack of paralysis. He had been about his usual business on the morning of that day, but before "the evening shades prevailed," he was numbered among the dead. When a young man, Mr. Elliot went to Europe, and studied architecture for some years under the ablest masters, and returned to his own country with a very high character for ability. He was the designer of the present Patent Office building, and many other architectural and engineering works around Washington. At one time he was Chief Clerk in the Patent Office [No, his father was chief clerk. KWD], and afterwards became widely known to inventors as a solicitor of patents. In all the walks of life he maintained an excellent reputation, and has left behind him an amiable family and many friends to mourn his loss. On several occasions he contributed papers to the Scientific American. His sudden passing away from among us, at the age of forty-seven years, warns us to live daily with our accounts made up by the Great Judge.
Important Correction by the Patent Office
We take great pleasure in announcing that the late stringent rule whereby the dimensions of all new models were suddenly ordered to be curtailed, and against which we have, for a month past, felt it our duty to remonstrate, has been annulled by the Commissioner of Patents, and the more reasonable one of February 20th left in force.
The Commissioner informs us by letter that the rule of October 23rd was promulgated by mistake. That having been drawn up and signed, he became satisfied that it would require material alteration, and he accordingly ordered its suppression. By some mistake of the clerks, however, the document was unfortunately sent out, and we, among others, received an official copy.
It is a great relief to us to be able to make this statement. The prompt action of the Commissioner in correcting the error is in the highest degree commendable, and is characteristic of him as a man. Without attempting to justify himself, or to set up an excuse, he at once and unqualifiedly withdraws the obnoxious rule, and assures us that its circulation was unknown to him, and was not intended to be enforced.
That it was enforced, and most vigorously too, by some of the officials at the Patent Office, the long list of inventors who have been compelled, since the 23d day of October last, to make payments for the razeeing of their models, abundantly testifies. Those who have charge of the models undoubtedly received a copy of the erroneous rule, in common with ourselves, and they have innocently obeyed what they supposed to be a bona fide order, in making the severe exactions from inventors to which we have referred.
According to estimates given in another part of our paper, it seems evident that the entire model system is destined, ere long, to die a natural death. We are glad of it. It is a false system, and has always caused more trouble, both to the Patent Office, and to inventors, than it is worth. In England, which has the most perfect patent system in the world, and where the rights of patentees are much more thoroughly protected than here, no models are required or needed.
The Model System -- How long shall it be continued?
Nearly thirty thousand models have already accumulated in the U.S. Patent Office, and the establishment, although spacious, will soon be over-crowded. The average increase in the number of models received for the past ten years, is about twelve percent per annum. Should the same ratio of increase continue for the next twenty years, as it undoubtedly will, the large number of two hundred and sixty thousand models will have been added to those already on hand; while the receipts of models for the single year of 1874 will be almost thirty-two thousand.
If this system of models is to exist even for the short term of twenty years more, it is high time that new buildings were in progress for their reception. Three edifices as large as that now occupied, will then be required to contain the models on hand, while the number received for the year 1875 alone, will occupy nearly one-half of a fourth building. In these estimates we include the increased space in the present structure which the new west wing will afford when completed; and also the space at present occupied by the National Museum, Department of Interior, Land Office, etc.
The Patent Office building has been nearly twenty years in course of construction, and it is not yet finished. To our minds the prospect of having three more of them ready, in twenty years from this date, is a dubious one, if we are to rely upon the do-nothing legislators of this day.
The present system of preserving models is an absurdity. Its long continuance is a physical impossibility. The quicker it is abandoned the better. Inventive genius is now only in its infancy. Each new mechanical improvement is the parent of hundreds of other better ones, shortly to follow. To house models of them mall is out of the question. To spend any more money in such a fruitless endeavor is a waste.
In the hands of the patentee models are invaluable as exponents of his invention, and as assistants in the disposal of his rights, or in the construction of larger machines. But to a government like ours their continual aggregation is perfectly useless, and the requirement of their construction, at the cost of the inventor, therefore a wrong. Good drawings and clear specifications are all that should be demanded from him, for these are all that are necessary for the proper protection of his claims. The models now in Washington have cost not less than half a million of dollars. If the system is carried on twenty years longer, the law will have extorted the sum of five millions of dollars from the pockets of poor, struggling inventors for the original construction of models. Nor is this all. Still larger sums will be required from inventors to pay for the building of houses, and the support of officials to classify, arrange, and take charge of the same mechanical miniatures.
We trust that among the amendments to the patent laws to be brought forward at the approaching session of Congress, one of them will authorize the immediate abolition of the model system. Such an act, while it would vastly benefit the mechanical resources of the country, would also remove a great incubus from the business of the Patent Office
If Senators, Representatives, and other officers of the government desire to make the Patent Office a "paying concern," if they wish at the same time to promote the interest of inventors, let them at once lop off this "model" parasite.
