ANNUAL REPORT OF THE COMMISSIONER OF PATENTS FOR 1848
Thirtieth Congress -- Second Session
Ex. Doc. No. 59
House of Representatives
Annual Report of the Commissioner of Patents For the Year 1848
February 28, 1849
Resolved, That 5,000 copies of the annual report of the Commissioner of Patents with the list of patents and claims annexed, and 40,000 copies of the same report without the list of patents and claims, be printed for the use of the House; and that 500 copies of the former and 1,500 copies of the latter be delivered to the Commissioner of Patents, for the use of the Patent Office, and that the entire number of copies hereby ordered be bound.
Wendell and Van Benthuysen, Printers
Report of the Commissioner of Patents
United States Patent Office
Sir: In accordance with the provisions of the act of Congress, entitled "An act in addition to the act to promote the progress of science and the useful arts," approved March 3, 1837, the undersigned has the honor to submit his annual report.
The whole number of applications for patents, received during the year ending December 31, 1848, is sixteen hundred and twenty eight. The number of caveats filed, during the same period, is six hundred and seven.
The whole number of patents issued during the year 1848, is six hundred and sixty, including twenty-three reissues, three additional improvements, and forty-six designs; classified and alphabetical lists of which, with the names of the patentees and their places of residence, are annexed, marked J and K. But one disclaimer was entered during the same period.
Within the same year six hundred and twenty-six patents have expired, a list of which is annexed, marked L.
There were during the same period nine applications to extend patents, the terms of which were about to expire; seven of these were rejected and two granted. Two patents were also extended during the year by acts of Congress.
The claims embraced in the respective patents issued during the year 1848, are also annexed, marked M.
As a much larger proportion of the applications are rejected than are granted, and as many of the rejected applications may be reconsidered and passed, it is not deemed necessary to notice particularly the action of the office with reference to that class of its business.
The receipts of the office during the year 1848, including duties and fees, paid into the treasury on applications for patents, caveats, reissues, disclaimers, additional improvements, extensions, recording assignments and other papers, and for copies, amount in the whole to the sum of $67,576.69; of which sum $11,529.33 has been repaid on applications withdrawn, and for money refunded which was paid in by mistake, as per statement, marked A.
The expenses of the office during the year 1848, are as follows, viz: For salaries, $22,584.90; temporary clerks, $7,956.80; contingent expenses, $9,467.65; compensation of the chief justice of the District of Columbia, sitting on appeals from the Commissioner of Patents, $100; library, $1,414.09; agricultural statistics, $2,608.17; printing digest of patents, $1,700; compensation for extra services to E.G. Smith, under the act of Congress for his relief, approved August 5, 1848, $1,000 [fn.: Allowed Mr. Smith for extra work out of office hours on the agricultural report under Mr. Ellsworth.] amounting in the whole to $46,831.61, as per statement, marked B.
There was also expended during the last year, under the act of March 3, 1837, for the restoration of records and drawings, the sum of $44, as per statement, marked C.
The aggregate of expenditures under the different heads above enumerated, including money refunded on withdrawals and money returned which had been paid in by mistake, is $58,905.84; leaving a balance to be carried to the credit of the patent fund of $8,670.85.
On the first day of January, 1848, the amount of money in the treasury to the credit of the patent fund was $207,797.98. Thus the amount in the treasury to the credit of the patent fund, including the balance paid in during the year 1848, was, on the first day of January, 1849, $216,468.83.
The large balances over expenditures, which have accrued during the last four years, were caused, in part, by the great increase of applications for patents, which accumulated in such a degree as to far exceed the ability of the examining force of the office to dispose of them; thus occasioning a disproportion between the applications and withdrawals, as compared with former years. That cause has been removed by the recent increase in the force of the office, and it may now be expected that until the office is relieved of its accumulated business, the proportion of withdrawals to the receipts of the office will be greater than in former years, and, consequently, the balance which will accrue to the credit of the patent fund will be less.
By the act of Congress, approved May 27, 1848, two principal and two assistant examiners, and two ordinary clerks, were added to the force of the office, and the salaries of the examiners were raised from $1,500 a year to $2,500, and the assistant examiners from $1,250 to $1,500. The clerks authorized by the act before mentioned were allowed salaries of $1,200 each per annum. Thus, the increase of the number of examiners and clerks, and of salaries provided for by the act of May 27, 1848, will occasion an addition to the annual expenditures of the office of $12,900. This amount will be reduced by fees for recording assignments, authorized to be charged by the same act; but the permanent addition to the expenses of the office will not be less than $10,000 per annum.
Notwithstanding this addition to the permanent expenditures of the office, the constant increase of its business and receipts give ample assurance that its revenues will continue to equal, if not exceed, its expenses. But if its revenues should, for a year or two, fall below its expenditures, the patent fund is sufficient to meet such casual deficiency; and thus the policy of Congress, in making the Patent Office a self-sustaining institution, will be successfully maintained.
