Scientific American, v 11 (os), no 2, p 13, 22 September 1855
Encroachments on the Patent Office -- The Remedy
We publish in another column some communications from Washington respecting the encroachments upon the Patent Office, to which we alluded a week or two since. We invite special attention to the remarks of our correspondent. It would appear from his statements that the Secretary of the Interior, Hon. Robert McClelland, entertains a deep hostility to the Patent Office, and that he is evincing the same by systematic but indirect attacks against its vitality and usefulness.
The ambitious Secretary seems to us grieved to think that this branch of the public service, though it was founded under the immortal Washington, -- though it has ever been fostered and encouraged by our greatest statesmen, -- though they erected for its exclusive use one of the most noble and spacious edifices which adorn the national capital, -- though it has served more than perhaps any one department of the Government, to elevate, to benefit, and to strengthen the Republic, -- though it flourished for years before its present assailant, or the office over which he is now, unfortunately, the chief, was thought of; this ambitious Secretary, we say, is grieved to think that the Patent Office enjoys so excellent a fame, and stands so high in the affections of the American people. He seems pained to reflect that the noble pile, out of which both himself and predecessors have stolen space for their clerks and account books, still bears its world-renowned title of "United States Patent Office." He longs to obliterate those living letters, and to substitute in their place a new sign -- "Department of the Interior." He longs to clip the Patent Office of its attractions; to diminish its glory; to subordinate its chief-ship. He longs, in short, to have the world know that is such a personage as the Secretary of the Interior. He sighs for the exclusive occupation of an imposing palace to give him that official dignity and importance which he now lacks. But while the Patent Office flourishes, all these ambitious schemes remain unsatisfied ; the people will look upon the Patent Office building with veneration, and regard the Commissioner of Patents as an important officer of the Government. Hence his covert attacks; his undermining operations; his disguised hostility.
Now, we have no objection to the gratification of the Secretary's personal pride; we should be pleased to have him glorify himself to the highest pinnacle of fame, if he chooses. But we cannot countenance the unworthy mode he takes to accomplish his purpose. Like the fox in the fable, he seeks to make the Patent Office his goat, to coax it into the well, and then, rising on its horns, leave it behind helpless in the lurch. Such proceedings are unworthy of any man -- much less a member of the Executive Council of the nation.
There is a remedy for all such annoyances and troubles, which, sooner or later, we hope to see adopted. It consists in the creation, by Congress, of a Bureau of Invention, the Minister thereof to enjoy all the advantages that the other chief officers of the Government possess. At present the Patent Office appears to be regarded, by certain officials, as a sort of hybrid --neither one thing nor the other. Without proper independence, or even the power to regulate its own concerns, they pay it little respect, though all the while they must be sensible of its importance as an Institution.
Let the Patent Office be raised from this uncertain condition, in some such way as we have indicated, and no envious Secretary of the Interior will longer have power to check its growth, confuse its business, and destroy its usefulness.
History of the Telegraph: Difficulties and Success of an Inventor
At the time the party which went from this city to witness and assist at the laying of the submarine cable between Cape Breton and Newfoundland were lying at St. John's, a dinner was given on board the James Adger to the public citizens of that place, at which Prof. Morse was toasted and complimented as follows:
"The steed called Lightning (say the Fates,)
Was tamed in the United States.
'Twas Franklin's hand that caught the horse.
'Twas harnessed by Professor Morse."
To this Prof. M., who was present, made a very appropriate reply. He said:
"I thank you ladies and gentlemen, most cordially, for the flattering mention you have made of me in connection with the electric telegraph, for it expresses the kindness, the generosity of your own hearts. But, ladies and gentlemen, I place myself as one only amongst the instrumentalities in this great enterprise of binding the nations together in the bands of electric intercourse. It is thus only that I find relief from what I may truly style the oppression of praise. It would be hypocrisy in me to affect callousness or indifference to the good opinion of my fellow men. I have not so superficial a self-knowledge as not to be aware that there is something within this bosom ever ready to kindle at the least spark of praise, a pride that would give utterance to the arrogant boast, "Is not this great Babylon that I have built, by the might of my power and for the honor of my majesty." Who is it that commands the lightnings to go, and they go? Who gave the telegraph to the world? An incident in the early history of the telegraph is directly pertinent to the answer to these questions. At two sessions of the Congress of the United States, my petition for the pecuniary aid of the government to construct the experimented line of telegraph from Washington to Baltimore, to test its practicability and utility, dragged its slow length along, and the close of the session of 1842 and '43 threatened a result as inauspicious as the previous session of 1837 and '38. I need not more than allude to the fact that in the previous session of 1837, I had expended all the pecuniary means I possessed to sustain myself at Washington while urging upon the attention of Congress this then untried, this then generally esteemed visionary enterprise of an electric telegraph. Years were required to put myself again in a pecuniary condition to appear before Congress with my invention, and now I saw the last day of another entire session just about to close, and with it the prospect of still another year's delay. My bill had indeed passed the House. It was on the calender of the Senate, but the evening of the last day had commenced with more than one hundred bills to be consider and passed upon before mine should be reached. Wearied with the anxiety and suspense, I consulted with one of my Senatorial friends; he thought that the chance of reaching it so small that he advised me to consider it as lost. In this state of mind, I returned to my lodgings to make my preparations for returning home the next day. My funds were reduced to the fraction of a dollar. In the morning, as I was about to sit down to breakfast, the servant announced that a young lady desired to see me in the parlor. It was the daughter of my excellent friend, Henry L. Ellsworth, the Commissioner of Patents. She called, she said, by her father's permission, and in the exuberance of her own joy, to announce to me the passage of the telegraph bill at midnight, but the moment before the Senate's adjournment. This was the turning point of the telegraph invention in America. As an appropriate acknowledgement for her sympathy and kindness, a sympathy which a woman can feel and express, I promised that the first despatch by the first line of telegraph from Washington to Baltimore should be indited by her. To which she replied 'I will hold you to your word.' In about a year from that time the line was completed, and everything being prepared, I apprised my young friend of the fact. A note from her enclosed this despatch: 'What God hath (sic) wrought?' These were the first words that passed upon the electric wires on the first completed line in America."
