Scientific American, v 30 (ns) no 3, p 32, 17 January 1874
Patent Office Printing
A correspondent of the New York World, writing to that paper from Washington, gives some items of public printing done by the Congressional Printer, among which is the sum of $142,703 charged for Patent Office printing. On this the writer complains in the following style:
"I selected the Patent Office from the Interior Department for this reason: the work done for that institution is not paid for by taxes, but by the people that take out patents. It is the people's money, not the Administration's, and in justice the work should be let out to the lowest bidder after advertisement. In this item 25 per cent, if not more, could be saved. In this connection the Government is running a monthly periodical for $1 a year, called the Official Gazette, a most flagrant abuse of public confidence and rather a small business for a government spending its $300,000,000 a year to engage in."
We fail to perceive where the "flagrant abuse of public confidence" would come in, even if it were true that the Official Gazette were a monthly periodical run at $1 a year. Unfortunately it is not true. The price is $6 a year, and it is published weekly. The publication is, however, carried on at a heavy expense to the government; but as it has been expressly ordered by Congress, the Commissioner of Patents only discharges his simple duty in attending to its publication, and the manner in which the work is produced is highly creditable to him. The Official Gazette takes the place of the former annual volumes, known as the Patent Office Reports, on which Congress was accustomed to spend far more than the weekly Gazette costs.
The Patent Reports were printed for free distribution by members of Congress, and the same practice is substantially maintained in respect to the Gazette. The public demand for it is far from sufficient to pay its support.
Ten thousand copies of the Gazette are printed every week, of which three thousand copies go to subscribers, who pay $6 a year, and seven thousand copies are given away to members of Congress, other departments of the government, courts, libraries, etc. The total cost of the publication is not far from sixty-four thousand dollars a year. The annual loss to the government by the publication, is a little under fifty thousand dollars a year.
Prior to the establishment of the Official Gazette, the patent claims were published in the Scientific American, and our publication of them was a matter of great convenience and advantage to the Patent Office. On the basis of the amount now paid out by the government for similar work, our publication of the claims must have saved the Patent Office from twenty to forty thousand dollars a year, during a period of nearly twenty years. But we never received a single centaro from the Patent Office for the service; indeed we could never prevail upon the department to be so liberal as to furnish us with a free copy of the claims for our printers to set up in the types. On the contrary, we were compelled to pay the Patent Office from five hundred to a thousand dollars a year to furnish us with the copy. After the issue of our paper, the Patent Office was then accustomed to expend a few cents weekly in purchasing extra copies of the Scientific American, out of which it scissored the printed claims for use in the various examiners rooms, and in connection with the drawings, and the preparation of the annual reports.
The weekly publication of the claims is desirable as a matter of convenience, to the Patent Office, and to a limited number of persons, consisting mostly of patent agents and attorneys. But the public in general have little use therefor. We believe it would be a much better plan to enlarge the Gazette so as to give the specifications and drawings in full of all patents issued. This would form an invaluable work of great importance to the public, and, if issued at, say, $25 a year, would doubtless be self-supporting, providing the free list were wholly suspended, and the best economy practiced in the printing.
Administrative Reform in the Patent Office
To the Editor of the Scientific American
While every competent person will probably admit the immense benefit to the American people and to mankind of the enlightened and liberal principles which have always guided Congress in its relations to inventions, it is nevertheless obvious that considerable dissatisfaction now exists with respect to the administration of the patent law. For proof of this, it is only necessary to refer to the general and scientific press. In reply to these strictures and complaints, it is not a sufficient answer to say that the United States patent law is superior to that of European communities, the practical question being whether it is so administered as to carry out in the right spirit the patriotic and noble objects of its founders, such as the encouragement of genius, the promotion of arts and manufactures, the development of the national resources, and the utilization of those great natural reservoirs of power surrounding man on every side and only awaiting the vivifying force of his intellect to become the fruitful sources of prosperity. In the following remarks my only object is to offer a few suggestions for the improvement of the system of administration, and I have not the slightest wish to impute blame to any individual.
