Scientific American, v 17 (ns) no 2, p 32, 13 July 1867
State of the Patent Office
Now that Congress has assembled we hope that early attention will be given to the condition of the Patent Office, which sadly needs reconstruction.
The work of examining inventions, in many of the most important classes, is half a year, more or less, in arrears. The Commissioner has long had authority to increase the force and bring up the work; but there he sits in his official chair, month after month, day after day, overwhelmed at the complaints, but provides no remedy. If the promises he makes to provide a remedy, but fails to keep, could be represented by broken crockery, and he surrounded with it, the height of the pile would totally conceal him from view.
A large share of our time as patent solicitors is consumed in writing excuses for grievances occasioned by the incompetence and mismanagement of the Commissioner. In the name of thousands of suffering inventors we appeal to Congress for a speedy correction of the Patent Office abuses. Let a committee of investigation be appointed, witnesses sworn, and all its mismanagement exposed.
Delay at the Patent Office
Messrs. Editors -- Your appeals to the Commissioner of Patents to devise means so as to work up the accumulated business of the office, are well timed and just. As inventors pay the expense of the concern, it is but just to them that promptness and dispatch should characterize the business transactions of the Patent Office. I have had a claim pending five months. How much longer I must wait remains to be seen. In a former patent I was twelve months in getting through to a finality. In reflecting over the delay I concluded that the efficiency of the attorney employed has much to do with the case. Having several more inventions for which I design to make application for patents I have concluded, when I am ready, to try the editors of the Scientific American. ....
John W. Sheaffer
[The inventors will be moved to hold an indignation meeting if a reform is not brought about pretty soon. The Patent Office was not established to yield a revenue to the government, and now when there is a surplus of money, it is a shame that it should be crippled in its efficiency. .... Eds.
The Patent Office Delays
For the last year and a half we have earnestly labored with the Commissioner of Patents to induce him to bring up the work of the Patent Office and put an end to the outrageous delays in the examination of the applications, which are so oppressive upon our inventors. But our labors have so far been in vain. The Commissioner has been profuse in promises, but almost the only thing he has really done to increase the force of the office is to fill one of the vacant examinerships by the appointment thereto of a mere politician, who has no knowledge or appreciation of the duties of the position. This appointee received and holds the office as a sinecure, and when we last heard from him, had not made a dozen examinations, although he had then been in office some three months. This is a fair sampling of the manner in which the present Commissioner is helping the affairs of the Patent Office.
We need not say that, when applications are so rapidly on the increase, and when so many thousands of poor inventors are waiting their turn for examination, it behooves the chief of the establishment to see to it that none but rapid and competent persons are appointed to the important positions of examiners. The obvious teaching of common sense would be to select from the corps of assistant examiners those who are most competent, most experienced, and quickest, and promptly advance them to the grade of full examiners. If the vacant posts cannot be filled within the Patent Office, then search outside for the right sort of individuals, and enjoin upon them the importance of expediting the work in every possible way. But it is too much to expect that an official who has no faculty for management, will adopt any such plain and simple method of relief.
In the meantime, is there nothing that inventors and solicitors can do by concert of action, to bring about a change at the Patent Office, and secure the prompt examination and decision of applications? We think there is. Let every applicant for a patent and every solicitor who is suffering from delay, sit down and write letters of urgent complaint, one addressed to the President of the United States, another to the Secretary of the Interior, and a third to the member of Congress from the writer's district. Let the writer state the length of time that his application has been pending, and give some idea of the importance to him and his associates of a speedy examination by the Patent Office, and ask that something be immediately done for his relief. If each inventor and solicitor will take the trouble to write as we suggest, there will be poured into the ears of the President, Secretary, and Congress an overwhelming stream of complaints which will impress upon them the importance and necessity of vigorous action.
All letter for the above officers will go through the post free of charge.
Inventors and solicitors, sit down and write!
Recent Promotions at the Patent Office
For many months, the Commissioner of Patents has been promising, promising, to use the authority vested in him by law, to augment the working force of the Patent Office, and thus relieve applicants for patents from the grievous delays to which they have so long been subjected. We are happy to record the fact that the Commissioner has at last taken one little step in the right direction, and now, if he will only go ahead in the same line, it may yet be possible for an inventor to obtain a patent before he grows gray.