[As the success of every useful invention encourage men of capital to assist in the introduction of others, so every deceptive scheme exerts an opposite influence. For these reasons, we have always freely expressed ourselves against useless novelties calculated to deceive the public, well knowing that they tended to injure the prospects and interests of honest useful inventors. We early advocated the claims of the electric telegraph to public patronage, and felt a sincere pleasure in doing so, and we have witnessed its unparalleled success in all parts of the world, with nearly as much enthusiasm as the inventor. It is but eleven years since the telegraph line of 40 miles in length, spoken of by Prof. Morse, was built, and now there are no less than 32,000 miles of telegraph wires on our continent. Was ever success more complete or more astonishing? Never. These 32,000 electric nerves run east, west, north or south, and form the public heartstrings of 27,000,000 of people. Day and night they cease not to throb with intelligence, and they confer upon man a power of semi-omnipresence. In Europe lines of telegraph have been constructed to an extent nearly rivaling those in America, and difficulties have not met and overcome far surpassing in magnitude any of those in our own country. The electric wires extend under the sea of the English Channel, the German ocean, and the Mediterranean. They pass from crag to crag on the lofty Alps, and run through Italy, Switzerland, France, Germany, and Russia. They will yet extend through the Atlantic ocean, and their circuit -- "the ends of the earth."
[He who first commanded the lightning to labor. KWD]
Encroachments on the Patent Office
The letters and articles on this subject, which have appeared in your paper of late, are unfortunately but too deserving of the attention they claim, and, if redress is not found at present headquarters, the sooner a change of those who preside takes place, the better. But what if it does, how is the evil already committed to be remedied, -- possession is well known to constitute nine-tenths of right, as viewed by the law, and, supposing a change of the presiding deities to be effected, what is to insure exemption from a continuance or repetition by another, of the outrages of which you so justly complain? Does not the history of the past show that like evils, though never to the same bare-faced extent, have, through almost every Administration been -- here a little and there a little, -- perpetrated, till the Patent Office has been robbed of almost all its just rights, -- its room applied to purposes totally foreign to its character, and its Chief left without the right to appoint those as his officials for whose acts he is held responsible.
Complaints as to encroachments, then, are useless as long as the Patent Office remains a dependency of the Department of the Interior. Murmurings equally as loud and just have before been heard, but with little or no effect, and if present outrages be arrested, the disease will again, ere long, break out, perhaps in a more violent form than ever. You do right, therefore, in attacking the root of the disease. Make the Patent Office a Bureau of Invention, as you propose, with its Secretary to "enjoy all the advantages that the other chief officers of the government possess," then, with a Charles Mason as Secretary, and an examining corps, etc., left to his appointment, the Institution could not fail to be one of envy and admiration to the world. The space now pillaged from the Office would soon be filled, open to clear daylight inspection, with useful models of both patented and unpatented inventions, as prescribed by law. As a Bureau of Invention, free and unshackled in its operations, it would quickly be seen that the arts and sciences, on which the prosperity of the country depends, took a nobler and wider flight, and flourished in proportion to the protection and encouragement bestowed on them. More that is beautiful, as well as useful, and equally the offspring of inventive genius, would here find a home, a fostering care, that would serve to refine the minds and morals of our people, while the mechanic arts, which almost alone have made us superior to the savage, would then find in the Patent Office a nursery for their growth, which at present they so imperfectly experience.
Shall interests so important be trampled upon, or treated as but of secondary value, or be made the dirty tool of a political movement?
Such has been done, and is now being done.
Inventors, rouse yourselves for once from your supineness, and each think and make it his business to interfere. The Patent Office must have larger powers given it, and then you will have less cause for complaint. A remedy has been proposed -- see to it, and that earnestly, promptly, by convention or not, as you please, but, ere next Congress meets, have your petition ready; see that it fails not in the number of petitioners, but let it be both long and strong. You have no time to lose; evils are being done that may be beyond the reach of remedy soon, and your grievances are many.
Washington, Sep. 21, 1855
The Mason Testimonial -- Last Call
The period originally fixed for the closing of subscriptions to the Mason Testimonial was Oct. 1st, and as that day has now arrived, it becomes necessary for all who still propose to subscribe to do so forthwith. The Treasurer it will be remembered, is S.T. Shugert, Esq., Acting Commissioner of Patents, Washington, D.C. We presume that remittances arriving there within a week or ten days of this date will be in time.
This testimonial will serve to acknowledge in a public manner, the deep gratitude which inventors and others entertain towards the late Commissioner of Patents for his noble exertions in their behalf. It will also, we trust, have some influence in rebuking the unworthy zeal exhibited by the Secretary of the Interior in undoing good, and inflicting severe injury. It ought to remind him that the inventors of this country, while they are ever ready to appreciate as a special benefaction to themselves the labors of any man who seeks to advance and stimulate the progress of new discovery, they reserve, on the other hand, indignation and contempt for those who voluntarily become instruments to smother and retard such progress.
We hope that the credit side of the Mason Testimonial account will close with a liberal addition of funds.
Encroachments Upon the Patent Office
We have further advices from Washington confirming our previous remarks, that it is the decided intention of the Secretary of the Interior to appropriate a portion of the Patent Office building, which belongs to our inventors, to the Indian Bureau.
If we cannot stay these base proceedings entirely, let every inventor do what he can, through his Representative, to influence the Honorable Secretary to be modest as he is capable of, in the number of rooms he appropriates. If he is not satisfied with the encroachments he has already made, let him be as lenient as possible in his further demands.
The subject will be further discussed in our next issue, and in the meantime inventors must act; remonstrate in every manner in which their actions are likely to influence the official who threatens the usurpation of their territory.