The Patent Office
Washington, Dec. 1st, 1854
Messrs. Editors -- I have been given to understand that the Commissioner of Patents -- Judge Mason -- will recommend in his Report important changes in the Patent Laws, especially in relation to an increase of the Patent Office revenue. The number of applications during the year will probably reach the number of 4000, and that out of these 1600 patents will have been granted, as the columns of the Scientific American will show. The expenses of the Office have, of course, been increased by the appointment of additional examiners, by the addition (by Congress) of 20 per cent to the salaries of all officers and clerks, messengers, etc., and by furnishing the rooms in the extension of the Patent Office with the necessary carpets, desks, chairs, tables, etc. The revenue of the Patent Office has not been equal to the expense, and about $10,000 of debt has been incurred. I hope that whatever change may be made in the Patent Laws to increase the revenue of the Office, that it will be an increase of the patent fee simply and no more. Inventors would rather pay $40 to have their cases examined at an early date, than to pay $30 to wait for some months, as was the case during previous years. The complication of fees, as in the law before the Senate last winter, was a great defect. The Patent Office is now in a very efficient state, and does great credit to the present Commissioner.
Reform of the Patent Laws
On another page will be found the Report of Judge Mason -- Commissioner of Patents -- to which we invite the attention of inventors and all those who are interested in patents. It is therefore stated that the business of the Patent Office is now in a most satisfactory condition, and that the Examiners will soon be able to examine applications as fast as they are presented, they having nearly made up all the arrearages of the past year -- amounting to eight hundred and twenty-three cases. This has been accomplished by creating five new principal Examiners with assistants, thus making eleven Chief Examiners with an assistant to each, in the Patent Office. We thank the Commissioner in the name of the inventors of our country, for what he has accomplished in exterminating the unfinished business of the Office. The long delays which heretofore took place before decisions were made on applications for patents, wrought great injury to hundreds of worthy men, and operated adversely to the progress of invention and discovery. The Patent Office should always be in a condition to examine every application for a patent within ten days, at most, after it is made, and for the first time in the history of the Office since it was remodeled under the law of 1836, the present Commissioner will shortly have the honor of accomplishing this desirable result.
.... [remainder omitted KWD]
Patent Office Fees
In a letter on the subject of the Patent Office in the Scientific American two weeks ago, your correspondent's information was correct as to its being the intention of the Commissioner to recommend in his report such changes in the Patent Law as would lead to an increase of the revenue of the Office; this he has done since. The necessity of increased taxation on the part of the Patent Office is indisputable, but the mode of levying such tax is certainly open to discussion, and I, for one, cannot acquiesce with your correspondent in his views on that subject.
Of all laws, those relating to the granting of patents for new and useful inventions should be so formed that the privileges to be enjoyed should be within the reach of the poor, and this especially so, for it is the poor, hard-working mechanic that we have to look to for the majority of the practicable improvements that are made. The present $30 application fee, cost of model, and other incidental expenses, form a barrier to many artisans in the way of seeking a patent for their improvements, and deter many from exercising their inventive powers, for they know that until their inventions have passed the Patent Office examination, and been pronounced patentable, they can find but few ready to assist them pecuniarily, except by the sacrifice of the lion's share, but that their improvements having passed the fiery ordeal, command a fair price. I do not see, therefore, how an increase of the application fee, from $30 to $40, will benefit that class whose labors are the most prolific of really valuable invention; nor that the increase would materially expediate the examining process. The law before the Senate last winter doubtless was objectionable in some respects as regards the complicity of fees, but on the whole it exhibited a principle which, by suitable modifications, would seem to be more equitable. It would appear to me, however, that a change as the following, would meet all the wants in the case, and be more generally acceptable. Instead of increasing the application fee, reduce it to $25, which might be called an examining fee, retainable by the Patent Office in every case, whether a patent be allowed or refused. Upon a favorable decision being made by the Examiner, let the applicant be notified that a patent will issue to him for his improvement upon the payment of a $25 additional on or before a certain day, during which interval the Office may be engaged in recording, etc., the patent. Provision might be made for payment of the issuing fee after the day named, to meet peculiar cases, the patent, however, dated from the time specified in the original notice of its intended issue. Of course until the payment of the issuing fee, the Patent Office retain possession of the patent or stop issue, etc. Such an arrangement as this would largely increase the revenue of the Office, it would involve upon the applicant a less original cost than at present, and would thereby stimulate the poor working mechanic to apply his mind to practicable improvements connected with his trade instead of, as by increasing simply the application fee, making him careless of the advantage to be derived, or exposing him to the avariciousness of a partner of rights to prospective only and doubtful till examined. The increase of price, that is, the balance due upon the issue of the patent, the inventor will have no difficulty in meeting, without sacrificing his interest, when once he is in possession of official notice that a patent will issue to him.
Instead of the $25 alone named, it is believed that, taking into account the suppression of the present withdrawal fee when an application is rejected, $20 fee on application and $20 additional on the issue of the patent, would be found amply sufficient to meet the increased expenses of the office, and the reduction of the patent fee to the lowest figure possible till the result of the examination be made known would seem to be the fairest and least burdensome to the many, and would act as a stimulant to invention generally.
It will be apparent to you that the foregoing proposition,in its general tenor borrows largely from the 1853 Report of our present able Commissioner.
Washington, D.C., Dec. 11th, 1854
[This is a subject with which our correspondent is well acquainted, and his suggestions deserve respect and attention; still we are of opinion that the plan suggested in last week's Scientific American is the best.]