The two principal and two assistant examiners, provided for by the act of May 27, 1848, were appointed as soon as it was believed that suitable persons had been found for those offices, and they entered immediately upon the discharge of the duties of their desks, and had become sufficiently acquainted with the routine of business to begin to render efficient aid to the office, which was not before the first of August, the number of applications on hand awaiting the action of the office was 998. On the first day of January, 1849, that number was reduced to 539, notwithstanding the difficulties which the examining branch of the force of the office were obliged to encounter, resulting from the inexperience of half their number; thus exhibiting a flattering proof of the progress of business, and promising an early relief from the embarrassments under which the office has long labored in consequence of the great amount of business which had accumulated during the last three years, for want of a force in the scientific desks sufficient to dispose of it. A very few months will probably relieve the office entirely from its present embarrassments.
The rigid examinations now made in the Patent Office, with regard to the originality and patentability of new discoveries and improvements, result in the rejection of a much larger proportion of the applications than formerly, when a less scrutinizing system of examination was pursued. Before I assumed the duties of Commissioner, more than half the applications were patented. During the last four years, not quite half of those which have been examined have been patented, and now the proportion of applications patented to those rejected is about two to three.
Within a few years the inventive genius of the country, under some stimulant or other not readily perceived, has been more than usually active, and has produced corresponding results. Formerly, invention was pursued mainly from an ardent desire to develop the laws of nature, and to adapt them by mechanism and by processes to the use of man. Now, it is not only pursued from a love of science and from motives of a noble ambition, but by some as a profession. Hence invention, instead of accomplishing at the present time, by its essays and experiments, as many striking results in proportion to the number of its products as in certain periods of history, applies itself more to improvements in details. It now aims to improve what already exists in a form more or less imperfect, and to adapt itself to the practical wants of society. In short, it has become more utilitarian than it has been in earlier periods. Such, at least, is the conclusion to which I have arrived from very considerable opportunity to observe the progress of invention in this and other countries, during the time I have discharged the duties of Commissioner of Patents.
Yet it would be very unjust to the inventive genius of the present age to affirm, that every year does not produce great and original inventions, which illustrate the progress of science and add much to the elements of civilization and the improvement of society. But my purpose was more particularly to bring to view the fact that, in consequence of the many improvements in details, much is believed to be discovered which has already been known; and hence a greater proportion of applications for patents, in late years, have been rejected than have been patented.
The reports of the four principal examiners, addressed to the undersigned, and giving a review of the most valuable inventions which have passed their desks during the year, are annexed, marked D, E., F, and G. They are referred to as containing brief but interesting views of the progress of invention and improvement in the mechanic arts in this country during the last year; and, also, as proofs of the intricate and difficult duties which that class of officers are required to perform.
In my three former reports I have taken the occasion respectfully to bring to the attention of Congress the propriety and expediency of amending the present statutes relating to patents, with a view to give more efficient remedies to patentees against the infringements and depredations of "pirates," as those individuals are appropriately denominated who make it a business willfully to invade the rights of the inventor, and appropriate the fruits of his ingenuity and labor to their own use.
The experience of every day, and the prolific crop of litigation which has recently sprung up from the unscrupulous and remorseless invasion of the rights of patentees, by persons who have no claim nor pretension to the name of inventor, nor to the fruits of inventive genius, point with impressive force to the necessity of some reform in the existing laws which shall give greater security to the rights vested in patentees. The facilities of evading punishment or retribution for a willful infringement of the property of patentees is now so great, that the whole term during which a patent runs is not sufficient, if it be for a very valuable invention, to vindicate and establish the just claims of the inventor. This evil could be remedied by a few simple amendments to the existing law of patents.
If a provision were made for the repeal of a patent, and if it were provided that, until it was avoided by process of repeal, the instrument should be received in all actions of infringement as conclusive evidence of the right of the plaintiff to recover, much of the difficulty, expense, and injustice, which now falls upon the patentee, would be avoided. It is, therefore, hoped that Congress will speedily act upon this matter, and thus provide for the protection of a class of men who contribute so much to the convenience, comforts, and luxury of the community, and to the progress of society in science, and civilization.
And surely, the depredator upon the rights of the patentee -- rights which are solemnly and sacredly guaranteed to him by law on the condition that he surrenders to the public the secret of his invention -- is not entitled to the sympathy, nor the protection of the legislator. The willful infringer of the rights of the inventor is as base and corrupt morally, as that class of the community known as common thieves. His offense is committed from the same depraved and wicked motive. He is impelled by the same corrupt intent, or animus furandi, which actuates the perpetuator of a larceny, and should be hunted from society with the same inexorable perseverance.
Justice, therefore, requires that the willful infringer of patents should be punished with the same rigid severity with which the common thief is punished. But the laws enacted by Congress for the protection of the inventor fall very far short of securing to him this measure of justice. Nor is it asked by him nor in his behalf. He will be content if the title deed of property, which he receives from the government on condition of the surrender of his secret to the public shall be respected, and shall be conclusive as to his rights, until it has been duly set aside by the tribunals of his country, in a proceeding against the patent itself. If his invention were not required to undergo a severe and critical examination, in reference particularly to its novelty and originality, at the Patent Office, there would be some propriety in making his patent merely prima facie evidence of title in suits for infringement. But after it has passed such an ordeal, one trial, at least, in a court of justice, had in good faith upon the merits of the invention, should be sufficient to establish its validity, and secure to the patentee an undisturbed enjoyment of his property until the end of the term of his exclusive privilege.