We learn from good authority, that, on the 22nd ultimo, the President of the United States, under the escort of the Secretary of the Interior, paid an official visit of inspection to the Patent Office building. The wily Secretary took advantage of the occasion to descant upon the pressing requirements of the Interior, the Land, and the Indian Departments, and then grew eloquent upon the unnecessary space occupied by the Patent Office, proposing to lop off a branch here, another there, etc., etc. The President is stated to have replied, in his bland and modest manner, that as far as he saw, the Patent Office appeared to need an extension rather than a restriction.
To this sensible view, we are sorry to say, he did not adhere. Yielding to the solicitations of the Secretary, and the plea that fire-proof space, for the preservation of certain important Indian papers, must be had, the President assented to the absorption of six of the Patent Office rooms, and they have, we are informed, been accordingly transferred. Thus was consummated another of those official outrages on the rights of inventors and the interests of the country, regarding which we have felt it our duty, of late, so bitterly to complain. New movements by the Secretary, placing the Patent Office more completely than ever under his thumb, and adding insult to injury, are now, we understand, in progress.
Under the laws of the Republic, the Patent Office, as it now stands, is almost an independent Department. Its chief is required to report the state of its affairs directly to Congress. It has ever been the desire of our statesmen to isolate it, as far as practicable, from politics, to relieve it from outside subservience, to promote its dignity, to increase its facilities, and in every way to encourage its growth. In its first organization it was nominally attached to the State Department, but was never regarded by any of the Secretaries of that branch of government as subject to their interference or control.
The law which created the Secretaryship of the Interior merely transferred the nominal connection then existing between the Patent Office and the State Department to the Interior Department. The Secretary of the Interior has never received, by statute, a single iota more of authority over the Patent Office than the Secretary of State formerly held. But, in the absence of a Commissioner of Patents, the Secretary of the Interior becomes his own law maker and aspires to self-constituted powers. Ignorant of the wants of the Patent Office, and disregardful of the views of its officers, he assumes a control over it for which he is utterly unqualified by nature, and unjustified by right.
There is but one permanent remedy for this miserable state of affairs, and it consists in the absolute separation of the Patent Office from the Interior Department. If inventors will but rouse up, appeal to their Representatives, and show a determined spirit in the matter, this much-needed reform may, we doubt not, be triumphantly carried through the next Congress.
The Patent Office once more -- Defense of the Secretary of the Interior
Messrs Editors -- Under the head of "Encroachments on the Patent Office," its best friend, the Secretary of the Interior, is, to say the least, unfairly assailed, though the zeal of the writer, it is admitted, had some apparent reason in rumors "fast and thick" concerning the appropriations of a few rooms for the preservation of important records, which could no where else be preserved, and which only were taken upon the fullest consultation with the friends and acting head of the Patent Office, the President himself exercising a personal and supervisory interest. I receive and read your valuable journal regularly -- am an inventor -- therefore justice to the cause you advocate induces me to request the insertion of the following: The Patent Office is not the property of inventors exclusively, but very largely the reverse -- see the Secretary of the Interior's Report for 1853, as follows: "The amount thus far expended and appropriated (for building the Patent Office) is $1,367,750, of which $1,048,750 has been paid out of the Treasury, and only $319,000 out of the Patent Fund." Besides this, nearly $300,000, it is believed, has been further appropriated out of the Treasury, and that by the sanction of the present head of the Interior, towards the further construction of the building. Therefore, should any man, having the best interests of science and the promotion of the useful arts at heart, find fault? It is time enough when the least retardation of our business occurs. So far, this has not been the case in the slightest degree. I have conversed with the Examiners; they say, and I know it to be so, that neither their rooms nor their duties have been at all affected, whilst the models, model rooms, in short everything pertaining to, and touching the interest of the inventors, remain intact, and this in accordance with the personal feelings and expressed wishes of the Secretary, as a further illustration of which, his Reports for 1853 and 1854 will amply vouch, and those who know anything about it, will say that nothing but urgent necessity would have caused him to have secured the small room occupied by the Indian Bureau, unless for the safe keeping of its archives, which contain evidences which but too many would rejoice to see obliterated. In conclusion, permit me to say that the idea suggested in one of your late numbers of an independent Bureau of Patents, is worthy of consideration, and sound reasons why may form the basis of another communication.
The above is a very lame defense of the Secretary of the Interior; but we have no doubt that it is the best and only one that can be conjured together. He says that the Patent Office building does not belong either to inventors or to the Patent Office Department, because Congress ordered its erection and the people paid for it; ergo, the Secretary has the right to turn the Patent Office out of doors, break up its business, suspend its operations, and cut the whole concern adrift; and he will do it, no doubt, if allowed to keep on much longer at the rate he is going.
How absurd the reasoning looks when applied, as it may be with equal justice, to any of the other Departments. There are the Treasury and State Offices, for example, noble buildings built by order of Congress, and paid for out of the public treasury. These Departments have no stronger claim to the occupancy of their respective buildings than has the Patent Office Department to the structure specially set apart for it. The Secretary of the Interior would not dare to molest, or even suggest to either of the Departments first-named, that they had no right to occupy the rooms ordered for them by Congress. Yet why not experiment on them as well as on the Patent Office?
The Secretary of the Interior, it is claimed, recommended an appropriation for the further extension of the patent office; this is presented as evidence that he is the "best friend" of the Department and inventors, not their enemy, as charged in the Scientific American. What a noble and generous act, truly, for the Secretary to recommend an enlargement of the Patent Office -- and then take possession of it himself! What a benevolent and self-sacrificing individual he is, to be sure!
We have all along insisted, as our readers well know, that the various acts of the Secretary relative to the Patent office, of which we have complained, would, necessarily, have the effect to retard and confuse the operations of the Department. We have charged him with utter incompetency so far as related to its management; and we have called upon the President to take the reins out of his hands and appoint a new, vigorous Commissioner. Our friend "Justitia" thinks it will be time enough for us to complain when the least retardation of business occurs. "So far," he says, "this has not been the case in the slightest degree."