Curious Clause in the New Patent Bill
Two weeks ago when reviewing the Report of the Commissioner of Patents, we directed attention to the new patent bill which was before the Senate last session, the passage of which was recommended in the Report referred to. To a number of sections in that bill we took exceptions, and suggested that "the sixth and eighth should be stricken out, as they were contradictory, and would lead to trouble if passed in their present shape." Quite a controversy was maintained some weeks since between two rival daily papers in this city respecting who was the author of that very astute political maxim, "language is useful for disguising thoughts." This controversy ended in proving that it belonged practically to not a few individuals of ancient and modern days, but the person most celebrated for carrying it out was that prince of politicians -- Tallyrand. We must say that the sixth section of the new patent bill appears to have been drawn up by that generalissimo of diplomatists, for if ever language was employed in any instance to disguise intentions, it has been so, we regret to say, in this section. We read it over a number of times, but could not really understand its meaning. It was evidently contradictory to the eighth section, and we were positive there was no Senator so dull as not to see this. We therefore thought that some policy was couched under its language which was perfectly plain to its author, though not to us, and of this we are now positive. The object of this section of the bill is to allow the introduction of foreign inventions by any person; thus changing the whole policy of our patent system, which provides for patents to original inventors only. This new bill contains a provision for the granting of patents without taking oath, as is now the case, the applicant being only required to affirm that "what he has described and claimed in his specification has not been invented or discovered by any other person in this country, nor has it been patented or described in any publication prior to the discovery by himself, (or prior to the date of his application) if he chooses to state it in this manner." This clause contains a check against the stealing of American inventions, and only embraces the introduction of secret foreign inventions, or those that have not been patented abroad. Apparently, very little objection can be urged against such a policy, and for our own part, we believe it would considerably increase the business of patent agents, but such views should never be suffered to outweigh those of right and justice, in the mind of any honest man. No person who is not the inventor, can introduce a secret foreign invention, unless he steals it, and any other foreign invention must be public property, free to every American citizen, and for which no man should receive a patent. Our patent laws were made to encourage improvements in the useful arts -- to offer inducements to inventors, not to reward those who have better faculties for abstracting the inventions of others, than producing any of their own. These are our reasons for objecting to this change proposed in the principles of our patent system by the new bill, and we therefore hope the Senate will strike out the section to which we have referred.
The Beneficial Effects of Patent Laws
There can be no question of the fact that those countries which afford protection to inventors by good patent laws, are the most progressive in all that relates to the useful arts. The United States, Britain, France, and some of the German States which protect inventors in their rights, stand high above those nations where such laws are unknown. A correspondent writing to us from Bennington, N.H., having recently returned from Mexico, where he resided for two years, uses the following language: --
"They have no patent laws there, and as a consequence are 1,000 years behind us in everything that is useful and convenient. If Barnum would make a collection of their household and agricultural implements he might exhibit them as rare curiosities of ancient times. The people are like the children of Israel when in Egyptian bondage."
It is a sad thing thus to write of a people who are our next door neighbors.
Proposed Alterations in the Patent Laws
Strenuous efforts are now being made at Washington to procure the immediate passage of a bill providing for an extensive alteration of the present Patent Laws. We trust that our Senators and Representatives will be careful how they vote on this subject; especially do we hope that they will not allow themselves to be forced into any hurried legislation respecting the same. The matter is one of vital importance, not only to inventors individually, but to the whole country at large, and it should, therefore, receive the most deliberate and studious examination, as well as the most thorough and extended legislative discussion. We are aware that less general knowledge prevails among our legislators respecting the wants of the people upon this matter than upon almost any other which comes before Congress. But it seems to me that from this very reason they should delay action in the premises until they have time to inform themselves properly respecting the whole subject. Some amendment of the present laws no doubt are demanded in order to increase the revenues of the Patent Office, which, at present, are not sufficient to meet its expenses. But the best plan to increase those revenues is a nice question. Better put up with present inconveniences than to make matters worse by useless complications.
At the time the present amendments were first drafted, the Patent Office, for the want of a proper examining corps, was in a disgraceful condition respecting the examination of applications; many of them were allowed to accumulate under the dust of a dozen months before they were opened. It seemed as if a radical change in the laws was most imperatively demanded. Indeed, for a period of some years previous we had ourselves been continually directing the attention of Congress and the authorities connected with the Patent Office to the evils inflicted upon inventors by the great length of time they had to wait before decisions were made on their cases. All this is now changed; the pile of accumulated business has been exterminated; examinations are now made within a very short period after the date of application, and it has become evident that in the hands of a vigorous executive officer the present Patent Laws are about as effective and satisfactory as any that could be devised. The happy change which has been effected since Judge Mason became Commissioner, affords us sincere gratification, and has encouraged and gladdened the hearts of our inventors. The great increase in the number of applications for patents, during the past year, is partly owing to this, for inventors, before that period, were deterred from applying for patents by the delays and troubles they suffered from this Department. We hope the present facilities for doing the business of the Office promptly and well, will not be lessened, but increased, and to do this it is necessary that the revenues should be increased. On Jan. 20th last year, a bill was reported by the Committee on Patents of the Senate, for this purpose, at the same time making very great alterations in the whole patent code. Some portions of that bill we considered were very wrong, and would be the means of doing a great deal of evil if they became a statute. We pointed out the defects of the bill on page 341, Vol 9, Scientific American (July 8th) and on the 19th following, it was recommitted to the Committee on Patents -- Senator James, Chairman -- who reported it back on the 24th of the succeeding month, amended in a number of the important features that we had pointed out. We have been informed privately, that the unamended bill, as it originally read, is intended to be called up by Senator James for action, but we think this cannot be correct, he having reported the amended bill. From our long acquaintance with the inventors of our country, and the working of our whole patent system, we ought at least to be able to form some correct opinions respecting what reforms are required, and what changes might be expected to work well or ill. We believe that a simple increase of the patent fee, for $30 to $40, would be the safest and best way to increase the revenues of the Office, and at present no further alteration of the laws is very pressingly demanded.
