Scientific American, v 9 (os), no 15, p 117, 24 December 1853
The New Rule of the Patent Office
We have already invited the attention of the Commissioner of Patents to the new regulations of the Office, which require that claims for improvements on separate and distinct parts of a well known machine, shall only be made under separate and distinct applications for patents. This is very nearly equivalent to a regulation forbidding two claims to be made in any application for a patent, for not more than one in a thousand of the applications made are for new machines, but for improvements upon parts of those old and well known.
The inventor then, who, after years of patient toil, and too often bitter privation, has finally succeeded in perfecting his invention, which embraces perhaps three or four, and often many points of novelty, all entering into the one harmonious whole; and after having expended his time and money for years, finds himself, at last, by this stern rule of the Patent Office, reduced to the necessity of abandoning all his claims but one, as it is often to him a moral impossibility to raise a sufficient amount of money to procure separate patents upon each of them.
But we do not assent to the legality of this proceeding. The present Patent Laws have been in existence nearly eighteen years, yet never until within a few weeks has any such rule been laid down by those administering them. Patents embracing various claims have been repeatedly before our courts, and it seems to us that if this be contrary to the act, as is held by the originators of this rule, some shrewd lawyer who was taxing his wits to the utmost to destroy their validity, would have discovered the discrepancy. But we have positive legal testimony to the contrary. Precedent is the great basis of law, and any interpretation of a statute which has been recognized as valid by our highest courts in hundreds of cases, through a period of more than seventeen years, ought by this time to be considered as the acknowledged interpretation of the law.
But let us consider the enactment in question: -- The Act approved July 4, 1836, sect. 6, provides "That any person or persons having discovered or invented any new and useful art, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement on any art, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter ..... may make application to the Commissioner ..... and in case of any machine ..... shall particularly specify and point out the part, improvement, or combination, which he claims as his own invention."
Now we would be glad to know how any construction can be put upon this language which will discriminate between a new invention and an improvement upon an invention. They are both, by the language of the statute, entitled to precisely the same privileges, and any discrimination in favor of the one is a violation of the statute, and a gross injustice to the other.
We have in our mind, at the present moment, an individual who has invented a brick machine, embracing, we think, six features of patentable novelty. Now this invention does not consist, strictly speaking, of improvements upon any one machine. The inventor has doubtless seen many machines having in view the same objects as his -- he has employed his ingenuity to invent a new machine which shall be in his judgment better than any of the old; he has succeeded and has produced not a new machine, for brick machines resembling his in many particulars, have been long used -- but an improvement upon brick machines.
Now we ask if an improvement of this character may not be what is meant by the Act, and may not consist of separate parts forming the basis for separate claims, as well as an original machine. Does the section of the Act in question discriminate in any manner between them?
But the great point is, will the interests of inventors and the public be better subserved by this new regulation? If so, we are ready to yield the point, but we think not. Three parties, perhaps, should be included in the consideration -- the Inventor, the Patent Office, and the public. The first party, for whose benefit and encouragement the Act in question was passed, no one, we think, can consider as benefited in any manner whatsoever. On the contrary, it is in three cases out of four the source of glaring injustice to them. It would be better for them, as a class, to raise the price of granting a patent to sixty dollars, as under the stringency of the present rules, it is almost impossible for any one to proceed without the assistance of an agent or a legal adviser, whose charges they are obliged to pay in addition to the patent fees, so that the cost of taking out patents upon several claims amounts to a sum by no means trifling to a poor inventor. Take the case referred to above. We will suppose the cost of a model to be twenty-five dollars, the like sum will be required for making out his application, and thirty dollars at the Patent Office. This would amount to eighty dollars, but if six patents are taken it amounts to no less than four hundred and eighty dollars, more than many a poor inventor can raise by any means whatever.
As to the second party in the consideration, if the Patent Office is reduced to the pitiful necessity of adopting such a measure to replenish its funds, let it be known, and we will ask Congress to take some measure for its relief. But nothing of this kind is necessary, as it is well known that the present price paid by inventors proves a source of revenue after all the expenses are paid. But the Patent Office is actually injured by this regulation, for we are positive fewer patents will be applied for than would be under the old regulations. Inventors are unable, as a general rule, to incur the additional expense of procuring several patents, and the protection afforded by a single claim, is often so slight that it is not worth the cost of obtaining.
The public is interested in the matter only as it favors or retards the advancement of the arts and sciences. If invention is encouraged as much under the new as the old regulations it is was well for them, but if not, it is otherwise, so that their interests, and those of inventors as a class, are one. Will the onward march of improvement, then, be hastened by a rule which is oppressive to the poor mechanic who has labored for years in the noble endeavor to benefit himself and the public by diminishing labor or adding to the articles of convenience and comfort in public use? Will the honor of American be increased by discouraging those who have been striving to add a new laurel to the wreath which binds the brow of American Invention?
We believe that Commissioner Mason, in whose judgment we have the most implicit confidence, will repeal this new regulation, which we are confident will, if insisted on, be productive of more injury to inventors, and if so, to the public, than any other regulation of the Patent Office, which has been made for years. Judge Mason, we believe, is, as any man should be in his situation, friendly to the class whose interests it is his duty to subserve, and we shall be greatly disappointed if this oppressive rule be allowed to exist as his interpretation of the law.