We are surprised that the Secretary should permit any of his friends to promulgate such a glaring untruth as the above. Let any one look at the scanty lists of patents which appear in our this week's journal, and see for himself what an alarming falling off in the business of the Patent office has taken place. Let him look back for the past two months, and he will see that this decline has a steady downward progress. Three months have barely elapsed since Commissioner Mason retired, and Secretary McClelland assumed the dictatorship of the Patent Office, yet within this brief space of time, the amount of business performed by the establishment has fallen off nearly fifty percent; new business has, all the while, been pouring in with undiminished volume, but receives only partial attention; new applicants are subjected, in many cases, to outrageous delays; unfinished affairs remain in status quo; the concern appears to be fast choking up, and has, apparently, almost come to a stand-still. These facts speak out in thunder tones of condemnation against the Secretary of the Interior. They establish, alas! too fully, the correctness of our assumption. With such evidences staring him in the face, "Justitia" will find a fruitless task in apologizing for his "best friend" of the Patent Office.
Reform of Patent Laws -- Important Meeting of Inventors at Buffalo, N.Y.
Messrs. Editors -- Several meetings of inventors and those interested in the subject matter of patents, have been held in Buffalo, N.Y., to take into consideration the propriety of urging upon our Representatives in Congress the necessity of some modification of the Patent Laws, so as to afford greater protection and security to inventors and owners of patent property. A series of amendments have been proposed and discussed at these meetings, of which the following is a synopsis:
First, the Patent Office to be entirely separated from the Department of the Interior and made an independent Department of itself. The Commissioner to be appointed in the same manner, and with like tenor of office and like pay as Judges of the Supreme Court of the United States.
Second, Sec. 2 recommends certain qualifications in respect to moral character, experience and ability in those who are appointed to the office of Examiner.
Third, a fee of twenty dollars shall be paid on filing a specification, which shall be sufficient to admit the same to examination. If a patent shall be granted, an additional fee of thirty dollars shall be paid.
Fourth, one drawing only shall be required on filing a specification. If a patent is granted, the office shall furnish a copy of this drawing to accompany the patent.
Fifth, Sec. 5 allows the applicant (in case the report of the Examiners are adverse) to appear in person or by attorney before the Examiners and explain his case on a rehearing. Also allows of an appeal to a Board of Examiners. Also allows a further appeal to the Commissioner, whose decision shall be final.
Sixth, the fact that an invention may have been known, published, or practiced in a foreign country shall be no cause of rejection of an application for a patent for the same thing by a bona fide inventor in this country.
Seventh, when an application shall be rejected, the applicant shall be allowed to withdraw his model.
Eighth, when a patent shall been duly granted, it shall, in all cases, be prima facie evidence, and its validity shall not be called in question in any judicial proceeding on any collateral issue. The only method to impeach the validity or its evidence shall be by a direct proceeding in the U.S. courts, instituted for that purpose.
Ninth, citizens to be allowed to take patents for foreign inventions "by communication" similar to that allowed by the English law in such cases.
Tenth, State Courts of Record to have original jurisdiction in all actions for damages for infringements arising within the territorial jurisdiction of such courts, and for all actions for penalties affixed by the Patent Laws.
Eleventh, it shall be a penal offense for any person, either directly or indirectly, to offer, or pay any money, present, reward, or bribe to any officer or person connected with the Patent Office, in order to influence the action of such officer or person upon any business connected with the Patent Office.
Twelfth, it shall be a penal offense for any person or officer to accept or receive, either directly or indirectly, any money, reward, present or bribe from or in behalf of any person or persons interested in the business of the Patent Office.
Thirteenth, it shall be the duty of the Commissioner to underline with red ink that part of the drawings which refers to the particular part, device, or thing patented, so that the same may be readily distinguished from that which his not patented, in all cases when it is possible to do so. The like distinguishing marks shall also be put upon the part or parts of the specification which relates to the particular thing, device, or combination invented. Patents shall also be carefully classified in respect to original grants and subsequent improvements, which classification shall be noted on the patent when issued.
Fourteenth, a report of the Patent Office proceedings shall be published weekly in pamphlet form, and furnished to subscribers at a reasonable price. This report shall contain the claims of patentees, as allowed, with such further description as shall give a clear idea of the thing patented. It shall also contain all notices for extensions of patents, cases of interference appeals, and such other matters as may be of general interest to inventors.
Fifteenth, in cases where patents shall be granted for a "process" or "composition of matter" the specification or description thereof shall be filed in the confidential archives of the office, and shall not be made public until after the expiration of the patent.
Sixteenth, Sec. 16 provides for taking evidence and trying cases of interference of patents for a "process, or composition of matter" in such a way as not to make public exposition of the process of either party.
Seventeenth, the knowing and willful infringement of a patent by the manufacture or sale of the theory patented shall be a penal offense.
Eighteenth, a special jury of mechanics, or persons skilled in the art, shall be allowed on the request of either party to a suit in all cases where juries are now allowed by law.
Nineteenth, the citizens of the North American British Provinces shall be permitted to take patents upon equal terms with citizens of the United States as soon as their government shall extend similar privileges to citizens of the United States.
A resolution was also passed requesting the Scientific American, and other papers interested in the subject matter of these suggestions to publish the same. Also that similar movements in other parts of the United States be invited, so that soon there may be a concern and unanimity of action upon the subject.
The undersigned were duly appointed a committee to transmit these proceedings to the Scientific American for publication.
Buffalo, N.Y., Nov. 15th, 1855
[We give place to the foregoing communication with pleasure. We have long urged the necessity of a reform in the Patent Laws, and are glad to see inventors begin to wake up to the subject. The reforms contemplated in the above outline, with a few exceptions, meet our approbation. We have had in preparation for some time past the draft of a bill for the consideration of Congress, in which the chief features of the Buffalo Convention are contained. We shall present it to our readers ere long, and if approved by the inventors of our country, as we doubt not it will be, their aid will be solicited to obtain its adoption.
