Scientific American, v 10 (ns) no 6, p 86, 6 February 1864
Patent Fees to Canadians
Messrs. Editors: -- I acknowledge with thanks the receipt of your favor, and must confess that I am, unfortunately, a Canadian; I regret that our Government has forced your Congress to pursue such a course of recrimination in regard to the issue of patents. The grounds of complaint on the part of the Federal Government must be indeed weighty to cause said Government to retaliate upon the policy of the Canadian Cabinet, by proportioning the fee as $35, to $500, in favor of all other nationalities, against Canadian inventors. This operates against the introduction of Canadian inventions more now than formerly, as the stupendous war at present carried on by the Northern Government presents greater incentives to the reception of any novel ideas, to increase their naval superiority, than the Canadian Colonial Government in its peaceful state could be susceptible of. Until a more liberal policy is enacted my principles must remain in seclusion.
Kingston, C.W., Jan. 23, 1864
[When the Patent Laws were amended, March 2, 1861, it was the intention of Congress, in establishing the rate of fees, to recognize the widest possible reciprocity, toward all other Governments. The language of the law is that "all laws now in force fixing the rate of the Patent Office fees to be paid, and discriminating between the inhabitants of the United States and those of other countries which shall not discriminate against the United States, are hereby repealed," it happened that Canadians were the only people who chanced to fall under the bar of discrimination, and their Government is the only one which has a patent system like the Japanese policy that seeks to shut out all foreigners from reciprocal advantages, so far as patents are concerned. The law of Canada is framed that none but resident subjects, who must be original inventors, can take out patents there. Just as soon as the Provincial Parliament makes up its mind to treat all inventors alike, then our system adapts itself to Canadian inventors, and gives them the same rights that we enjoy. We have always characterized the policy of our Northern neighbors, in this particular, as narrow and bigoted; and we trust that it will soon be amended, though we confess, when we call to mind the futile efforts which have been made to reform the system, that we expect but little.
The India-rubber Patent Controversy
Messrs. Editors:-- I have read, with very great satisfaction, your determined opposition to the further extension of the Goodyear rubber patents. [See pages 152, 169, 185, 201, and 216, present volume of Scientific American.] It is quite time the interests of the public should be considered. The late Mr. Goodyear and his family, have collectively received immense sums from those patents. The plea of poverty is not, or ought not to be, a valid one. Great stress was laid, in Goodyear's last application, upon his early struggles and necessities; but this, you know, is the hard lot and experience of most inventors in humble circumstances. The large amount that Mr. Goodyear received and expended in forwarding his invention, and his private expenditures, were not prominently brought forward. With Mr. Goodyear's private (and some think his extravagant) disbursements, the public would have naught to do, if it was not that "poverty" is the plea for further extension! It is not right to establish the precedent, that the duration of a patent should depend altogether upon whether an inventor, with ample means, has or has not provided for the future of his household.
Again; you are doubtless aware that Mr. Goodyear's family have but a minor interest in this application. In all probability, in this case as on the last extension, the licensees contract to bear all the expenses of the application, and to pay a certain stipulated sum contingent upon success; the sum agreed to, upon the former occasion, was $100,000. Who are the parties most concerned in wishing to defraud the public? A body of millionaires -- men of great wealth accumulated under the protection of these patents, and some also of the most prominent lawyers in the United States. I name Mr. H. Durant, of Boston, who resigned a lucrative practice to become president of a rubber company; Mr. E.N. Dickenson, son of Judge Dickenson, largely interested; Mr. Jencks, of Rhode Island, chairman of the Congressional Committee on Patents, (before whom these applications must come), who is also either president or director of one of the large rubber companies. To those who have peeped "behind the scenes," on former occasions, this is, to say the least, a most curious coincidence. Newspaper reports say that this gentleman will not sit as judge on his own case; does he authorize or confirm that report?