Patent Office -- Report of the Secretary of the Interior
It is well known to most of our readers that we have always opposed the surrender of any portion of the Patent Office to any other than the legitimate purpose for which it was built.
There is no doubt that the original designers of this noble edifice contemplated its use strictly and entirely for inventors -- they saw as the arts and sciences progressed that the plan could not be too broad for the reception and proper display of models, the preservation of the records, and for the offices in which its duties were to be administered. As its graceful and airy halls began to develop their conveniences and symmetry of design, they tempted the cupidity of the officials to seize upon them for their own use, and soon after the creation of the Department of the Interior, the Patent Office was placed under its subordination. It was indeed humiliating to the Commissioner to be thus compelled to surrender to the dictation of a superior officer, especially after the Patent Office had so long maintained an isolated and distinct administration, and we are confident that had the Commissioner been less obsequious and more firm and independent, he could have prevented this unwarrantable interference, and preserved the Office, as it should be, above the reach of political influence or dictation.
The Commissioner of Patents, if he has the tact and talent necessary to a judicious management of the office, is more competent to give it direction, suggest, and carry out reforms than any other person. The present Secretary of the Interior evidently understands this, and places his reliance upon the ability and discrimination of Judge Mason, the present able and accomplished Commissioner, whose management of the office has thus far secured for him the confidence and respect of all who have had business with the Department. In our last number we published such portions of the Report of the Secretary of the Interior, as related to the Patent Office and its management -- he recommends an increase of the examining force, and truly says that the delay before final action can be obtained after the application is presented "is a severe trial to the patience of the inventor and often a serious loss to him as well as the public." Congress has for some years entirely neglected the just demands of inventors, and we hope at least that it will not fail to authorize the Commissioner to increase the force proportionate to the actual necessities of the Patent Office.
No application should remain unexamined in the Office over three months at the furthest, this would stimulate genius to greater activity, and increase the number of applications.
The next point to which the Secretary of the Interior directs attention is the condition of the models of rejected applications, and those of designs of stoves, etc. We recommend that the stoves be sold at public auction, and the proceeds of the sale applied to the patent fund. they are not arranged in cases, are cumbersome and totally valueless to the office. The drawings and specifications are sufficient for the purposes of examination; the same remark applies to all rejected applications; the models are in the "tomb of the Patent Office," a mass of confusion. They are valuable only to their applicants, and whenever they elect to withdraw their applications the models should be returned. The law should be so amended as to allow the Commissioner to return them whenever they are demanded.
Much well-grounded complaint now exists against the practice of retaining rejected models, when they are really valuable only to the inventors whose claims have been refused. It is not uncommon to find inventors renewing their claims before the Office after they have once withdrawn them, and as matters are now conducted, they cannot do so without preparing new models; under such circumstances it would be a wise and liberal policy to allow the original models to be returned. There is certainly no reason for retaining them as the specifications and drawings would answer all the purposes of the Office.
We are the advocates of prompt legal action, and we hope the reform in the law as suggested respecting appeals will be acted upon at once. The present is a rickety system of annoyances to all concerned, let us have something decent as a substitute. Concerning the occupation of the Patent Office Building, the Secretary's recommendations are admirable and will find a hearty response fro the inventors; they do not wish to pursue the dog-in-the-manger policy, because at present there is plenty of room in the Patent Office Building for the transaction of its legitimate duties, and also to afford temporary accommodations for other Bureaus, but the time is rapidly approaching when the entire building must be demanded for the use of inventors; this suggests the urgent necessity which exists for a new structure to be used by these Bureaus when they can no longer find room in the Patent Office without hindering its legitimate operations.
We hope the Secretary's recommendations will receive prompt action from Congress, they are well worthy of it.
Patent Plotters and Congress
The granting of special privileges by legislation against well established principles of public policy, is deeply injurious to the interests of any country, but more especially to a republic. The legislation of a republic is broad and open, and in this age of light and reason, nothing can be hid from public scrutiny. Monopolies are opposed to the spirit of free institutions, consequently every monopoly grant, no matter upon what pretense, unless it can be shown that it is for the public good, or as an act of justice, is sure, sooner or later, to work mischief, and redound upon the heads of those who unwisely forget their duties and obligations to their country and constituents. At the present moment there is imminent danger of our Congress being influenced by a powerful combination of individuals, who, under the pretext of justice to inventors, are endeavoring to obtain special grants for the extension of certain patents, in violation of existing statutes.
The patent law provides for extending a patent for seven years beyond the period of its original term of fourteen years, in every case where the inventor has not been sufficiently remunerated. All applications for such extensions are made to the Commissioner of Patents, accompanied by certified documents, showing the profits and the losses of the patentee. In every case, when it appears to the Commissioner that an inventor has not been fully remunerated for his invention during its first term, a renewal for seven years longer is granted, but if the evidence presented shows that the inventor has received sufficient compensation, the Commissioner cannot grant the renewal without violating the provisions of the Patent Law. Guided by this principle of law, Commissioner Mason refused to extend the patent of Col. Colt, and his decision in this case (which we publish on another page) is a document characterized by sound reasoning and upright feeling. This decision, substantiated by such incontrovertible arguments, every candid person will think, should have arrested any further attempts to obtain an extension of this patent; but such is not the case. The owners of this patent, and also the owners of two or three others, who, for the same reasons, could not obtain extension of them by the plain path of established law, -- we are credibly informed are now besieging Congress for special grants, and it is seriously apprehended that they will accomplish their desires. Money is lavished freely in every way to exercise an influence in favor of the applicants, and as they are abundantly able to expend enormous sums in forwarding their designs, it is not unlikely that they may be ultimately successful. There never was a time since the first American Congress assembled, when such combinations and influences were brought to bear upon Congress for granting the extension of so many patents by special laws.