But there need be no increase of fees at all if our law makers would insert a brief amendment, requiring that inventions, in order to be patentable, shall only be new in this country. This would greatly reduce the expense of examination -- cut off the necessity of a foreign library, augment the number of patents granted, and bring about a corresponding increase of revenue.
The more simple our laws are, so much the better for all, excepting the lawyers.
Colt's Patent in Congress
On the 6th inst., there was quite an exciting time of it in the House of Representatives, when discussing the merits of the bill before it for the extension of Col. Colt's patent. It seems that implications or hints had been thrown out that members of Congress could be bought, and that this bill would pass; but members, on this occasion, showed themselves determined to remove such an impression. They expelled a reporter who was said to have an interest in the extension of the patent, this being against the rules of the house, and he had refused to stand an examination by the Committee on Patents. Some rather strange remarks were made about Col. Colt's examination by the Committee. It appears to us that the bill will be rejected by an almost unanimous vote; we thus judge from what we have heard and what we have read on the subject, although many have asserted that any bill can be weathered through Congress by good management, and plenty of means to lobby.
The foregoing was penned on the 7th; two days afterwards -- the 9th -- the bill came up again, and, as we had supposed, the enacting clause was struck out by a vote of 99 to 23, and may be considered killed.
Review of the Proposed Amendments in the Patent Laws -- Important Movements in Congress
In a recent number of this journal, after commenting upon the origin and the efforts which were being made to press upon Congress the hurried passage of a bill providing for a radical, and, as we believe, highly injudicious alteration of the Patent Laws, we gave it as our opinion that the present regulations were about as satisfactory as any that could be devised, and that no alteration, further than some simple provision to increase the revenue of the Patent Office, was at this time very pressingly required.
Unlike the other revenue systems, it appears that at present the more money the Patent Office receives, the further off it gets from paying its way. In other words, the larger the number of patents applied for, the greater becomes the proportionate expense of examining each case.
This reminds us of the enterprising boy who excused his want of punctuality at school, by saying that the ground was slippery, and that for every forward step he took he slid backwards two.
The object of the Hon. Mr. James' bill, now before the Senate, is to remedy the above evils and some others, which the present patent system is supposed to contain. Let us examine into the composition of the proposed panacea, and see if it probably contains the healing elements.
It strikes us that the bill might very properly be described as a series of ingenious projects for squeezing money out of inventors, and with equal ingenuity conveying it into the pockets of patent agents and lawyers. The idea of benefiting and encouraging the inventor seems to have been cast out altogether. Under its humane provisions an inventor, if he be so unfortunate as to get a patent, becomes a legal goose, subject to a most indiscriminate pluckage; it is a bill which clamors for Money, Money, Money, without offering proper return.
The following are specimens of its blessings:
If an inventor asks for a patent with a specification ending with one claim, he pays for the privilege of asking (not obtaining, mind) the sum of $20. For additional claims, not exceeding three, $5 extra each. For additional claims, beyond three, $10 extra on each. Therefore the government fees demanded for the mere asking for a patent, in which six claims are necessary (which is very often the case,) amount to $55. If the application is rejected, and the applicant appeal to the Commissioner, he pays another fee of $10, making $65. If he then appeal from the Commissioner to the Judge, he pays another fee of $25, amount, in all, to $90 -- the whole of which is lost if the application fails. [Under the present law the inventor loses $10 only of the patent fee if his case is rejected.]
Should the last appeal be successful, and the patent, with its six claims, as described, be accordingly granted, the inventor is called upon before receiving the same, to pay a final fee of $50, making a sum total of $140 in official dues, and his patent then lasts only five years. By the payment of another fee of $100, before this patent expires, the patent can be extended for fifteen years longer. This makes the total official fees for the parchment and nominal grant of the patent $240, in place of $30 -- being an increase of eight hundred percent over the present rate.
If his patent document, like a telegraph message, exceed a certain number of words in length, the inventor must pay more fees.
Should the applicant have been so unfortunate as to claim too much, he can, by paying another fee of $10, have one of his claims (for the grant of which he had before paid a fee of $10) stricken off.