The separation of the Patent Office from its unnatural alliance with the Department of the Interior, is a project which meets with very general favor among inventors and friends of improvement. That measure is, of itself, one of great importance.
If it can be carried this winter, though nothing else should be done, a great benefit will have been accomplished for the Patent Office, and for the country generally.
The allowance of patents to bona fide inventors for improvements that are new in this country, without examination to ascertain whether the same have been previously known in foreign lands, is a much needed item of reform. The present law is very defective on this point. It frequently happens that the Examiner, in pouring over the musty folios of the Patent Office library, in accordance with the statute, discovers a stray paragraph in some old book of German text, perhaps, relating to the invention then under application for a patent. If the Examiner so finds, he is bound to reject, even though the paragraph consists of a mere suggestion of the invention, without evidence of its ever having been practically tested, or of an intention to make an experiment. Insofar as our laws render the issue of patents to American citizens a matter of contingency, subject to foreign claims, we are decidedly Know-Nothings. We go for the expurgation of such laws, and the adoption in their place of those that are thoroughly American.
The idea of rendering the infringement of a patent a penal offense is a bad one, and we think will find no encouragement. The present law may be amended so as to become more summary and quick in its operations, and less expensive to the parties interested. This will answer all purposes, and give the patentee, in the end, better security against infringers. It would be next to impossible to obtain a condemnatory verdict, where the defendant was to be sent to a State prison. The jury being bound to give the prisoner the benefit of their doubts, he would, nine times out of ten, be acquitted; in all doubtful cases, therefore, the adjustment would, of necessity, be in favor of infringers.
The red line arrangement to denote the feature in which the claims rest, will fail, we fear, to answer any useful purpose. It is intended, we suppose, for the benefit of verdant individuals, by preventing frauds in the use and sale of patents. There is a class of persons who are so wanting of intelligence as to believe that the parchment certificate of a granted patent, say, for example, on the cut of a wheel spoke, covers, as a matter of course, the right to the entire vehicle, and the innocent inventor loudly proclaims his monopoly as such. The purchaser, equally ignorant as the inventor, pays a round sum for the patent, and then builds castles in the air from the supposed great revenues he is to derive in making all the wagons in the world to bring him tribute. Our Buffalo friends may rest assured that red ink will never take the place of common sense. No legislation can bring about such a radical change in nature, however desirable the transformation may seem.
We should be glad to see a weekly publication issued, as proposed, from the Patent Office, provided it could be done with regularity. The wheels of office and of public service move too slowly, however, for such a dispensation. The annual reports of the Department, which ought to be ready printed, and distributed promptly at the close of each year, seldom make their appearance until six months or more after their date; nearly all the government printing is carried on with the same degree of sloth, and probably will be for a long time to come. For the interim we would suggest an amendment to section No. 14, making it the duty of the Commissioner to cause the claims and descriptions to be published weekly in some journal of a scientific or mechanical character, always selecting the one that has the largest circulation. That would give us compensation for a service that we now render gratis. Indeed, instead of being paid we actually pay the government a large sum annually for the privilege of doing what is, legitimately, a part of its own duty. Every line in the claims that appear weekly in our paper, cost us a round cash tariff. From our columns the few sickly magazines that ape a scientific name steal those claims, and thus obtain, free of charge, the most interesting portion of their contents -- without which they could not exist for a month.
There are several features of the above manifesto, besides those glanced at, that merit criticism and are open to objection; but we must omit our examination of them until another occasion. In the main, as before stated, we approve of the reforms contemplated, and shall lend our aid towards securing their realization. The initiative having now been taken at Buffalo, we trust that inventors, in all parts of the country, will meet together, discuss the patent laws, suggest improvements, and send us information of their doings.
Report of the Secretary of the Interior
The annual report of the Secretary of the Interior has just made its appearance. It contains much valuable information touching the domestic relations of this government; but the portion most interesting to our readers relates to the Patent Office, and that part we accordingly annex.
The remarks of the Secretary evince, on their face, a much more fair and liberal disposition toward the Patent Office than we have hitherto supposed he ever entertained or manifested. He says that inventors are a worthy and meritorious class of citizens; thinks they ought to have the benefit of the National Gallery, etc. He glosses over with excuses his recent foray upon the premises of the Patent Office, and, having got all that he wanted, affects entire contentment from any further operations of the same sort.
We strongly suspect that the honeyed word of the Secretary are only intended to cloak some new and more dangerous assault upon the Patent Office than any he has yet ventured to assay; still, we hope we are mistaken. It is, perhaps, but fair, under the circumstances, to give him his due, and, for the time being, believe what he says. He purports to have finished all his mischief, and to be now ready to lend inventors a helping instead of opposing hand. Let him have the chance of proving the sincerity of his professions.
He argues that the Patent Office isn't the Patent Office, because only a portion of its cost was paid out of the patent fund; therefore it was both right and proper for him to cut down its facilities and reduce its accommodations. Such reasoning is almost too absurd for refutation. As well might he say that the Capitol was not designed for the especial use of Congress, or the White House for the President. Like those edifices, the Patent Office was erected by Congress at the public expense, and set aside for an especial purpose -- the transaction of patent business. By the clearest legal enactment it is devoted to this one branch of the public service, and to no other. In disregard of law the Secretaries of the Interior have converted it into an asylum for land officers and Indian clerks.
As to the ancient and venerable Indian documents of which the Secretary speaks, we appreciate the importance of their preservation, but would it not have been better to have dug a vault in the earth and buried them safe from sight and fire?
The reasons presented by the Secretary in favor of the removal of the National Museum from the Patent Office building are sensible and strong. We hope he will continue to urge them with all the influence which his official position affords, until the change so much needed is realized. We stand ready to second his efforts in that direction by every means in our power.