It is currently spoken of, as a fact that the licensees intend spending one million of dollars to force the patents through Congress; this amount is not large, compared with their means and the vast interest at stake. I know that formerly there existed a secret agreement between the companies, by which a certain percentage was set aside as a "law fund," to scare all interlopers from the track, whether they had rights or not; possibly it is in existence now -- but no matter! Truly the Scientific American needs all its courage and persistency -- it must buckle on its armor and burnish up its weapons of truth and justice, if it intends to do battle with this huge Giant Monopoly in defense of the public.
There is another class interested, whose consistent champion the Scientific American has ever been; I allude to the "operative mechanics." There are men, like myself, toiled at the birth throes of that great invention, the "vulcanizing" of rubber -- men whose zeal and perseverance surmounted difficulties which staggered even the inventor, and who have waited patiently but wearily for 24 long years for the field to be open, when their turn might come. You know and understand the merit due to many workmen in "licking crude ideas into shape." This invention did not spring forth perfect from the first inventor's brain. It has been stated on oath, by experts, that they could not have manufactured merchantable articles of vulcanized rubber by the light of Goodyear's original patent. The art has been perfected in different factories, at various times, by many hardworking and intelligent men -- men whose improvements are recorded in the patents of their employers; the value of these improvements being demonstrated by the dividends declared in the director's parlor. What chance have these in opposition to money, corruption, and legal subtlety?
I fear I have trespassed too much on your valuable time. We working men know that the Scientific American is potent in every good cause; "give the word," then, and testimony will come forward abundantly, with active and persevering opposition to unjust claims, if we are guided by your counsel and experience.
Andover, Mass., March 21, 1864
Congressional Interference with Patents
Arguments against the extension of the Goodyear India-rubber patents were made on the 21st ult., before the House Committee on Patents by Horace H. Day, and also by Abraham Payne and J.H. Parsons, of Rhode Island, Tappan Wentworth of Massachusetts, and E.S. Day of Connecticut. in behalf of the manufacturers, one of the counsel representing the Eastern railroad companies, and by George Grissom of Philadelphia, who represented the railroad companies, manufacturers, and dealers of Pennsylvania. Earnest remonstrances have been presented against the extension by the Governors and members of the Legislatures of Pennsylvania and New York, and nearly all the railroad companies of the United States, and by many citizens.
Much solicitude is manifested on this subject owing to the immense pecuniary and manufacturing interests involved, and it is generally believed that the Committee will make a report unfavorable to the petitioners. We sincerely trust that this may be so, but it will not do now to relax any possible opposition in the expectation that the report of the Committee will be an adverse one. The Committee need to feel that the people are opposed to the further extension of these patents, that they are unwilling to be taxed for another seven years to support a monopoly for the special benefit of a limited number of wealthy corporations, which will thrive even if no longer allowed to control the Goodyear patents for their own special benefit. If we admit that the heirs of Charles Goodyear are poor, we maintain that it is no fault of the people or of the patent law. The testimony before the Committee clearly shows that the late Mr. Goodyear received large sums of money for various patents, and also that he was improvident of his means. He spent his substance like water, when he ought to have taken care of it for the benefit of his family. If Congress is prepared to establish the dangerous precedent that valuable patents are to be extended to relieve the heirs of a decease inventor who failed to provide for his own household, when ample means were at his disposal, then we say that the public have no guarantee against the revival of the monopoly system which became so odious during the reign of Queen Elizabeth.
History and experience have proved that there must be a limit to the grant of Letters Patent. The progress of the world in the arts and sciences demands that there should be such a limit; and to guard against the evils which had already resulted from the system of extending patents, Congress enacted a law which went into force March 2, 1861, to allow patents to be granted for a term of seventeen years -- instead of fourteen -- and beyond which there should be no extension. This change was not the effect of hasty legislation, but was the deliberate result of thorough experience. The public have a right to know how long an exclusive right to an invention is to exist, for unless this principle is fixed by statute there is little or no encouragement for other inventors to make improvements. A monopoly like the Goodyear patents, supported by millions of moneyed capital and controlling all the leading patent lawyers of the country in its service, can effectually put an embargo upon patents granted to others for India-rubber improvements, and such inventors and patentees must either sell their valuable rights for whatever these monopolists are pleased to give for them, or be crushed under the wheels of a legal and money Juggernaut.