After having run the gauntlet of all these official fees, the inventor is no nearer the actual possession of a patent than when he began. True, he has procured the parchment with the picture of the Patent Office engraved thereon, and nominally he is a patentee; but to make his patent worth anything, he must obtain what is termed a Confirmation of the same; the first step toward which is to pay a new fee of $100. This secures to him the desirable privilege of having anybody who is so disposed, come forward and claim the patent as theirs by reason of previous invention. If they bring proof of their priority, our newly fledged patentee is summarily upset -- his patent is invalid -- and he goes to grass with a total loss of everything -- time, money, and patent. How much he has spent for the hire of lawyers and agents, to defend himself, in addition to the enormous bill of official fees, can better be imagined than named.
If the applicant succeeds in preventing others from destroying his patent, a certificate of "Confirmation" is given by the government, and subsequent patents to others for the same thing are denied.
In order to attack a confirmed patent, the plaintiff must first pay a fee of $50 to the Patent office.
Legal proceedings in various forms may now be had to annul the confirmed patent, and it may be kicked about among lawyers and courts, like a shuttle cock between the battle-doors, until the Supreme Court gets a chance at it. The decision of this tribunal is final. If adverse, the patent receives its quietus. If favorable, it is forever confirmed.
Another section of this benevolent bill authorizes the Commissioners to have 4000 copies of the drawings and specifications of each patent made, for purposes of sale and distribution, at an expense of $400 for every patent. Last year over 2000 patents were granted, which, if engraved and printed under the above beautiful provision, would permit the Commissioner to expend therefor the sum of eight hundred thousand dollars.
Another clause appoints an Assistant Commissioner to attend most of the duties now performed by the Commissioner -- thus rendering the Chief's office almost a sinecure. The Commissioner's salary is also raised to $4,500. The number of employees in the department is also increased.
The foregoing is but a brief outline of the most prominent changes which the amendment, now before Congress, proposes to effect. It fills us with astonishment that any Senator or officer of the government should seriously put forward such an absurd and incongruous "mess of pottage," and call it an improvement --a remedy for present ills. Why, it makes our patent system more cumbersome and expensive than the old British plan. Instead of increasing, it decreases the value of patent property. Instead of simplifying, it adds intricacy to complication. Instead of encouraging inventors, it lays new and grievous burdens upon them. It robs them by wholesale of their property, and divides it between the coffers of an overflowing treasury and the pockets of hungry politicians, lawyers, and patent agents. That it must meet the entire disapprobation of the great body of inventors and patentees, is too apparent to require demonstration. If the question of its adoption were submitted to them for decision, we believe they would rise up en masse in opposition.
Senators seem possessed with the idea that our Patent Laws require some huge and hurried alteration. In their zeal to do something, they propose to strike in the dark -- to act without properly understanding the subject. But we hope they will not forget that the country has the most vital interest in all that touches its Patent Laws -- that whatever benefits and stimulates the inventor, promotes the general prosperity and fame of the nation. And, on the other hand, whatever trammels and discourages genius, produces just an opposite effect.
We are convinced that members are right enough at heart, on this matter. Our anxiety is, lest they should suffer their votes to be cast without proper deliberation and discussion. Powerful efforts, we presume, are being made by interested persons to have the absurd bill shoved through without discussion or inquiry. We entreat Senators to beware of such trickery. Let them postpone action until they can examine the subject for themselves, for we repeat, no instantaneous legislation is required. The present efficiently administered system gives very general satisfaction, and unless it can be improved, it should not be touched. The old adage, "Let well enough alone," applies in this case with great force.
The augmentation of the revenues of the Office is a very easy matter, when the proper time for it arrives. Amend the law so as to restrict the official examinations of novelty to this country only, and the thing is done. Add to this, if you please, a clause that models, after examination, shall be restored to applicants. Either or both of these simple provisions will bring in far more revenue than the bill now before the Senate, and avoid all its disastrous consequences.
The reason why it costs more to grant a patent than the Office receives is, first, because the examiners are required to search the whole world over to ascertain if an applicant's invention -- a straw cutter or a churn perhaps -- is new. To examine the pages of all the must French, Dutch, Italian and other foreign volumes which the shelves of the Patent Office Library contain -- and which are steadily increasing -- is no easy matter, and is besides a great expense. Second, the plan of keeping together, in one vast storehouse, ready classified for reference and exhibition, the thousands of models which the country has in times past, and is now constantly producing, is exceedingly expensive. Lop off these two costly excrescences from the current system, and the revenue of the Patent Office will soon be greater than its actual wants, while the present moderate rate of fees may be retained, and better justice done to American inventors.
How far superior would some such simplifying method prove, than the clogging up of the entire system with an interminable list of official fees and tortuous legal proceedings.
Congress has Adjourned
This announcement will thrill with joy the entire population of this country who are in any way concerned in the welfare of the Republic. That miserable abortion, the "New Patent Bill," has been strangled in its birth, not one of its advocates could blow life into its nostril. The monstrosity is happily defunct, and must in our opinion "sleep the sleep that knows no wakening." It never had virtue enough to stand up for a single blow from any Senator or Representative at all acquainted with the wants of inventors or of the public -- to whose interests genius is always devoted. There is scarcely one subject of legislation upon which more care and intellect has been expended, outside of Congress, than upon the patent system. Wise lawyers and practical attorneys have gone over the whole field with much faithfulness, and have besought Congress to heed their reasons, and adopt their suggestions, but all to no purpose. Legislators have been bent on destroying the whole systems by "substitutes" which in effect annihilated every reasonable hope of the inventor. Legislation upon this subject reminds us of a jail-building story which we once heard: Somewhere in England it was proposed to build a new jail upon the ground occupied by the old one; this proposition met with favor and passed. It was then voted that the new jail should be constructed out of the materials of the old one, so far as they would go; and lastly, it was voted that the old jail should be permitted to stand until the new one was erected.