We pass over the apparent self-contradiction of the Secretary in stating that his late innovation was not detrimental to the interests of the Patent Office, while in the next breath he admits, and proves conclusively that the Department is, and was laboring under disadvantages for want of sufficient space. His arguments in favor of the removal of the Museum apply, with equal force, against all extraneous concerns existing in the building. The Land office and Indian Bureau, for example, to use his own expression, have "no connection whatever with the Patent Office, and may as well, therefore, be placed elsewhere."
But these last changes we shall not now insist upon, it being agreed and understood that, for the future, the Secretary will behave himself properly, in regard to the Patent Office; that he will not absorb any more of its space; that he will use his best endeavors to ship off the Museum, and put the Commissioner of Patents in possession of that beautiful room, 260 feet long, and 62 feet 6 inches wide; that he will go ahead with the north wing and build it with a portico, never minding the expense; that he will henceforth and fore ever labor hard to benefit inventors, and through them and the Constitution, to advance the prosperity of his country.
SECRETARY OF THE INTERIOR'S REPORT ON THE PATENT OFFICE -- "The reorganization of the Patent Office has been perfected, and its good effect already sensibly experienced.
"Several important amendments to the patent laws were suggested by the Commissioner of patents, in his last report, which are necessary to the more efficient action of the Bureau, and are in themselves reasonable and entirely unobjectionable.
"Since the 1st of January last there have been issued upward of eighteen hundred patents, and within the year the number will probably reach two thousand. This is the result of the judicious and excellent system that has been adopted, and which enables the office promptly to examine and dispose of every application that is presented.
"Several of the rooms in the basement story of the Patent Office building are occupied by the Indian Bureau. Previously, it was in a building not fire-proof, and much exposed to conflagration. I did not feel justified in keeping in constant jeopardy its records, files and papers, of such immense value and importance, the loss of which would be irreparable, both in a historical and pecuniary point of view. Experiences has already taught its folly, and the lesson should not be disregarded.
"Before directing the change to be made, I satisfied myself, that, although it might put a few of the clerks of the Patent Office to some inconvenience, it would not materially interfere with their labors, nor essentially, with a correct and efficient discharge of their duties.
"By some it is contended that the entire building should be exclusively appropriated to the use of the Patent Office, and to this, under any other than extraordinary circumstances, I should cheerfully assent. But when I look at the fact that the entire structure, so far as completed, has cost some sixteen hundred thousand dollars, of which $1,279,760 has been drawn from the Treasury, and only $320,300 from the patent fund, and that it was impossible to secure for the Indian Bureau such a building as its necessity demanded, I could find no plausible pretext for hazarding millions of the public property, more especially when it was evident it was not absolutely necessary to the full and proper execution of the patent laws, and would not, to any great extent, incommode the Patent Office.
It will require a further appropriation to complete the west wing of the Patent Office building. The east wing cost $607,700. Owing to the declivity of the grade an additional story was required in the west wing. It was found necessary, so as to construct its basement, sub-basement, and principal story, that each might be converted into one large room when the requirements of the Patent Office demand it. To accomplish this object, marble and granite piers and architraves have been introduced, which are not in the corresponding stories of the east wing. These and other additions have cost about $100,000, and yet the whole expenditure will not exceed that of the east wing.
"The north part of the building should be commenced. The estimated cost is $450,000, without a portico. A partial estimate for its construction has been submitted.
"There is a large room on the Patent Office designated the National Gallery, which is not used for any practical purpose. It has been made the depository of the curiosities of the exploring and other expeditions, and of other rare articles worthy of preservation. If they could be removed to a more suitable place, it would be very advantageous to the Patent Office. This room is one of the largest in the building, being two hundred and sixty feet long and sixty two feet six inches wide, and the cases it contains, as I am informed, cost some thirty thousand dollars, drawn from the patent fund. The annual charge to the Government for merely taking care of and superintending it is $3180. The room is required for the proper disposal and exhibition of rejected models, for which it is so well calculated, and was probably designed. The Commissioner could then determine which of the models could be treated as useless, and which placed on exhibition, and thus would be brought to light a set of models never seen by the public, of scarcely less importance, than those now so well exhibited in the cabinets of models of patented inventions. This would be a great acquisition to inventors, one of the most meritorious and deserving classes of our citizens.
"The collection in the gallery -- a very curious, interesting, and instructive one, is constantly open to, and attracts large numbers of visitors, which, in itself, is very proper; but when taken in connection with the secrecy and seclusion to which the inventions and discoveries are entitled, whilst under examination, it becomes a privilege of doubtful propriety, calculated, as it is, to disturb the employees of the Patent Office in their business, and to affect in some instances the interests of the inventors. The collection has no connection whatever with the Patent Office, and may as well, therefore, be placed elsewhere.
The appropriations for agricultural purposes have been usefully and judiciously applied. The seeds were well selected and distributed, and, form all the information received, the most beneficial results are anticipated.
The Mason Testimonial
We have been notified by the Treasurer of this fund -- Mr. S.T. Shugert -- that in consequence of the return of Judge Mason to the chiefship of the Patent Office, it is deemed advisable to defer the presentation indefinitely, and in the meantime to return all funds to the original subscribers. Under the circumstances, perhaps, this is the best course that could be adopted. All persons, therefore, who have subscribed through us, are hereby informed that their orders upon us for the amounts they have paid will be duly honored. We shall, perhaps, on another occasion, give them a new and better opportunity of testifying their approbation and appreciation of Mr. Mason's services.
The amount pledged, added to the sums paid in for this testimonial amount to between six and seven hundred dollars. Had the subscription been continued it is probable that a purse of two or three thousand dollars would have been made up.
