A Brief History of Patents
The U.S. patent laws have their roots in one of our most precious and revered documents ever written – our United States Constitution.
United States Congress enacted the U.S. patent laws under its Constitutional grant of authority to protect the discoveries of inventors.
At the Constitutional Convention of 1787, a federal intellectual property power was proposed by Charles Pinkney and James Madison, and adopted as the Article I, section 8, clause 8 of the United States Constitution, which states:
“The Congress shall have the power 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…”
President George Washington signed the first Patent Act of the United States into law on April 10, 1790. However, the existence of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), which is the agency that grants U.S. patents, only dates from 1802.
The very first U.S. patent was issued on July 31, 1790 to Samual Hopkins of Philadelphia. The patent was signed by President George Washington, Attorney General Edmund Randolph, and Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson.
However, it was not until 1836 when the Patent Office thought of numbering the patents starting from number “1.” Therefore, the U.S. patent 1 was issued on July 13, 1836 to Mr. J. Ruggles, after 46 years!
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