The following is the list of promotions: -- Assistant examiners Schoepf, Thatcher, Stewart, Deane, Peters and Gregory, have been promoted to be Primary Examiners.
Second assistant examiners Thayer, Coombs, Nolen, Hayes, Mygott, Tasker, Curle, Bovee, Spear, Mitchell, and Grinnel, have been appointed first assistant examiners.
Nearly all of these gentlemen have had experience in the duties of the office to which they are now promoted, and their appointment in preference to new men will undoubtedly be of great advantage to the Patent Office.
But their promotions have added nothing to the working forces, though they may perhaps pave the way for such addition. Now, Mr. Commissioner, fill up the ranks will active men, bring up the work at once, and don't wait to be urged and complain about from one end of the country to the other.
Large Issue of Patents
The patents issued for the week ending May 30, numbers exclusive of designs and reissues, one hundred and ninety. Of these, seventy-five were secured through the home office of the Scientific American Patent Agency, exclusive of quite a number obtained through our Washington office. Who can say that genius is dormant, if business is generally dull?
Improved Condition of the Patent Office
We observe a marked improvement in the condition of the Patent Office. The Commissioner has increased the examining force very materially, both by new appointments and by promoting Assistants to be primal Examiners. Many of the classes most in arrears have been divided, additional space has been attained, and every department of the Office indicates progress and improvement. The machinery is not yet so perfect in its running as we expect to see it, but the motive power and room are supplied, and when the men occupying their new positions get better accustomed to their duties we bespeak for the Office an administration of its details worthy its patronage.
The Commissioner has latterly exhibited a commendable degree of enterprise in reorganizing the Office, obtaining additional room and appointing new Examiners, and we are assured that it will not be long before the back work of the Office will be brought up. As an evidence of the activity of the examining force of the Office, we would refer to the long list of patents reported weekly in these columns.
The Patent Office
With the additional force of newly appointed examiners, and the extra hours of duty performed by all the examiners, the accumulated work of the Patent Office has been nearly brought up. There are now but few classes that are more than a few weeks behind in examination, while most of the rooms are entirely cleared of back cases.
As an indication of the enterprise of the Patent Office, see the long list of patents reported in these columns every week. We received from Washington by a single mail last week official circulars of the allowance of fifty-one patents, all solicited through this office.
The rapid increase during late years in the number of patents annually granted for new inventions, is something astonishing. Statistics in an old Patent Office Report at hand show that, during the first fifty years after the establishment of the Office, the number of patents issued for that entire period fell far below every annual issue for some years past, and a comparison of the list of claims published in the earlier numbers of the Scientific American, with the lengthy record which, week after week, now appear in our columns, is proof conclusive of the growth of business in this department.
The report of Secretary Browning for the year ending October 1st shows that 2,500 more applications were made this year than last, and over 5,000 more than on any previous year. The whole number of applications was 16,547. Of these, 12,879 were allowed, and 11,655 have been issued -- an increase of about 3,000 over last year's issue. During the same time, 3,486 caveats were filed, 96 applications for extensions were received, and 82 extensions were granted.
The Patent Office receipts for the year were $611,910.61, the expenditures $553,599.98, leaving a balance of 53,310.63, which, added to the balance on hand, makes the amount now in the treasury to the credit of the Patent Fund, $286,607.89.
A Change at the Patent Office
T.C. Theaker has resigned as Commissioner of Patents. A number of gentlemen are mentioned as candidates for the succession, prominent among whom are B.T. James and Charles Mason. Mr. James has acted in the capacity of primary Examiner in the Engineering Class for a number of years, and has filled his position acceptably. Judge Mason held the Commissionership from 1853 to 1857, and his whole administration was marked with reform and ability. Judge Mason was educated at West Point, and he is a man of sterling integrity, a sound jurist, experienced in patent law, and a splendid executive officer. One thing may be relied upon, if Judge Mason should receive and accept the appointment of Commissioner, inventors will not have to complain long of delay in the examination of their cases. The Judge is as industrious by nature as he is stern and systematic by education, and he will have no drones about him. The work of the office under his administration would be brought up and kept up.
A good day for inventors and all persons having business with the Patent Office will dawn when Judge Mason takes the Commissioner's chair again, and we hope the proper influences may be brought to bear to secure his acceptance.