It must be obvious, upon the least reflection, that the best and truest interests of society will be aided and advanced by the adoption of a system of policy with regard to inventors, which will give them adequate security and protection in the enjoyment of their just rights. If they cannot obtain the security and protection to which their genius and labors entitle them, which justice awards to them, and which are promised in the constitution and laws of their country, it requires no sagacity to perceive that discovery in science and improvement in the arts will be greatly checked; for men will not devote their intellects, their toils and their fortunes, to pursuits which promise the injustice, spoliation and poverty, instead of securing for them remuneration, competence, and honors.
It has come to the knowledge of the undersigned, since his last report, that one method of evading the rights of patentees in the United States is the setting up of machines in Canada or other neighboring British provinces, where articles manufactured by such machines are fabricated and thence brought into the United States and sold to the great injury of the American patentee. As the sale of the products of a patented machine has been decided by our courts not to be an infringement of the patent, the patentee has no remedy in the case now under consideration.
The protection, therefore, of our own citizens holding patents under this government would seem to require some legislation for the suppression of these fraudulent practices carried on within the limits of a foreign jurisdiction. A provision authorizing the seizure and forfeiture of all fabrics and manufactures which have been produced in a foreign jurisdiction, by machines protected by patents in the United States, and brought into this country for sale, would probably be an adequate remedy against such a violation of the rights of the American patentee.
In my last annual report, I had the honor to refer the attentions of Congress to the expediency of placing the citizens and subjects of foreign governments, applying for patents in this country, on the same ground with regard to fees which our own citizens occupy. Deeming the matter of much importance to the interests of this country, I feel it to be my duty again to bring that subject to the consideration of that honorable body.
At present, the subject of a foreign government who applies to this office for a patent is required to pay the sum of $500, if a subject of Great Britain, and $300 if the subject or citizen of any other foreign power, before his application can be received; while the American citizen is required to pay only $30. It is true that the fees and duties required in most foreign countries are very much higher than those which our laws demand, but they are imposed on all alike, whether subjects or foreigners.
But, even if it were just to make a discrimination in favor of American citizens, with regard to fees, for patents, I am of the opinion that the policy is injurious to the interests of this country, and therefore not expedient. There are in foreign countries many valuable inventions and improvements which are used in secret, for the very reason that the inventors are not able to pay the enormous duties required by their governments for the security of a patent, or are fearful that they will not be protected if they were patented. And many of those inventions would find their way to this country, if their proprietors could introduce them without being burdened with a heavy tax at the onset, before they could try the experiment of their success.
In my judgment, if the foreigner were placed upon the same equal footing with the citizen, with regard to the fees charged upon his application, it would result in a large addition to our stock of useful and valuable inventions and improvements, and better enable our citizens and mechanics to compete with their rivals of other countries. This consideration alone should outweigh the value of the insignificant revenue amounting each year to a few thousand dollars, which is now derived from foreign applications.
Nor would it at all interfere with the rights or interests of the American inventor. The competition of invention is not that which arises from the production of the same descriptions of fabrics, but it exists in a proud and honorable rivalry of efforts to produce new things which do not interfere with each other, but which are accessions to the stock of invention and art already known and in use. The field of invention is as illimitable as the world of mind and matter, and is now but just beginning to be cultivated. There is, therefore, ample room for all explorers after the valuable treasures, which yet, in rich abundance, lie hidden and undeveloped in its bosom, and which will require the thought and labor of ages to discover and reclaim for the uses of mankind.
I am, therefore, deeply impressed with the belief that the interests of this country would be greatly promoted by encouraging, through the instrumentality of a liberal system of legislation, the inventors and improvers in the arts of other countries, to come here with the productions of their genius and labor, and seek a reward in introducing them into use.
In the patent systems of most countries, encouragement is offered for the introduction of foreign inventions, which have never before been introduced, by granting such persons as may be at the expense and sometimes danger, of procuring a knowledge of them abroad, and importing them into their native country, a description of patents called "patents of importation." These patents secure to the introducer of the foreign invention rights and privileges similar to those which are enjoyed by original inventors.
Our system contains no provision for the granting of patents of importation; yet, in my experience in the office of commissioner, many instances have come to my knowledge where justice and the public interests required such a reward to enterprising persons who had obtained a knowledge of valuable inventions abroad, which had not been introduced and were not known in this country.
Recently an enterprising citizen of this country applied to the undersigned to know if there was a legal mode of protecting him, for a limited time, in the enjoyment of the art of manufacturing Russian sheet iron, the secret of which he alleged he had obtained. As there was no provision of the existing law which applied to his case, he was referred to Congress as the only department of the government which could give him the protection and reward which he claimed. The secret which he alleged he had obtained is a most valuable one, and I believe is known only to the Russian manufacturer of the article. Its introduction into the country would contribute more to our national wealth than hundreds of ordinary inventions made at home, and therefore, in my opinion, the importer was eminently worthy of a reward in the form of a patent, securing to him the exclusive enjoyment of it for a limited term of years.