The first evil presenting itself is the temporary organization of the Patent Office. It is apparently considered as merely part of the ordinary executive machinery of government rather than as national and neutral ground from which all political considerations should be excluded. Why should not the personnel of the Patent Office be placed on the same footing as that of the Supreme Court of the United States? Is it not evident that the incessant changes resulting from its subserviency to the Executive of the day tend in the highest degree to impair the efficiency of the Patent Office administration? It is always found that men appointed for a lengthened period, independently of party or political considerations, will get through more work and do it infinitely better than those who feel insecure in their official position. For such highly qualified officers the present salaries appear to me inadequate.
The first point, then, in Patent Office reform would be to reduce the number of employees, and to substitute a few highly qualified, well paid, half satisfied, and half competent men and women, selected chiefly through political influence, and seldom having had any suitable previous training for the duties which they are called upon to discharge.
In connection with the permanency of the officers should be the permanency, as far as practicable, of the rules guiding the transaction of business in the Patent Office. As it is at present, there seems to be an utter absence of any permanent principles regulating the granting or refusal of patents. The rules of this year may be quite at variance with those of last year or next year, and inventors on applying for patents, after expensive and laborious investigations, may find themselves ousted by some recent edict of the temporary head of the Patent Office. To revert again to the analogy of the Supreme Court of the United States, how could its business be satisfactorily carried on, if, instead of well considered, well understood rules, founded on reason and experience and principle, its suitors from all parts of the Union had to encounter a mere chaos of personal caprice, reflecting the ephemeral fancies of an amateur pro tempore dispenser of justice?
Then, with respect to the rejection of applications for patents, what can be more unjust and burdensome to inventors than to cast on them the onus and cost of appealing to the superior officers of the Patent Office against the possibly erroneous, ignorant, or inequitable decisions of the inferior examiners, when all these officers are already paid out of the fees of inventors? As a general rule, it will always be found that the needless multiplication of tribunals of appeal is practically a denial of justice to the mass of the community, for it tends to make length of the purse and not goodness of the case the all important consideration. And in a rejected application, to constitute that expensive series of successive tribunals out of the various grades of the bureaucracy of one and the same office is certainly a most curious mode of encouraging invention. A single crotchety or incompetent primary examiner may thus at present really obstruct the progress of a whole range of industries, and so directly defeat the objects of Congressional legislation on this subject. Such a man may see in the most recent steam engine simple a reproduction of the principle of the oelopile as it existed 2,000 years ago; or may find in the most improved lamp or stove only the same process of combustion known of old to the vestal virgins. The fact is that, in considering an application for a patent, something more than mere expertism, as it may be termed, is required in the examiner. He should not only be acquainted with the laws of science, but also be capable of discriminating between the relative claims of individuals and the essential features of their respective plans. But the records of the Patent Office show clearly that many of the primary examiners and some of the examiners in chief have given decisions subsequently pronounced by their superior officers erroneous and unjust. Why then is there not, in the regular machinery of the Patent Office itself, suitable provision for the equitable settlement of such cases, instead of casting the burden of appeal on individual inventors.
It is evident from these facts alone that one of two results ought to follow. Either all applications for patents complying with certain simple conditions should be granted (a course advocated by so high an authority as the Scientific American), or before any application is rejected the adverse decision of the primary examiner should be revised and confirmed by the judgment of the superior officers, and that revision should be, not as at present on technical points indicated by the examiner appealed from, but from the substantial merits of the invention.
As it is at present, no sensible man who could possibly avoid doing so would apply for a patent for his invention; he would rather be disposed to tray to secretly manufacture the article or carry on the process. Many improved chemical processes are indeed already kept secret in consequence of the inadequate protection afforded by patent laws. For in making his application, the inventor discloses all that he may have learnt from his studies and trials; the information is henceforth no longer his own exclusive property, and possibly all that he would now receive from the Patent Office in return would be a permission to institute a series of appeals to the consecutive officials constituting it, at an expenditure of time, trouble, and money, which might be more usefully employed. The appealing part of the patent law, as it now exists, is therefore obviously a source of injury rather than of benefit to the inventors, and should either be changed or abolished. I believe that these principles of the Patent Office reform, fairly and fully carried out, would conduce to the interests of the best officers of that important national institution, while they would at the same time benefit inventors and harmonize, more intimately than the present practice, with the known intentions and desires of every American statesman from the time of Washington.