This fairly illustrates the whole course of patent law legislation in this country since 1836. It has commenced with flowery promises, and ended in mud. Let us rejoice that good sometimes comes from circumstances where we least expect it.
It is "glory enough for one day" that common sense, in this instance, has not been ravished by the Solons of the American Congress.
Robert Mills, Civil Engineer, died at his residence, Capitol Hill, Washington City, on the 5th inst. He was a native of Charleston, S.C., but had resided for number of years in Washington, and was the planner and superintendent of a number of the public works of that city. He possessed many sterling qualities, and was beloved by a large circle of acquaintances. He possessed a very original mind, and was distinguished for his practical abilities and mechanical genius. He was a frequent correspondent to the Scientific American, and on page 369 is an illustrated view of a very original plan proposed by him for the Pacific railroad. He was architect of the National Monument, and the designer of other public officers. It is reported that he was ill treated by the "Red-tapists" at Washington, with respect to some of his designs, and this so affected his mind, as to have been the cause of his death. Memento Mori.
Influence of Inventions on Social Life
The following is a condensed abstract of a recent lecture by James T. Brady, Esq., delivered before the Mechanics Institute, of this city, on the above subject. He began with an extract from a popular author, who complains that history has been more employed in recording the crimes of ambition and the ravages of conquerors, than preserving the remembrance of those who have improved sciences and the arts. He said it is melancholy to reflect that the great mechanics who constructed the mighty works which yet attest the power and taste of Egypt, Greece and Rome, are nameless to their posterity. .... The daily laborer has a more comfortable home than sovereigns could boast of old. Beckett's splendid style of living, A.D. 1160, was described in this, that his sumptuous apartments were every day in the winter strewn with clean straw and hay. ....
Queries for the Patent Office
Among the numerous employees of large governmental establishments there are generally to be found a proportion of black sheep - loafers - individuals who spend the time for which they are paid in the neglect of their duties, whose hardest labor consists of calling at the Treasury Office once a month to receive an unearned salary. We are fearful that too large a number of such worthies are sucking pap in the U.S. Patent Office. Either such is the case, or else the copyists of that department are grievously overworked; we should ourselves be filled with grief if the latter were the fact. Will they be good enough to tell us why it takes from two to three weeks to engross a patent after it is ordered to issue, when, in most cases, the document could be copied in three hours? Will they think us too inquisitive if we respectfully inquire why official letters of not more than a dozen lines, which a boy could copy in ten minutes, are not mailed sometimes for one and two weeks after the original was written? The number of copyists is not limited by law, and we, as well as the public, are anxious to know what is the real trouble.
Illustrating Patent Office Reports
The New York Tribune of the 26th ult recommends that the Patent Office reports be illustrated by the publication of printed specifications of all the patents illustrated by steel plate engravings. We would really like to see good illustrated reports of the Patent Office; but no person except one profoundly ignorant of the drawings which accompany patents, would ever have suggested the illustrating of them by steel plate engravings, and this would require a rise of patent fees from $30 to $300. If such a system were adopted, the great majority of American inventors would be completely disabled from securing patents. Our inventors and men of most ingenuity are not men of the longest purses, by any means. This would be an act of high injustice to them, and our country would feel the effect of such a measure. It would tend to discourage useful improvements, and thus retard the progress of invention and discovery.
Reported Resignation of the Commissioner of Patents
A correspondent of the New York Tribune, writing from Washington on the 25th ult., stated that Hon. Charles Mason had resigned his office of Commissioner of Patents. The same statement has since appeared in several other journals.
This announcement, we believe, is rather premature, for up to the time this week's issue went to press, Judge Mason had not resigned. He has several times, however, of late, indicated such an intention, owing to the pressure of private business operations; but we still hope that he will not feel compelled to do so. His resignation would be received with profound regret by the public at large, by all inventors, and by all who have been in any way connected with the Patent Office during his administration. It is universally conceded that a more honest, able, energetic, and faithful officer than Mr. Mason never filled the important post of Chief Commissioner. He has but just succeeded in establishing the Office on a systematic and effective working basis -- has just completed the renovations and reforms which the neglect and incompetence of predecessors for years previous had rendered imperative, and now he proposes to abandon his position, and allow the Department to run back again to weeds.
As Chief of the Patent Office he is discharging a public trust of high importance, which few others in the land are so well qualified to fill. We trust he will allow nothing save affairs of the gravest importance to interfere with his existing official relations. The country has a right to expect that he will not leave her in the lurch -- that he will not resign, at any rate, until he makes sure of seeing the station he leaves occupied by an equally competent successor. We will ask for nothing more than this, for we feel satisfied, that under such circumstances, his stay in the office would be considerably prolonged.