Applications have been or are about to be made for the renewal of seven or eight patents -- such as Colt's (last) for revolving fire-arms; the india rubber patent of Hayward; Hoe's Printing Press; McCormmick's Reaper, and others. None of these patents can be extended by the plain path of existing law, and the extension of the two former has been denied by respective Commissioners of Patents, after careful and candid examinations of submitted testimony. It looks more than impudent for these parties to seek to gain by special legislation that which they could not obtain in the manner provided by common statute. Will Congress violate the established principles of public policy, and grant the extension of these patents? It surely cannot be possible. If these patents are extended, a stain will be made on the character of our present Congress which can never be effaced. Let our Senators and Representatives look well to this matter before they vote for the extension of these patents.
We have no doubt but there may be some deserving cases -- some inventors to whom Congress, in justice, may grant, with the approbation of our country, extensions of their patents; these must be judged of on their special merits. We are the advocates of the rights of inventors and those of the people, and these are not incompatible with one another. We only oppose all monopolies when we know they are sought to be obtained for other purposes than a fair remuneration to inventors.
Interested parties in the Woodworth Patent, we have been informed, are working at Washington upon a system for which they have always been distinguished, namely -- great craftiness and deep subtlety. Fearing that it would be in vain to apply again for an extension of the Woodworth patent, they have arranged matters in such a manner as to seek to obtain the extension of the old Emmons' Patent, so as to use it for their own benefit and secure all the privileges they enjoy under the Woodworth patent. The patent of Emmons was for the very same invention as that of Woodworth, and the interested parties of the Woodworth patent have heretofore accused Emmons of falsifying himself, and have even resorted to employing his dying confession -- as they say -- to subserve their purposes. Now Emmons, by the same parties, is to be represented as an injured man, an ill-used benefactor to his country, and the extension of his patent is sought for ostensibly as an act of justice to his relative, but really to be used for the advantage of those who were his calumniators and detractors. We are loath to believe that this scheme, deep and cunning as it is, can be successful with Congress.
It is calculated that patent rights to the value of $20,000,000 are sought to be extended by the present Congress, and all those interested in these cases, support and encourage one another with a power and influence never before exerted in Washington. They may be successful in their designs, as they will leave no effort untried to accomplish their objects. The credit for rejecting, or the dishonor of granting such privileges will belong to Congress will not be sacrificed by those who have it in their keeping, for the sake of any party or combination whatever; but certainly there is danger, unless the constituents of the Members exert their influence by protesting actively against such measures. We would recommend to our readers the propriety of their addressing letters to the Members of Congress from their respective districts, remonstrating against the enactment of such laws as will perpetuate these overgrown monopolies -- the managers of which have become sufficiently fat from their proceeds already.
Reform of the Patent Laws -- Fees for Foreigners -- Extension of Patents -- The New Rule
There is one feature in our Patent Law which it would afford us sincere pleasure to see abolished as soon as possible; we allude to the invidious distinction which it makes between the citizens of different foreign countries. Thus the citizens of all foreign countries are charged $300 each for a patent fee, with the exception of a subject of Great Britain, who is charged $500. We in a measure know how this distinction found its way into our present patent code, and we must tell those who find fault with our democracy on this point, that a native of Britain exercised his influence to get such a clause inserted, because, as was said, "the government of England charged such enormous patent fees." It is indeed true that the patent fees charged by the government of England previous to 1852 were enormously high, but then there was this much democracy about them, they were the same for all -- Englishmen and foreigners -- the domain of invention was looked upon as a republic of genius, and all inventors as its citizens. In this respect our patent laws are not democratic, and it is time that some honorable change was effected in them.
In No. 17, this volume, we published a letter from an Englishman, who justly complained of this feature in our Patent Laws, at the same time recommending the reduction of our patent fee to $100, for the citizens of all foreign countries. We also expressed a hope that Commissioner Mason would recommend the subject to Congress; his unquestioned ability to judge of what reforms in the Patent Law are necessary, being a sure guarantee on which Congress can place unlimited dependence. We have reason to believe that Judge Mason had previously given this question attention, and he will no doubt recommend such a reform as will be both politic and democratic. We consider that a fee of $100 is sufficiently high to prevent applications for patents on inventions having but a trifling amount of novelty and utility. One great fault in our patent laws as they relate to foreigners, is the retention of such an exorbitant amount of money for every rejected application; the amount to an Englishman being no less than $166.67 cts., for which he receives no benefit whatever. If the fee was reduced to $100 this evil would be greatly mitigated, and the fees retained for examination would still be large enough, although five times less than they are at present.
Improvements in science and art is one grand object for which we labor. We welcome the introduction of all new and useful inventions, let them come from whatever source they may. They enhance our country in all that conduces to its honor and power, and in all that relates to the welfare of our people. Without just and politic laws for the encouragement and remuneration of inventors, we are confident that civilization would be very low indeed; our railroads and steamships would be unknown, and the multifarious machines which we have to plow, reap, spin, weave, sew, and grind, and to accomplish a thousand different desires without a word of complaint, would not be in existence. We are therefore desirous of affording every encouragement to inventors, and of removing judiciously every feudal encumbrance from our patent laws, which tend to retard the introduction of inventions in this country, and for these reasons we advocate the reduction of government fees to $100 for all foreigners.