Patent Monopolies in Congress
Another of the overgrown monopolies, which not only oppress the people but retard the progress of industry in this country, is now before Congress attempting to induce that body to give it another lease of life. Some forty years ago, an American residing in England, invented a machine for forming felt hat bodies, which he subsequently brought to the United States for the purpose of patenting. Owing to an informality, his application was rejected; but some years afterwards the right was granted to Mr. H.A. Wells, who presented the same machine, modified by one or two minor changes. Since 1846, the association owning this patent have held a complete monopoly of the business, and, by refusing to license others to use the machine (except a few whom they bought off to prevent opposition of their last extension), they force all the manufacturers of the country to send their fur to the ring factories to be manufactured at ring prices. The actual cost of forming a hat body is but two cents, and the charge is from six to twenty cents, showing the enormous profit of from two hundred to one thousand per cent on ever hat of the ten million and over yearly produced in the United States. The actual loss to the hat makers over what the cost would be, if allowed to manufacture their own hat bodies, is estimated at over 42 per cent, and against this the trade can do nothing. If any dealer complains, the ring refuse to make his hats, and his business is ruined. Several years ago, Wells died, and since then, for the benefit of his "poor" widow, who has only made $111,000 out of the job thus far, two extensions were granted. Now, the ring comes before Congress again and asks for seven years longer, making thirty-five years in all in which to carry out their monopoly, and this in the face of the fact that the original form of machine patented by Wells, is not used and has not been for the past twenty-five years, but simply serves as a ground for litigation and the securing of damages for infringements. The hatters are resisting the attempt with all their influence, and they assert, that, with this oppressive tax abolished, they could not only produce more goods, and regain their lost foreign trade, but sell cheaper, and give their hands employment for the whole, instead, as is now the case, of only two thirds of the year.
These Wells patents, in common with those held by the sewing machine combination and the Woodbury planer ring, are infamous taxes on the people, and as such the country suffers for want of their abolition. We do not think the fault lies in our patent system, for the principles on which our laws are based are primarily the encouragement of the useful arts and the dissemination of knowledge concerning the same throughout the community. To foster their production upon the ground of expediency, and not of justice, limited monopolies are granted to the original and first discoverer, which, in accordance with the value of his invention, may yield him an ample remuneration for his thought and labor. Now if the inventor of a valuable article or process fails within a certain period to gain a just reward, then he may with justice be granted longer time; but if, on the other hand, he, or those representing him, succeed in obtaining a fair and adequate return during the lifetime of the patent, then there is clearly no reason for continuing the monopoly.
Mr. Sayler, of Indiana, has recently introduced a bill in the House of Representatives, the object of which is the suppression of the abuses we have pointed out, but the means taken are not such as will secure the desired result. It is provided that any article made under a single patent may be used, etc., by any one on payment of a royalty of 10 percent of the market value, and that the user shall secure the patentee by a $10,000 bond, filed in the Patent Office. The royalty on patents for improvements, or on inventions covered by two or more patents, is to be fixed by the courts, and the same provision applies to copyrights. The trouble with this measure is that it strikes both ways; while benefiting the buyer, it injures the seller. It reduces the profits, perhaps, of the big corporations, but in like manner those of the smaller inventors, whom it should protect. It puts into the hands of one man, the right to absorb the labor of another, carried on through the years and at great expense, into a slightly improved device, giving the former individual all the profits, while the real worker must be content with a ten percent royalty. Finally, apart from the crudity and ambiguity of its provisions (for on what basis is "market value," a fluctuating equivalent varying with locality, season, etc., to be estimated?), the law is open to the same objections as those relating to usury, as it arbitrarily restricts an individual's right to his personal property, and this we believe to be contrary to public policy, unless the need be imminent, clear and apparent, as in event of war.