Legislation reaching such cases would certainly be founded in wisdom and good policy. Ample provision could be made against fraud or imposition where patents are applied for to protect imported inventions. The importer of the new art or manufacture should, as the inventor now is, be required to disclose his secret, and a rigid examination should be made into its novelty in this and other countries, as is now made with original inventions, before a patent of importation is granted. With such provisions and guards the new feature proposed may be safely introduced into our patent system.
The undersigned, having had an opportunity during the past year to attend several of the mechanic's fairs which have been held in various cities of the Union, is gratified in being able to bear testimony in favor of the present flourishing condition of the arts in this country. In some branches of the arts and manufactures, the beauty, ingenuity, and skill of workmanship, displayed by our artisans, cannot be surpassed. They may proudly challenge comparison with the products of the most skillful and ingenious of other nations. And what is particularly gratifying, is the fact that every year exhibits a sensible progress in the various departments of mechanical industry, and promises, at no very distant period, to elevate our country to the front rank of nations in the abundance, variety, and perfection of its products, manufactures, and other works of art.
The report of this office upon the condition and statistics of agriculture, during the year 1848, is annexed, marked I.
On reference to the table of the estimated crops, for the year 1848, it will be seen that they exhibit generally a very sensible increase over those of former years. The careful and scrutinizing observation of every cause which can affect the growing crops in every section of the country, during the year, which is made at this office, enables me to state that the past year has been very favorable to the growth of the great staples, as well as the minor agricultural products of the Union.
The quantity of wheat raised in the United States during the last year will, according to the estimates of this office, not be less than 126,000,000 bushels. The quantity of corn produced is estimated by be about 588,000,000 bushels; oats, 185,000,000 bushels; potatoes, 114,000,000 bushels; rye, 33,000,000 bushels; buckwheat, 12,500,000 bushels; barley, 6,222,000 bushels, hay, 15,735,000 tons; hemp, 20,330 tons, cotton, 1,066,000,000 pounds; tobacco, 219,000,000 pounds; rice 119,000,000 pounds; and sugar, (in Louisiana,) 200,000,000 pounds.
Thus it will be seen that the agricultural productions of the Union, during the last year, are ample for the consumption of the country; and of many varieties of grain and provisions, large surpluses will be left for exportations to other countries.
There is, probably, no country in the world whose agricultural industry exhibits a more rapid and steady progress than that of the United States. Its population is rapidly augmenting by natural increase and immigration, and every year large quantities of new land are reclaimed from the wilderness and subjected to cultivation. The number of cultivators and the breadth of soil are fast increasing with each succeeding year; and as Providence yet spares our favored country from the visitations of dearth and famine, which have afflicted less favored countries, the amount of agricultural products must necessarily increase in equal proportion.
Every year adds, also, to the skill of our agriculturists, and to improvements in agricultural implements; and thus, too, is the amount of production annually augmented.
The minute and searching inquiries which this office causes to be made in relation to the condition and interests of agriculture in every neighborhood in the Union, enable the undersigned to speak positively of the increasing activity and energy of our enterprising and intelligent farmers, and their constant advancement in the knowledge and practice of their transcendent art -- transcendent in importance when viewed as the great minister, prolific and efficient in means, to the absolute wants and necessities of man, and the indispensable foundation of all civilized communities and nations.
The world has, within comparatively few years, learned that agriculture offers and almost illimitable field for the operations of the scientific as well as practical experimenter. Its full development seems to require the application of all the physical sciences in some form or other -- in the analysis of soils; in the nature, structure and habits of plants; in the food of plants and the adaptation of soils and manures to their sustenance and growth; in the improvement of the races and kinds of animals; in the invention and improvement of useful implements and machines; and finally, in political economy, which points the agriculturist to the contemplation of his interests as they may be affected by the institutions and the legislation of governments. Viewed in this light agriculture may truly be regarded as the most important, dignified, elevated and honorable pursuits in which many can engage. The intellectual qualifications which the cultivation of the science of agriculture requires are therefore not second in degree to those which are necessary for the pursuit of any other science. Hence the importance of study, experiment, and close observation on the part of the agriculturist. All who may be engaged in that elevating and ennobling pursuit, may not have the time nor the opportunity to become thoroughly versed in the philosophy which lies at its foundation, but, in a life devoted to its practice, the humblest will have the time and the opportunity to acquire much interesting and valuable knowledge.
At the last session of Congress an appropriation of $1,000 was made for the institution of a system of analyses of the different grains produced in this country, and of flour manufactured here and exported abroad. The two most important problems which it was deemed desirable to have solved in reference to this matter were, the effect of soil and climate upon the different varieties of grain produced in this country, and the effect of a sea voyage and storage upon the flour and meal manufactured from grain produced here and sent abroad.
For this important work I engaged the services of Professor Beck, of New Brunswick, New Jersey, an experienced analytical chemist, who has been occupied during the last season in the execution of the investigation confided to his charge, and who has submitted to me a most interesting and valuable report, which will be found in the appendix to the agricultural report, marked No. 1.