EXTENSION OF PATENTS -- Some may suppose because we have opposed the extension of certain patents by acts of Congress that our professed friendship for inventors is not really in accordance with our acts; it is because we are friendly to inventors in general, and labor for the introduction of all new and useful improvements that we oppose such special grants. For example, an inventor makes a new and useful improvement today, and secures a patent for it -- the invention may be a good one -- but another inventor looking upon the movements of this machine, may discover a method of rendering it fifty per cent more effective. He also applies for a patent, and secures one; but lo, he cannot use it without the consent of the first patentee, because it is only useful in combination with the parts of the previously patented machine. What can be done? Ask the consent of the first patentee to use his machine? Yes. It is refused upon any consideration whatever, and the second inventor has to wait for nearly fourteen years before he can use his invention -- the public all this time being excluded from its benefits -- and then when he can do so his patent term is just about to expire. Although the first patentee may have made a great deal of money, it is quite natural for him to apply for an extension of his patent, -- in fact, the more he has made, the greater exertion does he make to get his case extended. He does so, but his books show very satisfactory signs of a respectable compensation, and the Commissioner refuses to grant the extension. Not satisfied, he applies to Congress for a special grant of extension, because he knows such grants have been obtained before, and may be secured again. Would it be just in Congress to grant such an extension? -- No; because it would keep out the improvement seven years longer from public use, and would operate unjustly against the inventor who made the improvement, and who by the common course of law could obtain an extension of his patent for seven years, in order that he might obtain some remuneration for his invention. It is thus that special acts of Congress in extending patents often do injury to inventors in general; they also tend to retard the progress of invention, and for this reason we oppose the extension of patents by Congress, in cases where patentees have been sufficiently remunerated. One patentee, under a democratic government like ours, has no more right to special privileges than another -- all should be treated alike, and no invidious distinction made.
RULES OF THE PATENT OFFICE -- In deciding upon what shall be considered under one application and under one fee as constituting the subject of one patent, the rules of the Patent Office are for the present at least to be conducted the old way -- the new rule discussed by us in No. 15, present volume, having been ruled out by the Commissioner. No doubt many patents have been granted which have included two distinct inventions relating to two separate and distinct machines, such as the separate machines included in the Woodworth patent, one for planing boards, and the other for tonguing and grooving them; but in cases at law it is the duty of the Court to point out the boundary of the patent under litigation. According to the strict letter of the law no compound patent should be allowed to cover more than one machine, but a distinct part of a machine when patented is an invention in itself, and cannot be circumscribed by its connection with any one machine; and inventors and U.S. Courts should make this distinction. This last decision of the Commissioner will no doubt afford general satisfaction to our inventors. The conduct of Commissioner Mason, since he has held the Commissionership, has been characterized by an inherent desire to do justice to all, to promote the welfare of our inventors, and advance the arts and sciences for the benefit of our whole people.
Reaping Machines -- Who was the Inventor?
In the Journal of Agriculture, a British publication, the Rev. Patrick Bell, of Forfarshire, publishes a somewhat lengthy article on the reaping machine invented by him in 1828. In this he says: -- "I believe that every honest and impartial observer will be satisfied that in America there was no movement whatever in the matter of reaping machines before August 1828, that after that period the first attempts were mere copies of mine, that by and by one maker after another deviated a little from the original, until latterly there was considerable change in the aspect of the reaper. If however, I am not blinded by partiality, in the latest metamorphosis, the theory and design of the original may be traced as the basis of the implement."
Great credit is due Mr. Bell for his ingenuity manifested in the machine referred to, but he has suffered his partiality to blind his eyes considerably. On the 17th of May, 1803, a patent was issued to Richard French, and J.F. Hawkins of New Jersey, for a machine for cutting grain, another to Samuel Adams, Dec. 27, 1805, to John Comfort, Bucks Co., Pa. Feb. 26, 1811, to James TenEyck, Bridgewater, N.J. Nov. 2, 1825, all previous, some more than 20 years, to the one granted Samuel Lane, in August 1828. What most of these inventions were we have no means of knowing, as the records and models were destroyed in the conflagration of the Patent Office in 1836. But the machine of TenEyck patented in 1825, embraced the reel and a vibrating knife or sickle, and these were the only features of Bell's machine that he claims have been introduced into America.
But although Bell may have been the inventor, he was not the first inventor in Great Britain, even of these features of his machine. It has been repeatedly shown that Mr. Salmon of Woburn, England, employed the "scissors" or vibrating knives in 1807, and the reel was used by Mr. Henry Ogle, of Rennington, in 1825, co-temporaneously with its employment in this country by TenEyck. Is it not very much more probable that the Rev. gentleman was indebted to his predecessors in England for these inventions, than that his successors in America were indebted to him when the inventions had been employed in this country previous to his using them, and when we consider the comparative ease of access between England and Scotland, and between Scotland and America? We are not disposed to depreciate the merits of the Rev. Mr. Bell, but we are tired of this disgusting attempt of his to assume to himself all the merit of the invention of the reaping machine, when he was more than 20 years behind American and other English inventors.