We might urge other objections to the act -- which we trust will not pass -- but we dismiss it for the present to consider that which we believe to be the only true remedy to the existing difficulties. Mr. Sayler, in his argument, brings forward a mass of suggestive statistics; the india rubber industry pays 59 per cent on the capital employed, the cabinet organ business, 69 per cent, agricultural implements, 52 per cent. In seventeen months the capital invested in sewing machines doubles itself, besides paying all expenses; and finally comes the Wells hat manufacture, with the immense profits already pointed out. Now, with the full comprehension of these and other like cases: and there is no reason shy a perfect understanding of the nature of these grinding incubi on the industries of this country should not be afforded us, for we, in common with other journals, have reverted to the matter again and again: why, we ask, do Mr. Sayler and his associates in Congress not strike directly at the roots of the evils and end them at once by refusing to extend their existences when the prescribed limits are reached? This hat body outrage has been fastened on the country for the last seven years by an innocent looking amendment tacked on the end of a bill on the last night of a session. Members failed to investigate, the measure passed, and the work was done. In other instances which me might mention, wealth is unsparingly used, opposition bought off, professional talent employed, "poor" widows brought out as figure heads, Congressmen coaxed and cajoled, if not bribed, and, in fact, every art and trick of the lobby practiced to ensure the passage of a desired bill -- the object of which is simply to impose additional burden on the backs of the people.
The remedy needed is an enactment which will do away with these Congressional extensions, which will fix certain limits to the lifetime of a patent, subject to the discretion of the proper officials in the Patent Office. These limits should include one extension, to be acceded after careful investigation and for cause; but beyond the period so granted, not a day should be allowed. During twenty one years, if the invention be of value, abundant remuneration can be gained; and monopolies of half a century's standing should be effectually abolished and rendered impossible.
The Page Patent Litigation
There seems to be a probability that the validity of the Page patent will be thoroughly and legally tested. We have before mentioned in The Telegrapher the fact that suits had been commenced in the United States Courts against the Manhattan Quotation Company and Mr. Charles T. Chester, of this city, for infringement of this patent, and they are to be contested to the end, and the validity, as affecting telegraphic instruments and apparatus, either established or denied judicially.
Our readers are fully aware of our opinions in this matter, and we have show, as we think, conclusively, that Professor Page was not the original inventor of the devices for which a patent has been granted to him, and that, in fact, the patent is an outrage on the public, who have paid largely for these same devices to other patentees, whose patents have expired and become public property. So well convinced was the Western Union Company of the invalidity of the patent that, when first offered to them for purchase, after an investigation by experts and eminent patent lawyers, it was rejected. It was subsequently purchased by that company for good and sufficient reasons, no doubt, not connected with its validity, and has for the last three years, been held in terrorem over the telegraphic interests of the country not connected with Western Union -- no serious attempt having heretofore been made to enforce it.
It should, by all means, be disposed of at as early a day as possible. If properly contested, that it can ever be maintained legally we regard as an impossibility.
The resources of the Western Union Company will enable them to press the matter, and the contest will be protracted and expensive. All who are interested in defeating it should at once join hands with the defendants and make common cause with them, sharing the expenses as they will the benefit of success. The railroad companies are especially and vitally interested in this matter; for if the Page patent be once established, they are at the mercy of the Western Union Telegraph Company, so far as their telegraph facilities are concerned, and will be made to pay roundly for the exemption from such control during the last few years, since the Morse patents expired. They should be wise in time, and cooperate with those who are engaged in supporting the independence of the telegraphs of the country.
-- The Telegrapher
Swindling Patent Sellers
We have received of late a great number of letters calling our attention to the rapid growth and extension of the frauds perpetrated upon inventors by inducing the latter to forward sums of money, as pretended fees, to certain agents who pretend to sell patent rights. Some time ago, we had occasion to show up these knaves, and warned our readers to beware of them, mentioning an instance of some scamps in the West receiving not only money but models, the latter of which, they either left in the express office or behind them in a loft when they decamped from the town, while they, of course applied the funds to their own benefit. We are led once more to revert to the subject by the reception of several queries regarding a "Mississippi Valley Manufacturing Company," doing business in Vicksburgh, Miss. One correspondent, among the many, favors us with a copy of the letter received by him, which reads as follows:
(Handsome letter head of buildings, etc.)
Mississippi Valley Manufacturing Co.
