Scientific American v 5 (ns) no 2, p 19, 13 July 1861
Patents in the Southern Confederacy. We understand that Rufus P. Rhodes, Esq., of Mississippi, has received the appointment of Commissioner of Patents for the Confederate States. Mr. Rhodes was formerly an Examiner in the Patent Office, and a member of the Board of Appeals. He was generally esteemed in the Patent Office, and discharged his duty with fidelity until the succession fever broke out, when he retired to his home, and actively promoted the interests of the Southern Confederacy. The Richmond Dispatch states that this branch of the Southern new government is about going into operation under favorable auspices. Commissioner Rhodes has arrived from Montgomery, opened his department at Goddin's building, and in a very short time will be ready to proceed to business. No less than twelve applications for new patents, forty applications to revive old ones, forty caveats, filed for future action, and numerous assignments for record, await the action of the commissioner.
Letter from Our Washington House
Washington, July 8, 1861
Messrs. Editors: -- The work of printing the patents is being pressed forward with such rapidity that we may hope to see all arrears brought up within a few more weeks. The greater part of the patents of June 11th has already been forwarded, and those of June 18th will probably all be ready for delivery within ten days.
I subjoin, for the benefit of such of your readers as are interested in proceedings before the United States Patent Office, some extracts from the report of the Hon. Commissioner of Patents, and the decision of the Hon. James Dunlop, Chief Justice of the United States Circuit Court for the District of Columbia, in the matter of interference between Thomas Snowden and Ephraim Pierce. The question which gives this case peculiar interest is one of jurisdiction. Since the passage of the new law it has been generally admitted that it is optional with an applicant to appeal from the decision of the Examiners-in-Chief, direct to one of the Judges of the Circuit Court, or first to the Commissioner of Patents, and then to the Judge. This view was sustained by the Commissioner of Patents, who held that, now as formerly, the applicant is at liberty to appeal immediately to the Judge whenever an adverse decision is given by the Patent Office, at any stage of the proceedings.
[remainder omitted here. KWD]
Condition of the Patent Office
The affairs of the Patent Office are moving forward with great regularity and to the satisfaction of its friends. Commissioner Holloway is fully alive to all the duties of his office, and is giving abundant evidence of his interest in the inventor's welfare. It is much to his credit that he is breaking up a clique that has long enough exercised a pernicious influence in and about the office, and we are assured that the Chief Clerk, Mr. Hayes, is ready also to sustain the Commissioner in every laudable reform. A number of important removals has been made, and still the work is not yet done. We hope Mr. Holloway will stand his ground and firmly resist the encroachments of all those subtle influences such as enveloped his predecessor. The breaking up of that nonsensical "Board of Revision" -- the special pet of Mr. Thomas; -- and the recent important change in the mode of examining interference cases, are among the beneficial acts of the new administration.
We say most emphatically, that the present condition of the office is about all that inventors can desire. The coils about the office have been broken -- the enemies of a fair and open discharge of its duties are now temporarily discomfited. Let Mr. Holloway and Mr. Hayes see to it that these enemies be kept at bay for the future.
Condition of the Patent Office
Messrs. Editors: -- Under the above caption, in your last issue, you speak flatteringly of the zeal and fidelity of Commissioner Holloway to the interests of inventors. I do not propose to take exceptions to this part of your article. I believe he intends to administer the duties of his office with reference to its best interests "without fear or favor." Yet I trust that you will allow me a brief space in your journal to offer a few remarks upon a matter that concerns not only inventors but also the public, for it must be admitted that both these interests are to be served in the management of the Patent Office. In spite of the good intentions of the Commissioner, I am well satisfied that this office is becoming more and more, under its present regime, an asylum for deaf and dumb fossils and political hacks. Already several of the oldest and most experienced Examiners have been removed, and I am informed that more changes are expected, based ostensibly on the plea of retrenchment; yet it is whispered that one of these vacancies -- an Examinership -- will be tendered very soon to a Massachusetts politician, an ex-M.C., whose constituents had no further use for his services.
You are very well aware that there are few inducements in this country for men to devote themselves to science or abstract pursuits; the country in general will not pay for high knowledge, but it seems to me that the few places which are open to such men and for which they are fitted, should be given to them instead of to political favorites who have no scientific knowledge to back them. I ask, in all candor, cannot the inventor's interests be better served than by stuffing mere politicians into technical places for which they have no fitness? There is at this time, as I am informed, an Examiner in charge of an important class of mechanical inventions who does not know an eccentric, an escapement or a ratchet and pawl. The Act of March 2nd was intended to put men of ability into the high places of the Office, and if reports are true, it has miserably failed.