We hope that the early inventors referred to in our article if they be living (if not, their friends), will furnish us with accurate descriptions of their patent machines; if the original patents are still in existence, we should be glad to get a sight of them. The object is one of considerable interest.
Reaping Machines -- Original American Inventor
In your paper of the 25th inst., I notice the claims of priority in the invention of grain reapers, by the Rev. P. Bell, of England. Having noticed such claims repeatedly, I have concluded to speak for myself, and briefly tell my own experiments and the results in horse power grain reapers. For with me the thing was original. I neither copied from Englishmen or Americans. I was born and reared on a farm near Union Village, Washington Co., N.Y. While yet a boy in 1824, I tried my first experiments with shears, the blades of which were so curved as to present nearly the same angles of edge from heel to point while cutting. But still the shears pressed the grain forward in cutting. In 1825 I tried further experiments with a reel and sickle edge, but returned to the vibrating edges. In 1826 I completed my experiments with the reel and vibrating cutters. And I also tried experiments with vibrating bearded rods in order to gather the grain on the platform for binding and dumping the bundles. I hoped to be able to bind on the machine, and I still believe it will be done to advantage. My machine extended into the grain at the right, and it was mounted on the hind wheels of my father's lumber wagon. The wheels being large and the gearing so simple, that in 1826 a single horse drew my brother and self on the machine and cut rye at the rate of one acre per hour. The wise ones of the east viewed it as original with me, and derided me alone by calling it Harvey's Folly, but when they became astonished at its operation, they gave it the new name of Harvey's Great Amazement.
I have antique drawings before me of the said machine, which I preserved, hoping to secure some profit by taking out letters patent and by manufacturing, if I ever became able to do so. My father refused to help me in this, for he said the Patent Laws were only calculated to draw men into ruinous law suits. I tried to get help from others, but all refused to help me when they learned my father's views of the Patent Laws. In support of the main facts above, I presume twenty living witnesses can still be found.
Harvey H. May
Galesburg, Ill, Feb 27, 1854
[The father of our correspondent labored under a very mistaken idea of our patents laws. Had he encouraged his son and secured a patent, it would have made both him and his family wealthy. Those who patented their reapers afterwards, have become rich. We are sorry to say that there are many men who have now the same erroneous opinions respecting our Patent Laws; hence they dig and sow, while others come after them and reap the fruit of their labors. No man who invents any useful improvement should neglect to secure it by patent. Not a week passes over our heads but some inventor expresses his regret for neglecting to patent some invention for which another secured a patent afterwards and made a fortune by so doing. -- Ed.]
Rich and Poor Inventors
There is a prevailing opinion with many, that inventors are in general very poor; that the great mass of them who have lived and died, went down to the grave loaded with poverty, and that the majority of those who are now living, will meet with the same doom. This is a mistaken notion, conclusively proven by the paper of Dr. Gale (who is Chief Examiner in the Chemical Department of the Patent Office), on another page. It is true that many men, whose inventions have greatly benefited mankind, have departed this life in poverty and neglect, the value of their labors not being appreciated until they were beyond the reach of human reward or praise. We expect that some inventors will meet with disappointments in every age, for it is more than can be expected, that the merits of every improvement will be appreciated during the lives of inventors. But the number of such inventors cannot be very large, if their inventions are meritorious, for the means which are at the command of inventors at the present day, -- such as the press -- to disseminate a correct knowledge of their improvements throughout the civilized globe, are such as no previous age in the world's history could boast of. It was very different with inventors in the days of Evans, Fulton, Whitney and Watt; and yet, when with all their disadvantages, many of the old inventors, from being poor, became rich men, what should inventors not expect for their benefit, at the present day, in comparison with those of the ages past and gone. James Watt was once a poor man, but he died very rich; Richard Arkwright died the richest commoner in England, and with a title tacked to his name -- a pretty high elevation from cropping heads and shaving beards. Whitney, we believe, died comparatively wealthy, and so did many other American inventors. There are quite a number of living inventors, who, from being once poor men, have become comparatively wealthy. We could name a host of such,but this, without their consent, would perhaps not be proper. There are but few in our country who are not acquainted with one or more inventors who have been greatly benefited in a pecuniary point of view, by their inventions.
It is true that there are but few prominent and distinct inventions like the telegraph, and it cannot be expected that all inventors should meet with the same amount of remuneration, but when a Chief Examiner of the Patent Office -- who has access to the records which describe the sums paid for patented inventions, tells us that "it is a very small matter indeed, if a patent is not worth $5000; that medium ones are worth from $20,000 to $50,000, and many not worth less than from $100,000 to $500,000 each," we have reason to state, with all confidence, that inventors who secure patents are full as well rewarded as any class of men in the world.
One reason why patents are more valuable now than formerly, is no doubt owing to the rigid examination which they have to undergo in the Patent Office, and the care and qualifications necessary on the part of those who prepare such papers. But another reason, and one equally as good, is owing to the means which patentees now have of spreading abroad a knowledge of their improvements among the people. A man may have talents, but who can know this, if he ties them up -- like the fool in the parable -- "in a napkin." So it is with an invention -- mechanical or chemical; who can know what it is, or what are its merits, if a knowledge of the same is locked up in a chamber? Without feeling the least degree of conceit on the subject, but only a sensation of solid pleasure, we venture to say, that the "Scientific American" has been the greatest agent for rendering patents more valuable, and affording our inventors the means of being better remunerated, than any other influence or agency in our country. We are confident -- for we know it is true -- that patents have rapidly grown more valuable since it was established. This is quite natural, for every week it carries the list of the new patents granted to all parts of the world, stating their claims, and illustrating from four to five of them in such a manner, that all can judge of their value. It is not too much to say, that no less than fifty thousand persons receive information through our columns every week, of from thirty to forty new improvements; therefore our people are becoming better acquainted with the works of our inventors and the value of their patents.