Important to Inventors and Model Makers
Too many applicants for patents disregard the rules of the Patent Office in preparing their models, and thereby cause themselves unnecessary trouble and expense. Numbers of models are constantly refused by the Department on account of their being too large, too imperfectly constructed, or not properly painted or polished, to meet the official requirements. Before us lies a letter from the Commissioner, which we will publish, giving the names of interested parties in initial, as a warning to others who may happen to be engaged in the construction of models for applications for patents, or soon intend to do so:
"U.S. Patent Office, Jan. 22, 1856
Gentlemen -- The models in the following late applications can be repaired by the Office for the prices annexed:
1. D.C.T. -- Water Wheels -- broken; charge for repairs $1.50.
2. A. & T.S.S. -- Gang Plow -- broken; charge for repairs, $2.
3. A.A. -- Screw Propeller -- too large; charge for reducing, $1.
4. W.H.B. -- Spike Machine -- charge for painting, $1
5. J.S.G. -- Converting a Reciprocating into a Rotary Motion, etc. -- requires painting; charge, $1.
C. Mason, Com.
Messrs. Munn & Co., New York."
For the further information of all our readers, we subjoin the official rules in respect to models. If properly observed by model makers, the troubles we have named will be avoided. Annexed are the rules:
"The models must be neatly and substantially made of durable material, and not more than one foot in length and height, except when a larger model is permitted by the Office for special reasons, to be shown by the applicant. Models filed as exhibits, in interference and other cases, should also, as far as practicable conform to this rule as to size. Should they exceed this limit, they will not be preserved in the Office after the termination of the case to which they belong. If made of pine or other soft wood, they should be painted, stained, or varnished.
A working model is always desirable, in order to enable the Office fully and readily to understand the precise operation of the machine. The name of the inventor, and also of the assignee (if assigned,) must be fixed upon it in a permanent manner.
When the invention is a composition of matter, a specimen of the ingredients and of the composition, which the law requires, must accompany the application, (see act of 1836, section 6,) and the name of the inventor and assignee (if there be one) must be permanently affixed thereto."
Many of the models received at this office, and also at the U.S. Patent Office, come packed in cotton. If oil paint or a slowly drying varnish has been used, the model, by the time it reaches its destination, is thoroughly deprived of its beauty by the firm adherence of the cotton to its parts. If cotton is not used, dust generally takes its place, and becomes cemented to the model. For the prevention of this vexation we herewith present an excellent recipe:
To Color or Paint Models -- Dissolve gum shellac in alcohol and add a small quantity of coloring matter; any color that is ground in water will answer. Models constructed of hard fancy woods, such as maple, beech, walnut, mahogany, etc., require the shellac only, no coloring water being requisite, as the shellac will bring out the natural grain of the wood. Avoid copal, and all oil and turpentine varnishes, and also oil paints, as they require considerable time to dry, and generally cause the working parts of models to adhere, and so stick together so as to render them inoperative.
A Call from Henry Ellsworth
Ex-Commissioner of Patents -- H.L. Ellsworth, Esq. -- favored us with a call a few days since; the old gentleman looked as hale and hearty as when he presided over the Patent Office twelve or fifteen years ago. He resides at Lafayette, Ind., and states that this year he has planted nearly 4,000 acres of corn on his little farm.
In conversation with him upon the subject of the New Patent Bill now before Congress, he expressed himself decidedly opposed to it, stating that he was fearful, if adopted, it would be a broad step towards the breaking up of our whole patent system. He coincided in our opinion, that the existing patent laws are as good as they can be, with perhaps some minor amendments, and he should be very sorry to see such a bill enacted, as was proposed. The honest old gentleman seemed not only to deprecate the idea of tampering with the present beneficial laws, but to feel sad at the idea of our Congress entertaining a bill which was so apparently concocted by designing parties, to procure the extension of a few monopolies, which they could not otherwise induce Congress to extend, unless by deception.
Like the makers of sugar-coated pills -- they seek to hide the taste of the drug, while passing through the Congressional mouth; well knowing that when swallowed, the effect will be the same as if no covering existed.
Highly Important to Inventors -- Proposed Remodeling of the Patent Laws
The Bill published in other columns, designed to effect such a sweeping change in our present patent system, is the one to which we alluded last week, and it is nearly the same as that introduced into the Senate in June, 1854.
When introduced into the Senate on the 10th inst., mysterious telegraphic dispatches were sent to the daily papers, lauding it to the skies, and stating it had met with the unanimous approval of high judicial personages at Washington. Those dispatches were no doubt, furnished by the parties interested in its passage. We cannot believe that any good jurist acquainted with our present harmonious patent code, would endorse such a bill, either as it respects its provisions or composition. Some interested assignees of certain odious monopolies, no doubt, know something about these dispatches. Defeated by bold and open opposition, they entertain hopes of accomplishing their objects in some other way. ....
Hitherto our patent system has been considered the most simple and perfect in the world; it has been a model for England and some other nations, who have recently adopted some of its features. But the new bill would drag it back to the ages of barbarism, by engrafting upon it worse features than those embraced in the Prussian or old English system. ....
[This issue includes a complete copy of the proposed bill, with the editor's adverse comments following each passage. However, it does not seem worth the effort of copying. KWD]
Agencies for Selling Patents
We are frequently inquired of as to agencies for selling patents, many persons supposing that we are engaged in that branch of business. We wish to state that we are not thus engaged, never have been, and never mean to be. We find our hands as full of occupation as we could wish, in our legitimate business of obtaining patents; with their sale we have nothing to do.
There is no reason, however, why agencies for selling patents ought not to succeed well and in some instances they do. The business is a legitimate one, and when conducted honestly and honorably can hardly fail to result satisfactorily, both to the purchaser, the patentee, and the agent. Quite a number of agencies for negotiating patent sales have been opened during the past few years; among them is that of Mr. T.H. Leavitt, No. 1 Phoenix Buildings, Boston, Mass., and Ellsworth & Co., No. 64 Randolph st., Chicago, Ill. We have confidence in these gentlemen, and therefore mention their names for the benefit of inquiring readers.