January 13, 1874
Mr. ---- ----
Dear Sir: -- Will you, upon receipt of $1,200 cash, allow us to have your coupling for gas and water mains manufactured to supply the trade of the South and West, for the term of two years upon a royalty of $5.00 per dozen made? If you desire to dispose of your invention in this manner, send $5.00 to pay part of the attorney's fee for examining title, etc. Upon receipt of same, we will make the necessary inquiries at the Patent Office, and also have your invention examined before a board of competent judges, when, if everything proves perfectly satisfactory, we will remit the amount by draft on any bank you name, the same to be subject to your order upon the receipt by us of the necessary transfer. Our arrangement will not prevent you from selling any State you may receive offers for. Comply at once with our terms, if you wish to take hold of it.
Miss. Manufacturing Co.
This swindle is so very palpable that one is almost at a loss to understand how any person can be so foolish as to be deceived by it; and yet another correspondent, who has interviewed an official at Vicksburgh regarding the subject, says that large numbers of letters are constantly sent to the above address. Inquiries, made as to the business location of the recipients of these missives, revealed a little room in a "decayed part of the city," the whole contents of which would not exceed twenty dollars in value. The parties are young men who are leading a fast and dissolute life on the money thus fraudulent obtained. The inventor rarely receives an answer to his letter enclosing the funds. The Vicksburgh Herald has also investigated the matter, and remarks: "We have only to say, for the protection of people everywhere, that we have never heard of any such company, and that it exists only in the imagination of the swindlers who are trying to defraud the public." So much for the Mississippi Valley Manufacturing Company. Still another correspondent asks for information concerning the Western Michigan Patent Agency, Grand Rapids, Mich. This very enterprising firm wants only ten dollars and a model, to make the inventor rich. The writers ask if these gentry are related to the scoundrels who were located in Albion, Mich., some time since, who flourished under another name.
It is curious to note with what alacrity people will risk good money for the chances of a large profit. The same feeling which induces the ignorant to stake funds in lotteries, where the probabilities are all against them, impels others to transmit their cash to persons of whom they know nothing in the hope of thus securing some enormous gain. It may be laid down as an infallible rule that an invention that is really valuable can always be disposed of privately and readily for its full worth, and the owner of the right, fully appreciating this fact, is never beguiled by such dazzling baits as are offered by these swindling agencies. We are perfectly well aware that it is about as hard to show an inventor that his device, when once patented, is of small utility and value, as to convince a mother that her baby is ugly, and both individuals usually resent the imputation in about the same manner. It is these very inventors, however, who having exhausted every plan to dispose of their rights, snap at the allurements artfully held out to them, and of course are fleeced. The world gives little sympathy, for it laughs at their verdancy in being so readily deceived; but when the trials, the labor and expense, which these men incur to carry out their cherished ideas, be reflected upon, the subject becomes more one for pity than for derision.
We would once more warn the people against not only the attempts to defraud, above exposed, but against every other they may receive that even appears of similar nature, particularly against specious parties who, for a certain sum, agree to sell a patent and advertise it in some patent journal or other obscure circular or sheet. It is very rarely that these men ever effect a sale; and if they be swindlers, they dare not announce the fact, if they have done so. Indeed, if any of our readers desire to prove for themselves the genuineness of the offers of their correspondents, they have only to write to the latter for the names of reputable persons whose patents have been sold through their agency; and if any be returned personal investigation will soon determine the questions of authenticity.
A Congressional Patent Discussion
On the 28th day of June, 1859, McClintock Young obtained a patent for an improvement in harvesting machines, which, under the law then in force, expired fourteen years from that date. The patentees then had the right to apply for extension of seven years, which privilege he exercised six months previous to the expiration of his time. The case lay in the Patent Office until the 27th of June, 1873, when the Acting Commissioner was asked to grant the extension, the matter having been fully adjudicated to that effect. The official postponed his decision until the arrival of the Commissioner, who, returning on the 28th, signed and issued the necessary documents. Young then sold his extension to McCormick, to whom the original patent had been assigned for $10,000, for an additional sum of $5,000 but before the latter consideration was paid, some lawyers raised the question as to the validity of the extension, on the ground that the patent expired on June 27, and that the extension should have been as of that date instead of the following day. Under the law no extension could be granted after the expiration of the original patent, and hence the point at issue arose, whether or not the same occurred on June 27 or June 28. The Commissioner held that June 28 was the proper date; but in order to avoid litigation, a bill was recently introduced in the House of Representatives to remove all doubts on the subject and to confirm the validity of the extension by giving it the same binding effect as though it had been signed by the Commissioner on June 27, 1873.