Another reason for the increased and increasing value of patents, is attributable to the desire of our Courts -- the United States Judges -- to do justice to inventors. We believe that our U.S. Courts are open to improvement, and would be all the better for it, but, at the same time, it is our firm and sincere conviction, that there is not a U.S. Judge on the bench who has not a strong and sincere desire to see justice done to our inventors. Let a plain and palpable infringement of a patent be presented to any U.S. Judge, and he will not hesitate an instant to grant an injunction, or demand bonds, for a correct account to be rendered by the infringer. Taking all these things into consideration, we agree with Dr. Gale, that patent property, is now "of great value." And this is right; for by the telegraph, locomotive and steamboat, millions upon millions are saved to our country every year, and so it may be said of all other inventions, such as sewing, weaving, washing, reaping, rolling machines, etc. We have no doubt, but every right-thinking man in our country will rejoice with us, that a better day has dawned upon our inventors, and that their labors have now become so valuable in the estimation of the community.
American Association for the Advancement of Science
Met in Washington in the last week of April, 1854
OUR PATENT SYSTEM -- The following is a condensed abstract of an able paper on our Patent System, by Dr. Gale, Chief Examiner in the Patent Office:
The patent system gives to the first inventors a monopoly of the profits of their inventions for fourteen years. Mere discovery does not entitle a man to a patent. Galvani could not have patented his great discovery, nor the discoverer of potassium his, though he might have patented his apparatus for making it. If a man learns a law or a principle of nature, he cannot get a patent for it; but he can patent his application of it to some useful or mechanical end. Our Patent System was not much calculated to promote science before its re-organization in 1836. Up to that time it was not very improperly said to be a "museum of rat-traps, churns and quack-medicines." There was no thorough examination of the claims presented for a patent; the oath of the inventor, as to originality, was taken -- and that was about all. Now, a thorough examination of every article presented is gone through with, and the patent is only granted when there is entire satisfaction that no article of the sort has existed, or publication of the invention ever been made. Our country is the only one where so thorough a system is carried out. And some of our patents now is (sic) of great value. It is a very small matter, indeed, if it is not worth $5,000; the medium ones are from $20,000 to $50,000 each, and many are not worth less than from $100,000 to $500,000 each. Even a valueless article, if a patent is obtained upon it, becomes a valuable property, and hence avarice is continually besieging the Office for patents of unworthy inventions.
Our first patent system was started in 1790, and made to include under its object hundreds of nostrums. By 1836 the present improved system was organized. The only medicine that has received a patent since its enactment was the Lethcon of Drs. Jackson and Morton.
Seven eights of all the patents now granted are for mechanical and physical purposes; the other one-eighth are for chemical inventions. The applicant must describe his invention. A permanent record of this description is confidentially kept, and whether or not the application is granted, these described facts can be used.
The law of 1836 had been a long time in operation, of course, before it became of much use. But it begins to tell well upon the arts and sciences, the necessities and comforts of mankind. Up to 1836 there was not a grain or grass harvester in this or any other country. But the great wheat fields of Illinois demanded too much hand labor at harvest time, and labor was too expensive for our people. Our necessity compelled invention to relieve us, and now we have grain, grass, and maize harvesters in general use. England has not many such assistants and substitutes for manual labor as we, and in all Continental Europe there are not over three or four kinds of harvesters in use, while we patent twenty modifications a year. In most European countries they use the same scythe now that they used one hundred years ago. We are perpetually varying our forms of the scythe to gain strength, power, and lightness. There is no branch of mechanical ingenuity that has not been revolutionized by the Patent Office. It makes fortunes for successful inventors, and furnishes cheaper implements to laborers, since the inventor is enabled to sell large numbers of his articles at very small profits on each.
Dr. Hare discussed the right of granting patents. He published, he said, in 1820-1, a paper showing that good lights could be obtained by burning alcohol, making the flame luminous by turpentine, but he advised against its use on account of its great danger. He remarked, in passing, that when the British, in the Last War, were about marching up to fire the Patent Office, old Dr. Thornton stepped up and reasoned with them. "Sure," said he, "you will not burn the depository of all their useful arts and the records of their inventions," and to their credit be it spoken, they turned back at his plea.