As there was but little time after the investigation was authorized before it became necessary to commence the work, I had not the opportunity to procure as many samples of grain and flour for experiment as I desired. Yet, a large number of analyses have been made, and the results are embodied in the report of Professor Beck. I am now receiving samples of wheat, corn and flour, from the ports of the most distant countries to which they have been exported; and if Congress shall continue the appropriation necessary for the investigation, more numerous results may be anticipated for the next report from this office.
The investigation in which Professor Beck is now engaged, under my direction, produces not only results of much scientific value, but they will furnish very valuable information to the manufacturers and exporters of flour and grain. It is hoped, therefore, that provision will be made by Congress for its continuance.
Deeming it of importance that a correct historical, statistical and practical view of the great staples of the southern portion of the Union, which form so large a portion of the exports of this country, should be given to the world in an authentic form, I have devised the plan of instituting close and searching investigations in to the history, progress and culture, and present condition of the great staples of sugar, cotton, tobacco and rice, which, if circumstances will permit, I shall pursue from year to year until my purpose shall have been attained.
As a commencement of this system of investigation, I employed an intelligent and able gentleman, Charles L. Fleishman, esquire, to visit Louisiana during the last season, to make inquiry into the condition and progress of the sugar culture in that State. He has accomplished in part the object for which he was sent, and has presented to me a most valuable report, which will be found in the appendix of the agricultural report, marked No. 2.
As the time which was allotted to him for the execution of the investigation committed to his charge was not sufficient to enable him to complete his inquiries, it will be necessary for him to resume his labors during the approaching season. His report, although necessarily incomplete, it is believed contains much valuable information, which will be interesting to the public at large, and particularly to the intelligent and enterprising citizens who are engaged in the sugar culture in this country.
The circulars sent out from this office, soliciting information upon the subject of agriculture, were very full and minute in the inquiries which they embodied, and the replies to them, many of them equally minute, contain a large amount of valuable and interesting information, which will be found embodied in the agricultural report and appendix. This office is under great obligation to the intelligent gentlemen who have so promptly and fully responded to its inquiries. And particularly is it indebted to J.D.B. De Bow, esq, of New Orleans; Charles Cist, esq., of Cincinnati; B.P. Johnson, esq., of Albany, N.Y.; B. Bateman, esq., of Columbus, Ohio; J. Delafield, esq., of Seneca county, N.Y.; Minchall Painter, esq., of Pennsylvania, and N.J. Wyeth, esq., of Cambridge, Massachusetts, for interesting and valuable communications.
Heretofore collections of such seeds for the field and garden as were deemed most valuable have been obtained for distribution from this office. During the last year near 70,000 packages were distributed. This year nearly as many have been obtained, and will be distributed to the members of Congress before the adjournment of the present session. Most of them have been obtained from seeds presented to this office by Mr. Vattemare, the enlightened founder of the system of national interchange, and by F. Hagedora, esq., the Bavarian counsel at Philadelphia, which were presented by their respective governments, through their agency, to this office. The seeds thus obtained were placed in the hands of an intelligent gardener for cultivation, and those which succeeded best in our soil and climate, and appear to be of superior varieties have been preserved for distribution. Native seeds have also been obtained, and will be distributed.
This office is also indebted to Lieutenant Lynch, the commander of the expedition to the Dead sea, for many interesting varieties of seeds which have been kindly placed at the disposal of this office by the Secretary of the Navy, which will form a part of the seeds distributed during the present year.
Much complaint has been made by inventors, on account of the appropriation of a small portion of the patent fund each year for the agricultural report. And I have heretofore sympathized in such complaints. Mature reflection, however, has convinced me that no injustice is done to the interests of inventors by such an application of the patent fund; but on the contrary, the interests of the Patent Office and of inventors themselves have been subserved by it. The agricultural report of the office, by its wide dissemination throughout the country, has contributed much to increase the reputation and influence of the Patent Office, and to spread more widely among the people a knowledge of the new inventions and improvements which have been made during the year. And thus it promotes the interests of inventors, by contributing to the more rapid introduction and sale of their machines and improvements. Therefore, in the opinion of the undersigned, there is hardly any object to which the small appropriation made for the agricultural respect could be applied, which would benefit inventors more than the preparation and publication of that document.
In the pursuit of its statistical investigations, this office has keenly felt the want of means for obtaining accurate and reliable information concerning the great industrial interests of the country. No provision has been made by the general government for obtaining such information, except in relation to the foreign commerce of the country. And, but very few of the States have adopted measures for obtaining such information, except in relation to the foreign commerce of the country. And, but very few of the States have adopted measures for obtaining authentic information in relation to their industrial interests. Massachusetts and Louisiana are in advance of most other States in their legislation upon these subjects. In the former State, very full returns are obtained in short periods of a few years, if not annually, of her industry and resources; and in the latter, a bureau of statistics has been established, at the head of which has been placed one of her most intelligent and talented citizens.