We hardly think that the most penetrating scrutiny would ordinarily perceive any deep, dire, and hidden signification underlying this very simple statement of fact. To the average intellect, it appears that a poor inventor comes before Congress and asks that body to rectify a mere clerical error on the part of one of its officials, in order that he may receive the small sum offered him as a reward for his labor and not be deprived of the same through the expense of tedious litigation. He cannot afford to take the matter to the courts and wait for a decision, even if such were the proper course, but, armed with a written opinion of the Commissioner directly in his favor, simply requests our representatives to quiet a legal quibble raised as to his undoubted right to his own justly earned property.
But several acute and far reaching minds in the House are not to be deluded by any such specious argument as this, it must be investigated and examined, over twelve columns of fine print in the Congressional Record, and some hours of valuable time. This is an attempt to embarrass the entire agricultural population, to reduce the rural granger to penury and want; to impose a grinding monopoly on industry, no matter if it is a little improvement on a well known machine, the whole patent right of which is to bring the inventor $15,000. Besides, reason our astute legislators, this is not the hat case, or the planer extension, or the sewing machine job, and there are no poor widows or lobby agents or other skilled talent to explain things to our satisfaction. It is only a poor man who asks for his own; therefore we will call his bill "dangerous legislation," assume (whether rightly or not) that his patent wound up on the 27th, and show that we are utterly opposed to Congressional extensions by considering that he asks us for one, no matter whether the facts substantiate the view or not, we will persistently perceive only the McCormick machines, even though they are not before us and have nothing to do with the subject, so that we can indulge in heroics over the vast amount paid by the public for the same, and by this means we shall advertise ourselves in the eyes of the people and glorify our names before the Scientific American and other journals that make disagreeable remarks about monopoly jobs.
In the end, however, after these ingenious special pleaders had suggested enough buncombe and nonsense, had questioned and cross questioned the supporters of the measure, and made them state the case over nine times, had wasted hours of valuable time when minutes would have amply sufficed, pushing aside business of the highest importance, the completion of which the country urgently requires: on a vote being taken the opposition were fortunately found in the minority, and so the bill was passed.
Patent Affairs at Washington
To the Editor of the Scientific American:
The past winter has probably been one of the busiest ever known in the Patent Office, and the work is still increasing, as will be seen by the fact that the number of fees of all kinds paid in during the first three months of this year is 10,528, being an increase of five hundred and twenty over the corresponding period of last year.
With this increase of business and the constant accumulation of material, such as files, drawings, models, etc., there is a great necessity for more space, especially in the model halls. The cabinets for exhibiting the models being full and running over, most of them having their tops covered, in some cases the models are piled, one on another, until the lower ones are broken with the superincumbent weight. Unless something is done soon, the models will be in such a terrible confusion that it will be almost impossible to examine them. The machinist is doing his best to make room by putting the models closer together, but this is a mere temporary expedient, and gives but little space. If the galleries in the South Hall were completed, a large number of cabinets could be added, but these, it is stated, cannot be built for want of money, although enough has probably been wasted in building a private conservatory over the roof of the West Hall to complete the galleries and have money to spare.