Review of the New Patent Law
During the past ten years, a number of Conventions, composed of inventors belonging to different parts of the country, have been held in various places for the purpose of discussing the defects of our present Patent Laws, and instituting measures for reforming them. Committees of gentlemen, distinguished for their experience in patent matters, were appointed by those Conventions for the purpose of draughting such bills, (and presenting them to Congress through the proper channels,) as in their judgment would effect the desired objects. Two Bills were adopted by separate Conventions, and these with slight amendments were brought before the Senate. With some alterations, either of these Bills might have answered a good purpose, but it is a singular fact, that both of them, although expressing the sentiments and opinions of a large number of inventors, have been suffered to fall to the ground, while a new Bill -- which will be found on another page -- has been introduced into the Senate, unsolicited by, and unknown to but few, if any, or our inventors. It always affords us pleasure to see our legislators consulting the interests of such a worthy class of men as our inventors, for we well know that whatever protection is afforded, and whatever privileges are granted them, the benefits ultimately redound to the whole people. The New Bill contains many very excellent provisions, and these we desire to see become the law of the land. On the other hand, it contains so much that is hostile to the interests of inventors; so anti-democratic in its nature, so confused and so curious, so complex and so confutable, that we hope and believe Senators will strike the same out of the Bill upon further examination.
The first twelve sections are very good; the 10th, in relation to returning models of rejected applications, is one we have always advocated. The last clause of the 12th section, however, we think, is decidedly bad. Instead of increasing facilities for inventors in conducting business with the Patent Office, it takes away from them certain rights which they have enjoyed since the first patent law was enacted, more than sixty years ago. The objectionable clause confers authority upon the Commissioner of Patents, to admit only such person to become patent attorneys, as he may deem qualified to act for inventors, and that none will be allowed so to act unless by license received from him.
The strict rendering of this clause would prevent competent inventors from acting as their own agents, and would take away all power from inventors to select those person whom they may deem most capable of acting for them, unless they have received a license from the Commissioner of Patents, to practice in his Court. We advocate the greatest of the people consistent with intelligence and good morals, and we believe that every man who is competent, has the natural right to act as agent for another in any capacity whatever, without being dependent on the ipse dixit of a third party. Every inventor has the perfect right to select the person whom he deems most competent to present his case to the Patent Office; that right, we hope, will never be taken away; that liberty we hope will never be abridged. Such a power in the hands of some Commissioner of Patents might make the Patent Office a huge political machine, dangerous to the interests and subversive to the privileges now enjoyed by inventors. Such a one-man power is greater than that exercised by any court in the United States, and is totally at variance with democratic principles.
But if Senators desire to retain this clause, let it in all honesty be amended so as to specify the qualifications necessary to practice as a Patent Agent, the mode of examination, etc.; for surely it would be despotism in the extreme, to deprive any man who can prove his competency, from practicing as a patent agent, thereby making such a profession an exclusive order, like that of the Knights of the Garter, or the Round Table.
We hope, however, that the clause will be stricken out entirely, it is enough for the Patent Office is an application for a patent is correctly drawn up and properly presented. No more has hitherto been required, and no more is necessary.
We also object to those parts of sections 12 and 14 which provide for the payment of a fee of $10 on an appeal from a lower to a higher officer of the same court -- from the Assistant to the Commissioner of Patents. We also consider that the increase of inventors fees, by the plan proposed in section 14, is a poor method of increasing the revenue of the Patent Office. Thus it is proposed that an applicant for a patent with two claims, shall pay $30 down, and $15 when the patent is issued, making the fee $45. The payment of an additional fee for each claim will create a great deal of trouble to inventors, and can be made a ready method of extracting their hard-won cash. For example, if an application were presented embracing five claims, as is often-times done, this would require a fee of $70 down, and then the Patent Office might reject them all but one, and pocket $40, without returning any equivalent; this would be rank injustice. We also object to the paltry sum of twenty-five cents being charged for every hundred words above 1000, in a specification. We also object to the increase of fees for copying from the present rate of 10 cents to 12 1/2 cents for 100 words. This is a regular grocer's system for catching half cents.
We do not well know what is best to say of section 15: it is so new and so droll. This new system of "Confirmation," we think, should be left to those religious denominations that maintain such church policy. We are certainly adverse to any usurpation of religious ceremonies by our Patent Office, especially when the object is filthy lucre -- no less than $100. The confirming doctrine means, that after a patent has been in existence five years, and extended (upon paying $100) for fifteen years, then, upon paying another $100, and the very same proceedings gone through with as when the patent was extended, it will be confirmed. Well, what does this Confirming doctrine amount to in favor of an inventor? Nothing but a ceremonial palaver, to get an extra $100 out of him. At the same time it would amount to this on the part of the Patent Office, that every patent issued under its seal, subscribed by the Secretary of the Interior and the Commissioner of Patents, would be considered an illegal document until it was Confirmed -- that is, until it has grown up to be five years of age, and paid $200, exclusive of first fees, into the Treasury. We hope the Senate will strike out all the Confirming doctrine, or refer it to some Bishop for further amendment, to clear up the smoky doctrines embraced in the 16th and 17th sections, especially the last clause of the 16th, which provides for the curing of a fraud after it becomes three years old. We also object to the 2nd clause of section 17; it provides that when a person enters a suit to annul a patent, he must pay $50 into the Patent Office. What business has the Patent Office with any such fee, when it gives no services in return. We also object to that part of the 18th section which makes the owner or defender of a patent liable to costs. This should never be, except in the case of fraud, for if an inventor obtains a patent in all honesty, and another person sues to have it annulled, because, as he believes, he can show that the subject patented is not new, would it be just for the owner of the patent to be compelled to pay the plaintiff's costs? -- all costs, as the Bill says? By such a law a wealthy plaintiff might run up a bill of costs high enough to swamp all the property owned by three-fourths of our inventors.