Resignation of the U.S. Commissioner of Patents
It is with unfeigned regret that we are obliged to confirm the brief announcement made last week of the resignation of the Hon. Chas. Mason as Commissioner of Patents. He vacated the office on the 5th inst., his chief clerk, Mr. S.T. Shugert, receiving the seals, and taking charge of the department ad interim.
Although there have been at times some differences of opinion between ourselves and the late Commissioner, on subjects connected with the patent laws, still we have ever acknowledged and commended the consummate wisdom, the untiring energy, and the unswerving honesty which have always characterized his administration. When he first took office the Department was in a most deplorable condition. Years of ignorant and imbecile management, occasioned by the appointment of officers wholly unfit for their stations, not only in the executive but in other branches of the establishment, had heaped up a mass of rubbish in the shape of abuses, errors, absurd rules, complaints, unfinished business, and the like, that had nearly crushed out the vitality of our patent system.
Mr. Mason came into power in May 1853. At that time the affairs of the Patent Office were in such a lax and disgraceful state that it took from six months to a year to get a patent through, and as much longer to obtain a hearing on appeal. With an energy wholly unknown to his predecessors, he set about the work of renovation and reform, determined, if it was in the power of man, to restore the Department to respectability and usefulness. Before the year closed he had so far completed his herculean task that inventors were enabled to receive their patents within a less number of weeks, after filing their applications, than they had previously waited months and before the close of his administration, patents were often ordered to issue within six days after the application was placed on file. We need hardly say that under his admirable direction every other branch of the service was brought up to the same standard of promptness and efficiency, and the whole department, re-invigorated and organized, was made to move on with regularity, harmony, and precision. We quite agree with the correspondent of the New York Tribune, when, in speaking of Judge Mason, he says:
"He was undoubtedly the best, the ablest, and the most successful man that ever stood at the head of this highly important department, and probably the most efficient officer the present government had to boast of. An iron adherence to strict impartiality, a clear insight into the principles of mechanics, a keen perception in legal matters, and a noble devotion to the inventive interest of the country, are the great qualities which marked his business career, and which, whoever his successor may be, will hardly be surpassed."
In retiring from a post which he has filled with such marked ability, and with so much benefit to the interests of the country at large, he will carry with him the profound gratitude of all inventors, and of all classes of people who had business to transact at the Office with which he was connected. The services he has rendered are the most noble, and their influence will long be felt.
It has been our pride to think that amid these days of official corruption and mismanagement, there was one branch of the public service in which true honesty and fidelity to principle, reigned supreme. That branch was the Patent Department, administered by Charles Mason. We are not politicians, and we pretend to no keen-eyed prescience, but we believe that the day is not far distance, if his life is spared, when he will stand forth from the lesser ranks, the honored and honest Chief Magistrate of this Republic. He possesses all the qualities for this exalted position, and sooner or later, we doubt not, they will become developed.
Next to the regret which we experience in the resignation of Judge Mason, is a feeling of dissatisfaction that he should have abandoned his post without having first provided or introduced a competent successor. Probably, however, he considered this a delicate matter, about which the least said by him the better. Without having cast about much, we can suggest three names that would perhaps be as acceptable to inventors as any others, under the unfortunate circumstances. We allude to Chief Clerk Shugert, Professor Baldwin, now an Examiner in the Patent Office, and ex-Examiner W.P.N. Fitzgerald, formerly connected with the Department. All of these gentlemen are men of probity, energy, and experience in Patent Office matters, and we doubt not that either of them would give good satisfaction. When Mr. Fitzgerald was connected with the Office he was accused of exhibiting considerable personal animosity, at times, towards those who either did not like his decisions, as Examiner, or whom he did not happen to fancy. Mr. F. is notwithstanding, a man of great talents, and would bring to the Commissionership a ripe experience. The accusations alluded to were no doubt overstrained and magnified.
The present excellent condition of the Patent Office requires that a new Commissioner should be appointed with as little delay as possible, in order that business may not become accumulated and affairs confused. We trust, however, that the President will not exercise so great haste as to make an ill advised appointment. The matter is one of grave importance to the country, while the honor of the present administration will be affected according as the selection is good or bad.
In the meantime Mr. Shugert, the Chief Clerk, is a faithful and an excellent officer, who will discharge the important functions committed to his care with credit and success, until relieved by the Executive or regularly appointed as Commissioner.
If the Patent Laws are to be amended next winter, we trust that among the other changes the Commissioner's salary will be raised. The compensation of $3000 now paid is an insufficient reward for a man of ability, at a post so responsible.
We had the pleasure of an interview with Judge Mason, last week, in this city. He was en route for his home in the far West -- Iowa. His health appeared to be good, notwithstanding his past arduous labors.
A rumor was published in the papers, at the time of his resignation, that he would probably return to his post again next fall, when Congress meets. We wish there was some truth in the rumor, or that there was any ground for so desirable a hope -- but we believe there is not.
Testimonial to the late Commissioner of Patents
Since the announcement of the resignation of the Hon. Charles Mason, Commissioner of Patents, we have received letters from many parts of the country containing expressions of regret at his retirement from office, but coupled with words of eulogium touching his official conduct, and sentiments of esteem towards him as a man. No individual ever occupied the post with such entire satisfaction to inventors and the people at large, or vacated it amid such a general shower of complimentary remonstrances because he would no longer serve.