The number of patents issued increases every year, and agencies for their sale are springing up in every city. The demand for new inventions was never greater, and the prices realized for patents never so high as at present.
American Inventive Genius and Patent Laws
Up to the present week, no less than about twenty-three thousand American patents have been issued, averaging three hundred and sixty-two annually since the first general patent law was enacted in February 1793. [No. This was the second. The first was April 1790. KWD] It has proved a blessing to our country, that soon after the Federal Government was formed, the great and wise men then at its head -- Washington, Jefferson, Hamilton, and others -- adopted measures to give an impetus to the inventive genius of our people by the passage of a patent law. Jefferson, who had a great taste for mechanical inventions, was then at the head of the Patent Board, and was very liberal in encouraging inventors. His far-reaching sagacity saw, in the future, his native country -- then weak in power, and far behind in the arts -- rising gradually into inventive grandeur and greatness, unsurpassed, if no unequalled, by any empire or kingdom. And were he now to awake from the tomb, he would perhaps exult more at the great improvements invented by his countrymen, and which have been fostered by the Institution which he founded, than any other of the acts of his life. Since then, the fame of American inventive genius has passed into a general proverb; while, before that period, our manufactures were rude, and our inventions could almost be written with a cipher. Then our agricultural implements were either imported or copied from foreign models, now they lead the world. Our reaping machines and thrashers are the admiration of Europe, and they reap the fields and tribulate the grain of Gaul and Albion.
The invention of the cotton gin has made an American product the clothing king of mankind. The steamboat has proved a civilizer of nations; and the American telegraph is fast banding all men in a community of interests. We might go on and specify invention after invention of our people, until we filled several columns, but our readers do not require us to be thus particular.
Our mind was directed to this subject by seeing "No. 15,000," -- (the number granted since the re-organization of the Patent Office, in 1836,) on a patent issued this week, and we have but thus briefly glanced at the subject, to put us in all remembrance of what our Patent Laws have done for our country. Most of those American inventions which now cause the hearts of our citizens to exult with honest national pride, never would have come to light but for the encouragement given to inventors by our patent laws. And since the present patent code -- which is but the old one amended -- came into existence in 1836, affording greater security in obtaining patents, improvements have increased in a greater ratio than before. The laws which fostered so many good and useful inventions, and warmed them into existence, form a noble national fabric. We do not say it is perfect, but it would be a sad thing for our country, if it were uprooted and subverted by such a substitute as the new Patent Bill lately introduced into the Senate. Our people will never permit such a national calamity to occur.
The official report of claims of patents granted last week embraces a large number of inventions. Nineteen patents, or more than one third of the whole number, were obtained through the Scientific American Patent Agency.
We propose to publish, from time to time, reports of the sales of patents, and we should be glad to have our readers lend their aid. Whenever they hear of the sale of a patent right or portions thereof on terms of any importance, we should be glad to have them report the fact to us for publication, that is, if private interests are not likely to suffer thereby.
We believe that the publication of such reports has a tendency to increase the public confidence in good inventions, and also to lessen the difficulties of inventors in engaging the assistance of capitalists.
New Corn Planter
The accompanying engraving represents Fenwick and Boeklen's machine for planting and covering corn by hand, on which two patents have been secured, bearing dates respectively Aug 7th, 1855, and May 6th, 1856.
[Detailed description given, but not copied here. KWD]
For further information about the purchase of State and County rights, address R.W. Fenwick and Reinhold Boeklen, New York City.
Improvements -- No Standing Still
Some persons have expressed the opinion that we must soon reach the climax of invention and mechanical improvement. The reasons which they give for this opinion are in substance as follows: -- "So many wants have already been supplied by inventions, that the objects on which to exercise the faculties of inventors are becoming less daily, and must soon become very limited in number."
Such reasons are not founded on correct data, observation, or reflection. It is true that the minds of inventors have been very active during the present century, and they have happily supplied a multitude of wants for the benefit of mankind, but instead of these inventions circumscribing the number of objects seems to multiply, and the field for improvement has expanded with the advance of invention. No better evidence can be adduced in support of these assertions than the number of patents which continue to issue from the Patent Office -- instead of decreasing in number they have rapidly augmented. And it never can be otherwise in any country where proper inducements are presented for making improvements. The mind of man is so constituted that when it is directed aright, it strives after that perfection which is the attribute of the Deity. And as the object to be attained is infinite excellence, there is room for man to advance and improve forever. Every new step which he makes in his onward progress, shows him more of his defects and incites him to do something better still. Every new object also, to which he devotes his attention, in order to make improvements, is like a new torch lighted up before him; it throws its beams over a greater area, and reveals new objects, unseen, or overlooked by him before. As the road to perfection has no ending, and as new discoveries reveal new wants and objects, therefore the field for the exercise of inventive genius must continue to expand.
The old Greeks, no doubt, thought they had arrived at the climax of intelligence and perfection in the arts; and the Chinese have considered themselves a finished people, in all things, for centuries, but in learning and in useful science and art, the Greeks were but children to the moderns, and the conservative Chinese -- once the furthest advance in the arts -- are now barbarians. A blind conservatism respecting any art, exerts a withering influence; it stops improvements and turns the wheels of industry backwards.
Whenever a want is felt, it is a good plan to let it be as publicly known as possible, and to offer a reward (if this can be done) for its supply. A short time since a prize was offered for improvements on machinery for sawing marble, and in a very short period afterwards the improvements sought were produced. Our last week's number contained an account of movements now making in Illinois to offer a handsome prize for a useful steam plow. Such an invention -- just because it is felt to be a great want -- must ultimately be supplied. By such means many useful inventions have been developed, which otherwise would still have been slumbering in oblivion. No nation can stand still in the course of improvement; it must either go forward or retrograde. Every new improvement in the arts, therefore, should but incite to efforts for further progress and the attainment of a higher degree of excellence.