We repeat what we have before urged in our columns, that the system of extending patents by Congress is not only dangerous, but it is unjust. It is a species of special legislation which is antagonistic to the principles of our Government; and up to this time, with few exceptions, Congress has refused to act favorably on such applications. If Goodyear's patents are extended there is no reason why hundreds of other inventors should not receive the same favor. There is nothing in this case of the Goodyear heirs which cannot, with equal justice, apply to the others; indeed the Goodyear case has much less to recommend it to the favorable consideration of Congress than some cases that we could suggest. Grant that the Goodyear inventions are valuable; grant that he suffered the pinchings of poverty; grant, also, that his children are not made rich out of his inventions. On the other hand, it is true that he has had his patents for the longest term allowed by law; he knew just how long the laws would protect his rights; and had he regarded the advice of his friends, himself and family would have rolled in the wealth which this protection afforded him.
If the Committee consider that the heirs are poverty-stricken, let them remember that the Government, as well as the people, consumes very largely of India-rubber goods, and rather than favor the extension of the patent for another seven years, let Congress make an appropriation of funds for the relief of the heirs out of the public treasury. We know it will not be palatable to the heirs, and it will be a nauseating dose for those who monopolize the rubber business; but as a matter of strict justice and economy, this would be a fairer and more judicious disposal of the case.
Patent Office Decorations
Messrs. Editors: -- As your paper ought to keep the world informed about improvements in the fine arts as well as everything pertaining to the useful arts, you will no doubt feel interested in a new style of decoration for stately halls and corridors which has lately been inaugurated at the national capital. The only illustration of its peculiar character yet given, is to be seen in the Exhibition Hall of the Patent Office, which may have been selected because it would there attract the widest observation -- for you must know that from 70,000 to 100,000 people annually visit the interesting relics and curiosities of those halls. The decorations of the capital, so gorgeous and profuse, have been sharply criticized, and it may be that the Government connoisseurs propose to test the public taste by means of the contrast now afforded. Whatever may be the hidden motives which caused the selection (as it is in the Patent Office, perhaps I ought to say the invention) of this style of painting, it is very certain that Congress thought that the hall which contained the precious relics of the revered Washington should be decorated, and therefore, at the last session and in the midst of this onerous, money-absorbing war, they voted many thousands of dollars for that purpose. Whether its purposes have been carried out depends upon ones idea of what decoration consists of. That the hall is painted every one -- artist, connoisseur, politician, honest or dishonest, male or female -- will assent to. The walls are covered with a very strong yellow, too strong perhaps for a weak stomach for colors. The arches, which are the awkward, pot-bellied barrel kind, are painted in a composite style, yellow predominating; while the stumpy columns are disguised in blue, a deep blue, deeper than indigo. Perhaps the artists or the Congressional committee (if there is one in this case) call it "blue-black." The square pedestals are done in black -- in mourning, perhaps for the illustrious Father of his country, whose statue looks mournfully upon the floor of the hall with downcast eyes. It is supposed by some persons that the style of decoration for this hall is entirely original, and is meant to embody the national colors, -- red, white and blue -- in novel contrast with other vivid elements of coloring matter. Others assert that it is Pompeiian, and others, again, say that it is Moorish, while some assert that it is from Africa, from Upper Egypt, or from the remains of the painted sepulchers on the Nile; one gentleman, himself an artist, contended with me that it was Indian style, from the Rocky Mountains. Whencesoever it comes, it is a fact that it is new in America, and although it may strike delicate or artistic fancies with dismay at first, yet it is believed they will soon get used to it, and be able to look upon the curiosities and relics around them and forget the paint, although it is related that an eminent authoress recently, when she had occasion to visit the copyright office, refused to pass through that hall because it was "barbarous."
Washington, D.C., May 12, 1864