It has been suggested by one of our correspondents that the inventors of the country, and others, should unite in presenting to Judge Mason some sort of testimonial, in token, not only of their appreciation of the important services he has rendered, but also as an acknowledgement of the debt of gratitude they owe him for those services. This proposal meets our unqualified approbation, and we shall gladly do all that we can to promote its accomplishment. We believe there are hundreds who will take personal pleasure in contributing for so worthy a purpose, and we presume that the mere announcement of the opportunity, will be all that is necessary to ensure a very substantial and gratifying result.
It has appeared to us that no place could be selected more convenient for the deposit of contributions than Washington; and that no person more willing or better qualified to receive the funds, purchase, inscribe, and present the testimonial, could be chosen than S.T. Shugert, Esq., Acting Commissioner of Patents.
We therefore take the liberty, without having had consultation with him, to propose and request that all persons who desire to contribute to the "Mason Testimonial," shall enclose by mail, or otherwise, the amount of their subscriptions, and address the same to "S.T. Shugert, Acting Commissioner of Patents, Washington, D.C." We further propose that the opportunity of subscribing to this fund shall be continued from the present time to the first of October next, and that the treasurer shall then expend the moneys he may have received, in the purchase of a service of plate -- or whatever article may, in his judgment, be deemed more appropriate -- the same to be suitably inscribed, and presented by him, on behalf of the contributors, to the Hon. Charles Mason.
In order to avoid inconvenience as far as possible, we shall request from Mr. Shugert, for publication in our paper, a list of the names of all contributors as fast as received. This publication, we presume, will be a sufficient acknowledgement of the safe receipt of the money, while it will also serve to show the progress and amount of the contribution.
We would remind our readers that it will require but a mere trifle from each of them to make up a handsome amount of money for the proposed object. We therefore hope that none will be backward about contributing because their amounts are small; "every little" will certainly held.
Death of an Inventor
We are sorry to be compelled to chronicle the decease of John Gorrie, M.D., at Apalachicola, Fla., June 29th. Dr. Gorrie was an inventor of considerable note, his last and greatest work being the production of a steam ice making machine. A year or two previous to his decease, Dr. Gorrie had associated himself with a gentleman of fortune in this city, and they jointly undertook the construction of one of the machines on a large scale. Just as the apparatus was completed, Dr. Gorrie's partner died, and the mechanism fell into other hands, and was sold at auction. We saw it not long since at a foundry in this city. It consisted of a series of air pumps ingeniously arranged to condense air and reduce the temperature of the water, by passing it in showers through the condensers during the process of condensation. The motive power was an engine of some 30 horsepower; and the estimated quantity of ice which the machine was capable of producing was two tons per diem. The principles upon which this invention operated were described by us a long time since.
Alarming Encroachment on the Patent Office
An esteemed correspondent, resident in Washington, informs us that the Secretary of the Interior has just issued a command directing the immediate surrender of one entire floor of the new Patent Office building, to the uses of the Indian Department. In less than a week's time, he presumes that an army of scribbling clerks, will occupy the noble halls, which wise statesmen of former days, had set aside and consecrated to the promotion of American genius.
We can regard this action as little better than an official outrage, which, if left to reach a full consummation, will result in evils of a very serious nature. It is, we fear, but the beginning of a sad retrogression in the affairs of the Patent Office, consequent upon the want of a vigorous and determined chief.
When the Hon. Charles Mason occupied the Commissionership, he resisted, successfully, all such attempts to abridge the usefulness of the Patent Office. He saw how the interests of inventors had suffered -- and through them the whole country -- by reason of the crowded and pinched space then allowed. Models had to be heaped up in promiscuous piles, never to be got at when wanted. Drawings and matters for immediate reference were deposited, some in one room and some in another. Every thing was confused and inconvenient, to such a degree, that labors which are now done promptly in an hour's time, were then dragged along for days and weeks, nay even months. Our readers are familiar with the history of his reformatory operations; they know how he gradually rescued the department from its deplorable condition, infused new life apparently into the entire patent system, put an end to those deadly delays in the issue of patents which had so long disheartened inventors, increased the business and revenues, and then, to the regret of all, -- left office.
No sooner is his back turned than the insidious efforts of politicians are put to work, again to undermine and cripple the efficiency of this noble branch of the public service. Unless something is soon done to arrest the new encroachment, inventors may expect, ere long, to be compelled to await the action of government upon their patent cases by the year, instead of by the week, as at present.
The Secretary of the Interior will add nothing to his reputation for sagacity and statesmanship by this uncalled-for thrust into the vitals of the Patent Office. Instead of retarding and reducing the Department, it should be his highest study to promote its convenience and extend the sphere of its usefulness. We are surprised that he should regard the personal comfort of his Indian clerks as superior in importance to the free and unrestrained operation of the United States Patent Office -- that glorious institution through whose instrumentality the long catalogue of splendid inventions and discoveries, which now help to prosper our country and give her a name throughout the world, have been called into existence.