Scientific American, v 29 (ns), no 1, p 7, 5 July 1873
A Patent Congress
It will be remembered that, when the prospectus for the present exposition at Vienna was announced, the Austrian government appealed to the United States, requesting that a full display of the new and ingenious productions of this country might be supplied.
We took occasion to point out the hindrances to a compliance with the Austrian request, and showed that, owing to the illiberal nature of the Austrian patent laws, American inventors could not obtain proper protection for their new improvements in that empire; and that unless better security could be immediately assured to our citizens, they would be likely to take but little share or interest in the exposition.
The result has fully justified our interpretation of the feelings of American inventors and manufacturers. The exhibit from this country, though good in quality, is scanty as compared with what it undoubtedly would have been, had the Austrian government been a little more compliant in respect to inventive protection. Instead of granting protection to Americans, all that the Austrians could be induced to do was to agree to favoring the assembling of an International Congress for the purpose of talking over the subject of patent laws in general, and the propriety of promoting the enacting of uniform patent laws in all European states.
This Congress is to meet in Vienna during the present summer, and the President has recently appointed, as a special delegate from this country, the Hon. J.M. Thacher, now Assistant Commissioner of Patents. This appointment is an excellent one. Mr. Thacher is a gentleman of ability, and his extended official experience will enable him to present the clearest explanations of the working of our patent system, and the needs of our inventors in respect to patents in foreign countries.
The Department of State, in officially notifying us of the appointment of Mr. Thacher, requests our views upon the points accompanying the following letter:
Department of State
Washington, June 17, 1873
Messrs. Munn & Co., New York City
Sirs: -- An International Patent Congress is about to be held in Vienna, at which it is proposed that the United States be represented. In order that the interests of American inventors and manufacturers may be properly represented thereat, information is desired on the subjects of inquiry subjoined hereto.
Will you have the goodness to answer the several inquiries, or such of them as you may think proper to reply to, and return your answer to Hon. J.M. Thacher, Acting Commissioner of Patents, Patent Office, Washington?
As it is understood that the Congress will convene early in August next, it is very desirable that your answer may be received by Mr. Thacher before the first of July. I have the honor to be,
Very respectfully yours,
Subjects of Inquiry
1. Is the protection of inventions by patents just and expedient, and, if so, on what grounds?
2. To whom and for what should patents be granted?
3. Should the grant depend on preliminary official examination?
4. What limitations are proper, if any, as to manufacture of the patent article, or payment of additional fees?
5. Should a distinction be made between home and foreign applicants, and, if so, what?
6. What has been the influence of patents on manufacturing interests in this country? Explain.
7. If a manufacturer, how is your special branch affected by patents?
Statistical, as well as general information is desired, and also suggestions in relation to any other matter connected therewith.
Remarks by the Editor -- Each of these questions would form the subject of an elaborate essay, which at present we cannot undertake. We shall leave their extended discussion to our various readers. The Secretary of State is desirous of drawing out as general an expression of views as possible.
The Patent Congress at Vienna
The delegates to this gathering, from the various States of the continent and from this country, assembled on the 4th of August, in the Jury Pavilion in the exhibition grounds at Vienna, and organized by the election of Baron Schwarz-Senborn as honorary president, and a council, of which C. William Siemens, of London, was chosen president, with several secretaries, of whom Mr. Black, of New York, is one.
The object of this Congress, it will be remembered, is to discuss the propriety of establishing a uniform patent law in Europe, and also to suggest, to the several governments, the general principles and features which such a law ought to embrace. According to Galignani's Messenger, the following resolutions have been adopted.
"1. Only the inventor himself or his legal successors shall obtain a patent. The granting of a patent cannot be refused to foreigners. 2. The donation [sic, duration?] of a patent for an invention to be for fifteen years or for a shorter term with the option of extending it to that period. 3. The complete publication of the patent to be obligatory. 4. The expense of granting a patent to be established on a moderate but progressive scale." The amendment proposed by the American delegates, to introduce a graduated tax upon patents according to the condition of each respective country, was withdrawn after repeated doubtful votes had been taken. "5. A specification of all patents in force must be accessible to the public."
The Congress is to continue the debate upon the sixth resolution, whereby it is made obligatory on the holders of patents to place their inventions at the disposal of everybody wishing to use them upon payment of a fitting remuneration.
The first five resolutions appear to be practicable enough, and are based upon existing laws, now in vogue in most of the continental States. The proposed sixth resolution is a novelty in patent legislation and in some legal jurisprudence. It is a suggestion from some of the addled heads of Great Britain, we believe. It is intended, in that country, to involve the appointment of a commissioner of lords, dukes, and barons, who shall establish the price at which an inventor may sell his device after the grant of a patent. Such an enactment would be absurd as well as unjust to the inventor. If it is right and desirable for government to fix prices for the inventor, why not in like manner establish rates for authors, merchants, and dealers in commodities of all sorts?
At the Patent Office, Washington, every examiner is now favored with the help of a lady clerk, who takes charge of the official correspondence and looks after the odds and ends of the examiner's business. There is one exception, however. The examiner of medical inventions is debarred from feminine assistance, and is compelled to keep a clerk of the masculine gender.
New Order by the Commissioner of Patents
The subjoined order, recently issued by the Commissioner of Patents, will be fully appreciated by inventors and their representatives, exhibiting, as it does, a determination at headquarters that the chronic indolence heretofore prevailing among certain examiners, shall no longer be tolerated.
U.S. Patent Office
Washington, D.C., October 3, 1873
I have noticed, for more than two years past, that a few of the Examiners are generally from one to two months behind with the work in their rooms. The fact that they so uniformly have about the same number of cases on hand is evidence to me that, with proper effort, they might keep their work closely up to date. The answering of letters and the making of excuses, in consequence of being so far behind, are causes of great loss of time. I shall expect the work of the Office to be promptly up to date by the tenth day of November. If, to do this, it becomes necessary for Examiners to demand of their subordinates more than six hours labor per day, they will do so; but the work must be brought up to that date, and thereafter kept up.
Commissioner of Patents
The tedious delays in the matter of official decisions often deter inventors from applying for patents, and are equally discouraging to those having cases pending in the Patent Office. With this rule inflexibly observed, early examination and quick disposal of cases will be insured, thereby largely increasing the business of the Office.