From the number of applications before Congress, it would appear that the lobbyists are endeavoring to run another Patent Office in the Capitol, as the following list of cases now before the Committee on Patents will show:
The Congressional Patent Office -- List of Applications for Extensions of Patents Now Before Congress
A.B. Wilson, Sewing Machines
McClintock Young, Harvester
J. Fritz, Rolling Iron
J. Hazeltine, Water Wheel
L. Ketchum, Harvester
J. Nock, Inkstands
T.W. Mitchell, Finishing Brush Handles
C.W. Williams, Canal Locks
J. Wyman, Setting Blind Staples
Vinton & John, Furnaces
Moses Marshall, Knitting Machine
J. Lilley, Surveying Instrument
A. Dillman, Corn Shellers
Rollin White, Fire Arms
Akin & Felthausen, Sewing Machines
Rudolph Eickmeyer, Sewing Machines
Reynolds, Power Loom
A.J. Hathaway, Converting Motion
L.C. Chase, Buckles
J. Haines, Harvester
H.L. Cake, Coal Screens
Ward, Bullet Machine
Ward, Molding Shell
W.W. Burrell, Corn Sheller
H.G. Bulkley, Kilns
A. Attwood, Car Wheels
T.R. Crosby, Wiring Blind Rods
A.G. Batchelder and others, Car Brake
J. Young, Washing and Wringing Machine
J.A. Pickering, Boot Straps
J.H. Butterworth, Bank Locks
J.C. Cook, Webbing
R.A. Marcher, Enameling Moldings
Eliza Wells, Forming Hat Bodies
A.S. Macomber, Straw Cutter
S. Wethered, Carding Machines
J.W. Marsh, Sewing Machine Attachment
W. Wickersham, Sewing Machine
A.J. Vandergrift, Grain Separator
In addition to these cases, I find the following names of parties who have applications filed, but the records do not show the inventions protected by their patents: S.H. Hodges, Henry Lill, N. Whitehall, Alpha Richardson's widow and heirs, T.& L. Winans, J. Kirby, E.P. Torrey, J.G. Perry, and G. Wellman.
One of the most conspicuous of these jobs is the case of the Wilson sewing machine, which is up before Congress for the third time. This patent covers up every "roughened surface," "four motion," or "wheel feed," and the sewing machine rings have controlled it now for twenty one years, thereby shutting off all competition, which has enabled them to wring millions yearly from the people; "and yet they are not happy," but want this pretty little privilege for seven years longer. It is rumored among the knowing ones that the promoters of this extension expect to dispense something nice among those who are disposed to help them, and that $50,000 has already been sent down here as an earnest of the good things to come. The plan proposed at present, as near as I can learn, is to get Congress to pass an act directing the Commissioner to examine and decide the case in the same manner as a first extension, and then bring their whole force to bear upon him to decide favorably. At the two previous attempts, the application has been kicked out, the Congressmen being afraid to face their constituents with the additional discredit such a palpable job would give them -- the Credit Mobilier and "back pay grab: being as much as they could hope to carry comfortably -- but, by turning the matter over to the Commissioner, they hope to be able to oblige their good friends of the sewing machine ring, and yet throw the blame on the former should their constituents make trouble about it. The ring hope to succeed with the Commissioner by means of a pretended sale of the first extension for $50,000, so as to make out that this was all the benefit that Wilson received from it, and that he should therefore have another term of seven years as a compensation for being such a fool as to sell a patent worth millions for such a paltry sum. By means of this sale, and by tales of the hardships, sickness, and other troubles which Wilson encountered in his early days,, they hope to work on the benevolent heart of the Commissioner and induce him to grant another extension. There are some persons who even go so far as to say that the same weighty reasons are to be employed with the Commissioner that are found so efficacious with the lobby, but, of course, people who know him will not believe a word of this; yet, in view of the rumor, it would give an ugly look to the matter to those unacquainted with him, should this extension pass.
In addition to this there is the Akin & Felthausen case, which, if extended, will also cover up the sewing machine business completely; but these parties, although formerly connected with the combination, appear to be -- and I believe they are -- working against them. They want Congress to extend their patent so that every one shall have the right to manufacture by paying them a small royalty. Such an extension, however, would have to be very carefully worded, or otherwise it would fall into the hands of the ring who bought of them the last extension, the assignment being so worded as to carry with it any future extension.
Besides these extension bills and bills reorganizing the Patent Office, several bills have been introduced into Congress, affecting inventors and patentees. One of these authorizes the payment of $100,000 yearly for ten years as premiums for meritorious inventions, in the sums of from one to ten thousand dollars. Another bill proposes the extension of any patent for seven years upon the payment of $100 by the inventor. Both of these, I believe, have been reported unfavorably. A third bill provides, first, that there shall be no more extensions; and, secondly, that any person or corporation shall have the privilege of manufacturing patented articles by paying a certain percentage (not yet fixed) on the selling price.
Washington, April 30, 1874