Sections 26 and 27, which provide for property in things (products of a patented machine) not patented, if made abroad, is opposed to all the laws of commerce, and would lead to endless troubles. We could advocate the measure so far as it relates to the British Provinces until they provide laws for Americans taking out patents in those countries; but to carry out the principle so blindly inserted in these sections, if a sewing machine were patented here, and the inventor took it to England, patented it there, and sold his right, he could stop the sale of coats, vest, and pants in this country, if made by the very machine for which he was paid in full. This section certainly requires amendment.
We object to section 28, so far as it confers power on Courts of Equity, to decree and award damages. We have no desire to see our Patent Laws placed above and made more stringent than "Common Law."
The 29th concluding section is excellent' it provides for the settlement of all disputes about must testimony relating to priority of inventions, and places the question upon a proper basis.
The Bill, as a whole appears to be a powerful instrument for increasing the revenues and powers of the Patent office; and the means proposed for these purposes are exceedingly complex and anti-republican. Instead of simplifying the Patent Laws, it makes them more obtuse and complicated. If the revenues of the Patent Office are insufficient for the conducting its business promptly and properly, let the universal fee be raised to $40 or $45; this, for 2673 applications would increase the revenue to $56,780 or $40,095 more per annum. This would be a more simple and commendable plan than piling on the assessments for claims, and the "clap-trap" advances for Confirmations.
Objections to the parts specified of this bill, have so crowded upon us in examining them, that we have not been able to find room for presenting one tithe of the arguments that might be advanced. At some time we may return to the subject; but at the present we appeal to the Senators to give this matter a calm and unhurried examination, and to pass only such a Bill as will be a credit to themselves, -- a wise and just measure to benefit inventors and the people at large.
Artificial Ice -- The South
Messrs. Editors -- It would be a great favor to myself, as well as to thousands in the interior of the South, if you, or some other gentleman of science, will, through the columns of your extended journal, make known a practical way of making ice artificially, either through chemical or mechanical means.
What has become of the machine patented about two years ago by D. Gorrie, of New Orleans, which were propelled by a steam engine, and in an experiment tried "froze several bottles of sherry, and produced ice of a cubic foot when the thermometer stood at 80 degrees?
This information, if imparted and promulgated, would not injury the ice trade of the North, which will always monopolize, with increased prosperity, the commercial marts and thoroughfares of the South, but would prove of vast value only to the interior of the South among the thousands cut off entirely from all commercial facilities, as for instance the interior of Louisiana or Texas, where I expect soon to locate, hence my peculiar personal interest in the matter.
Memphis, Tenn, July 12, 1854.
[We do not know of any feasible plan for producing ice artificially except at an expense so great as to preclude its manufacture for common purposes. If there was any person in our country who could make ice economically, he would not be at a loss where to go to make his fortune.]
Another New Rule in the Patent Office
U.S. Patent Office, Aug. 12, 1854
Previous to the second examination of any case which has been once rejected, the 7th section of the act of 1836 requires the applicant to renew in substance the oath originally filed with his specification. After thus applying for a second examination, no withdrawal of any part of the fee paid is authorized.
The previous practice of the office having on a recent occasion been seriously questioned, the law has been carefully considered, and there being no reasonable doubt of its having been heretofore departed from in this respect, the change above intimated seems unavoidable.
But the applicant, without renewing his oath or forfeiting his right of withdrawal, may point out any mistake or oversight on the part of the office, which will be cheerfully corrected.
Too render this change as gradual and as little inconvenient as possible, this rule will only be held applicable to cases wherein the first rejection shall be made after the promulgation of the foregoing order.
[The above new rule relates to a question of law, and is very different from a simple form of conducting Patent Office business; it therefore deserves more than common attention from all inventors. Hitherto, the practice of the Patent Office, in re-examining rejected cases, has been very liberal, and this may have led many to give the office more trouble than they should; but on that account, those who have conducted business with the Patent office in a correct and honorable manner, should not be made to suffer. It is our opinion that the new rule is contrary to the plain letter of the law, and if an appeal were taken from the decision made upon it, we believe it would be decided against the Patent Office. The section referred to in the Commissioner's letter, says, "In every such case if the applicant elect to withdraw his application, relinquishing his claim to the model, he shall be entitled to receive back twenty dollars." The re-examination of any application is a question of privilege with the Patent Office, and even if it should examine an application fifty times, the applicant, if he withdraw his application, is entitled to receive back twenty dollars. There is no authority, not even a hint, in the whole patent code for the Patent Office charging twenty dollars for an examining fee; this is the key to the meaning of the law in judging of the new rule, which is claimed to be the law. The fact is, the law is positive against it, as it makes special provision for the fee of ten dollars only, for examining an application for patent, and no provision whatever is made for charging for a re-examination. This is our opinion of the law, and we entertain no small amount of confidence in its correctness.
Spiritual Manifestations and Discoveries
The most sensible thing that ever we heard of one of these spirits doing was that of Benjamin Franklin's inspiring a medium to construct a new shingle machine. As chronicled by a spiritual paper it was said "to work to a charm, and that measures had been taken to secure a patent." Now the last part of the account of this machine was something which the ignorant medium should rather have consulted us about than his exhibitors. Every inventor who applies for a patent must make oath that he is the original and first inventor; now as Ben Franklin's spirit communicated the plan of making the shingle machine, we think it will be a pretty hard job for the medium to make oath that he is the original and first inventor.