A most interesting view of the vast resources of this great republic would be annually exhibited, if all the States would follow the example of Louisiana and Massachusetts. The statesman and legislator, to whom the people commit the destinies of their common country, would then have at their hands ample material to aid them in the intelligent discharge of their momentous and responsible duties, without which, they are like blind men feeling their way in the dark.
The next census, if the plan for taking it shall be well systematized and digested, will supply much valuable statistical information in relation to the population, industrial interests, wealth and resources of the republic.
The patent system of the United States having existed in some form or other for nearly sixty years, and having now become a very important and interesting institution, I came to the conclusion that a very brief statistical notice of the legislation affecting it, its financial operations, and the progress of inventions as exhibited by its records, was very much needed, and would be appropriate as a part of the annual report of this office. I have accordingly prepared such a statement, which is annexed, marked H. The table exhibiting the history and progress of the inventive genius of the United States contains, in a brief space, many valuable, interesting and striking facts, which cannot fail to arrest the attention of the intelligent observer.
The increasing business of the Patent Office has added so much to the duties imposed upon the Chief Justice of the District, who was in the act of March 3, 1837, constituted a court of appeals from the decisions of the Commissioner of Patents, that the present compensation which he receives for that service is wholly inadequate to the labor which he is required to perform. He now receives $100 per annum as the judge of appeals from the Patent Office. Within the knowledge of the undersigned there has been a single case before the chief justice involving an amount of labor and time, which, if devoted to any other pursuit requiring the same talents and attainments for its execution, would have commanded treble the sum he receives for his services in that capacity for the whole year. It would be just, therefore, that the present compensation of the chief justice should be increased to an amount which would be adequate to the duties and labors which the law imposes upon him.
The liberal provisions made by Congress each year for the library of the Patent Office have secured extensive and valuable additions to its size and usefulness. When I first assumed the duties of Commissioner, it contained from 2,500 to 3,000 volumes. It now contains from 5,000 to 6,000 volumes, which are mainly scientific in their character. A small portion of them relate to agriculture, statistics and political economy, and are very necessary to facilitate the investigations with which the office is charged concerning the great industrial interests of the country.
The vast number of books and periodical publications of a scientific character now in existence renders it extremely desirable that a general index, containing sufficient reference to the various volumes to enable the scientific investigator to understand the nature of their contents, should be prepared for the use of the public. Such a compilation is desirable in reference to all works of science, and it would be particularly useful and labor-saving to the Patent Office. I have, therefore, deemed it proper to recommend that a small sum be appropriated each year from the Patent Fund for the preparation and continuation of such a digest of the books and publications now in the library of the office, and of such as may be hereafter added to it. The work should, of course, be confided to competent hands, and, when completed, it should be printed for more convenient use. If it would be deemed proper to put the work on sale for the benefit of the Patent Office, it would unquestionably enable the office to realize much more from its disposal in that way than its compilation and publication would cost.
As Professor Henry, the distinguished secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, contemplates such a compilation for the library of that institution, the two works might be blended, and a most valuable index to the vast treasures of science would thus be given to the world.
The business, operations, and finances of the Patent Office, have expanded rapidly within the last four years. This fact will become more strikingly visible by a contrast of the progress for the four years next preceding. The following statement will exhibit this contrast, viz:
First period of four years
Year No. of No. of No. of Amount Balance carried to
applica- caveats patents received patent fund after
tions issued for duties deducting expenses
and fees (exclusive of
money paid for
1841 847 312 495 $40,413.01 $8,253.84
1842 761 291 545 36,505,63 5,292.20
1843 819 315 531 35,315.81 4,588.85
1844 1,045 380 502 42,509.26 6,164.79
Total 3,472 1,298 2,073 154,743.71 24,299.68
Second period of four years
Year No. of No. of No. of Amount Balance carried to
applica- caveats patents received the patent fund
tions issued for duties after paying all
and fees expenses of the
1845 1,246 380 511 $51,076.12 $11,680.49
1846 1,272 448 619 50,264.16 4,105.45
1847 1,531 533 572 63,111.19 21,232.84
1848 1,628 607 660 67,576.69 8,670.85
Total 5,677 1,968 2,362 232,028.16 45,689.63
3,472 1,298 2,073 154,743.71 24,299.68
Excess 2,205 670 289 77,284.45 21,389.95
It will be thus seen that the number of applications for patents, received during the last four years, exceeds the number received during the next preceding four years by 2,205; the number of caveats by 670; the number of patents granted, by 289, the amount of receipts from all sources, by $77,284.45; the balance paid into the treasury to the credit of the patent fund, by $21,389.95.
It should be remarked, in reference to these results, that, during the first period of four years, more than half the applications for patents were granted; whereas, during the last four years, as has been before remarked, not much, if any, more than three-fifths of them have been granted.
It is also necessary to observe that, during the first four years, there was expended for the restoration of models, etc., the sum of $41,977.31. If this disbursement had been charged to the account of the expenditures of the office, there would, instead of being an excess of receipts over expenditures of $24,299.68, have been a deficiency of $17,677.63. The patent fund, therefore, instead of being actually increased, was diminished in the amount last mentioned during the first period of four years.
During the second period of four years the sum of $5,257.54 was paid out for the restoration of models, etc. This sum has been reckoned in the account of expenditures for that period, and only the actual balance stated, which was carried to the credit of the patent fund. Consequently the patent fund has been increased, during that period, in the sum of $45,689.63. On the first day of January, 1845, the patent fund amounted to the sum of $170,779.20. On the first day of January, 1849, it amounted to the sum of $216,468.83.
This contrast of the business, operations, and finances of the office during the two periods above stated, is not made with a view to institute an invidious comparison between the administration of my immediate predecessor and myself -- on the contrary, the affairs of the office were administered with great ability, prudence, and economy, by the late commissioner -- but it is made with a view to show the progress of the institution during the last four years; which is also interesting as an indication of the progress of the country in population and wealth, and the cultivation and improvement of science and the useful arts.
The exhibit which I have made in this and previous portions of my report of the affairs and business of the Patent Office, shows that it will soon be necessary not only to enlarge the Patent Office building, but to increase its clerical force. And, as it required three years of persevering effort on my part, sustained by the auxiliary aid of loud complaints on the part of applicants for patents, growing out of the delay occasioned by the great accumulation of business which could not be done, to obtain the late addition which has been made to the clerical force of the office, I have deemed it my duty now to apprise Congress that but a very few years will elapse before another addition to the force will be necessary. As the office sustains itself from its own revenues, it seems reasonable that it should be allowed a force sufficient for the prompt and efficient execution of its duties.
The law requires the Commissioner of Patents to report to Congress the operations of the Patent Office from January to January, and not from July to July, as in other branches of the government; consequently, the reports of the office cannot be commenced until after the calender year expires. The commissioner, therefore, is allowed comparatively but a very brief period for the preparation of his report, particularly in short sessions of Congress. Thus hastily prepared, it must necessarily be imperfect. And, in the desire of the undersigned to make his report at as early a day as possible, during the present session he has been necessarily compelled to defer the preparation of several tables required to illustrate the subjects treated of in the report, until they will be needed by the printer. This explanation was deemed necessary to account for their absence.
All of which is respectfully submitted.
Commissioner of Patents
To the Hon. Robert C. Winthrop,
Speaker of the House of Representatives
Statement of receipts for patents, caveats, disclaimers,
additional improvements, recording assignments, etc., and for
certified copies, in 1848, viz:
Amount received for patents, caveats,
reissues, disclaimers, and additional
Amount received for recording
assignments, and for copies 3,444.19
Deduct for money refunded on withdrawal,
and for money paid in by mistake 12,030.23
Statement of expenditures made from the patent fund
by the Commissioner of Patents, from January 1, 1848,
to December 31, 1848, inclusive, under the act of
March 3, 1837, and subsequent acts of Congress making
provisions for the expenses of the Patent Office, viz:
For salaries $22,584.90
For temporary clerks 7,956.80
For contingent expenses 9,467.65
For compensation to district judge 100.00
For the library 1,414.09
For agricultural statistics 2,608.17
For printing digest of patents 1,700.00
For compensation for services of E.G.
Smith, as provided by act of Congress,
approved August 5, 1848 1,000.00
Statement of the expenditures on the restoration of the Patent
Office under the act of March 3, 1837, viz:
For restoring the records and drawings $44.00
Amount of receipts from all sources $67,576.69
Amount paid on withdrawals etc., as per
statement A $12,030.23
Amount paid for salaries, as per
statement B 46,831.61
Amount paid for restoration of records
etc., as per statement C 44.00
Leaving a net balance, to the credit of the patent
fund, of 8,670.85
Balance in the treasury, to the credit of the
patent fund, January 1, 1848 207,797.98
Balance in the treasury, to the credit of the
patent fund, January 1, 1849 216,468.83
A Synopsis of The Statistical History of the Patent Office
1. Abstract of legislation in relation to patents and the Patent Office from 1790 to 1849.
2. Table exhibiting the financial history of the Patent Office from 1790 to 1849.
3. Table exhibiting the progress of invention in the United States from 1790 to 1849.
Abstract of legislation by Congress in relation to patents and the Patent Office from the commencement of the government to the present time.
The granting of letters patent by the federal government was contemplated from its foundation. The framers of the constitution, convinced of the necessity and justice of protecting the rights of men of genius in the fruits of intellectual labor, introduced into the first article of that instrument a clause granting power to Congress, "to promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times, to authors and inventors, the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries." This clause is the foundation of the copyright laws, and of the present patent system.
The power thus granted was first exercised in Congress in 1790, the third year after the signing of the Constitution.
By the law of April 10, 1790, the Secretary of State, the Secretary of War, and the Attorney General, were constituted a board, any two of whom could grant letters patent to "any person or persons" who had "invented or discovered any useful arts," etc., or "any improvement therein not before known or used." No restriction was made as to the qualifications of persons to whom patents could be granted; citizens, aliens, and foreigners were placed, in this respect, upon equal terms.
The conformity of the patent to law was to be certified by the Attorney General, and the instrument was to "bear test" by the President of the United States. The record was to be kept in the office of the Secretary of State, and the model and drawing to be deposited there.
The fees required were small; no oath was necessary, and no examination, in the present meaning of that term, as applied to patents, was had.
The law was repealed by the act of February 21, 1793.
The act of February 21, 1793, was more stringent in its requirements than that of 1790. It restricted the granting of patents to citizens of the United States. The Secretary of WAr was no longer required to act upon applications, that duty being assigned exclusively to the Secretary of State. The patent, as before, was to be certified, as to its conformity to law, by the Attorney General, and to "bear test" by the President. The applicant was required to "swear or affirm" that he believed himself to be "the true inventor or discoverer," and to file his specification, drawing, etc., in the office of the Secretary of State. The right of assignment was given to inventors, a forfeiture imposed for using patented inventions without leave, and the sum of thirty dollars made the uniform fee in all cases.
An act supplementary to this act was approved June 7, 1794, providing for the revival of suits under the law of 1790, "which may have been set aside, suspended, or abated by reason of the repeal of the said act."
The law of April 17, 1800, extended the privilege of obtaining patents to aliens "who, at the time of petitioning, shall have resided for two years within the United States," provided such petitioner made oath that the invention had not "been known or used in this or any foreign country." The privilege was also granted by this law to the legal representatives of a deceased inventor.
The act of February 1819, gave to the circuit courts of the United States original cognizance in equity, and at law, in controversies respecting the right to inventions and writings, and provided an appeal to the Supreme Court of the United States "in the same manner and under the same circumstances as is now (then) provided by law in other judgments and decrees of such circuit courts."
By the act of July 3, 1832, provision is made for the renewal, extension, and re-issuing of patents, and the forms of proceeding in these cases prescribed. And in case of the death of the inventor or any assignment made by him of the same patent, the right, in these cases, was vested in his executors, and administrators or assigns.
The privilege of obtaining patents which had been given to aliens by the law of 1790, denied to them by the law of 1793, and restored to them by that of 1800, was still further extended by the act of July 13, 1832. Residence in the United States at the time of making application, and a declaration of intention to become a citizen, were the only conditions required to place an alien on a level with citizens of the country. But the patent was to be void unless the invention were introduced into general use in one year from its date, and if the patentee failed to fulfill his declared intention of becoming a citizen of the United States.
Hitherto the duty of granting letters patent had been assigned to the Secretary of State, either alone or in conjunction with the Secretary of War; and the incidental business connected with them confided to a subordinate clerkship in the State Department. In 1821, the clerk having charge of it received, by courtesy, the title of Superintendent of the Patent Office, and his salary was fixed at fifteen hundred dollars; but the office, by that title, was first recognized by law, and made the object of a special appropriation, in April, 1830. The amount of business connected with patents had vastly increased, and soon demanded more liberal provision for its transaction. By the law of July 4, 1836, the Patent Office was erected into a separate bureau, and the appointment of a Commissioner of Patents provided for. The office, as organized by this law, consisted, in addition to the commissioner, of a chief clerk, an examiner, three subordinate clerks, (one of whom must be a competent draughtsman,) and a messenger. These officers were required to be sworn, and the commissioner and chief clerk to give bond. A special seal was provided. The patents issued were required to be under the seal of the office, signed by the Secretary of State, and countersigned by the Commissioner of Patents. The details of organization as prescribed by the law are substantially those under which the office is at present conducted.
Perhaps the most important feature of this law is that which relates to the examination to which applications are required to be subjected. Prior to its passage the examinations consisted merely in a comparison of the specification, drawings and model, to ascertain that they agreed together and with the claim made; but the law of 1836 required the examination to enter into the questions of novelty, utility, and priority of invention -- a provision which largely added to the labors and responsibility of the office. To facilitate the discharge of these duties, a library was provided for.
Since the enactment of the law of July 4, 1836, other acts have been passed regulating the details of the organization and business of the Patent Office. An additional examiner, and the employment of temporary clerks, were provided for by the act of March 3, 1837, which also required the commissioner to report annually to Congress. The appointment of two assistant examiners, and the collection of agricultural statistics, were authorized by the law of March 3, 1839. The right to patent designs was granted by the act of August 29, 1842. These laws also define the rights of patentees, prescribe the necessary forms of proceeding in procuring a patent, provide for the adjudication of conflicting claims, and impose penalties for infringements of patent rights.
Notwithstanding the additions thus frequently made to the force of the office, it found itself unable to transact its rapidly increasing business, and obliged to apply to Congress for additional aid. This was granted by the law passed at the last session of Congress, which made provision for two additional examiners, two assistant examiners, and two engrossing clerks.
The officers of the Patent Office, as now constituted, are as follows:
4 assistant examiners
5 salaried clerks
4 temporary clerks
The following persons have been at the head of the Patent Office, from 1821, when the office of superintendent was created, to the present time:
William Thornton, superintendent, July 1, 1821
Thomas P. Jones, do. April 12, 1828
John D. Craig, do.
J.C. Picket [sic], do January 31, 1835
Henry L. Ellsworth, commissioner, July 4, 1836
Edmund Burke, do May 5, 1845
[These dates are partially inaccurate. KWD]
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