I do not think the fault is so much with Commissioner Holloway, but the combined influence of politicians who are clamoring for places are calculated to overturn the best intentions of the chief officer. Thus, you see, that through the influence of Senator Hale, who had a long-cherished political grudge, the office was deprived of the services of Mr. Little, who was known to be one of the most laborious and valuable men in the department. For many years he had abjured political life, and devoted himself entirely to his duties in the office. Mr. Little may not thank me for alluding to his case, but justice to the subject in hand requires an example.
I am not an officer in the Patent Office, and never have been, nevertheless I know considerable of its past history and present condition, and I am constrained to say that, in my judgment, there is much danger that able men in the Office will be removed to make room for stupid political hacks, who know less about technical subjects than they do of the Holy Scriptures -- which makes there cases desperate in the extreme. There are many positions in the Patent Office where mere clerical ability only is needed, but men qualified for such positions will never do to fill Examinerships, unless there is an intention on the part of the Administration to reward friends with a view only to secure temporary advantage, for certainly the Patent Office cannot long thrive under such a system.
New York, July 13, 1861
Condition of the Patent Office
A correspondent -- "Aquinas" -- in a communication published in another column, animadverts upon a growing tendency on the part of Patent officials, to turn that department more and more into a political asylum. The old political war cry "to the victor belong the spoils," stimulates party zeal, and urges many an ambitious man to throw himself into the thickest part of the fight, and sustain the conflict in the "imminent deadly breach." Such men look for their reward only in the honors and emoluments of office, and it cannot be denied that modern precedent justifies an administration in filling up the offices from the ranks of its followers; but we have long maintained that the Patent Office ought to be an honorable exception in this respect; that men should be selected or retained only on the ground of qualification. The Commissioner cannot always be blamed for the character of the appointments that are made in the Patent Office. He may ofttimes have to yield to the wishes of the Secretary of the Interior, who is head over the Patent Office.
The Commissioner, however, is wholly to blame for allowing unworthy or incompetent officers to remain in the office, and we confess that even now we are puzzled to understand something in connection with this matter.
We have before us a list of ten persons who have been quite recently removed from the Office, and we must say that we do not fully understand why it is that officers are removed against whom no opposition is raised, and some are still retained who are strongly opposed, suspected and almost despised. They remain fixed and immovable like the head of the "old man of the mountain." We suppose Commissioner Holloway fully understands why these things are so, and can manage the Office without advice from outsiders; nevertheless, we venture to speak for inventors generally, that while retrenchment seems to be necessary, owing to a decrease in the business of the Office, removals should first be made of those who are decidedly objectionable. It seems to us that thus only can the Office escape suspicion that it is not doing its whole duty faithfully and manfully.
An Extraordinary Patent Scheme Exploded
The following paragraph has recently made its appearance in a Southern journal and has been copied into two of our city journals. As it deeply concerns the character of the Editors and Proprietors of the Scientific American, we make room for the extract, which runs as follows:
Looking to the Future -- A gentleman of New Orleans has furnished us with the following extract from a letter addressed to him by a New York firm. The writers are rapid Black Republicans, but show that they have at the same time, a sharp eye for business. It will be seen that they regard it as a fixed fact that "the Southern States will soon be a recognized government independent of the North." On this idea, these precious souls who have been contributing to the wicked invasion of our country, are laying their plans to make money out of us, and asking a Southern citizen to become a partner in his Yankee scheme. They will have the consolation of knowing that they missed their man; and if they pursue their inquiries they will find that our government has already taken the necessary legislation to forestall any such handsome business operation as they propose.
New York, April 21, 1861
Dear Sir: -- Knowing your long connection with the Patent Office and familiarity with its details, we are induced to address and make a proposition which we hope will be both acceptable and profitable to you. The fact is now patent to the world that the Southern States will soon be a recognized government independent of the North, and amongst its other functions will be the establishment of a Patent Office . ... Unfortunately, the patents heretofore granted by the United States will be in some form recognized and secured to the inventor or assigns. ... We have now control of several hundred, and by an effort can secure as many more, You, we suppose, can control as many more. Now, we propose that our firm and yourself obtain the control of as many as possible, and that you take the necessary steps to secure the patents for the Confederate States. We will advance, from time to time, all the money necessary, and divide equally the profit. The South must of necessity, in a few years, become somewhat a manufacturing country, and by securing the control of existing patents, we can, to a great extent, secure to ourselves a monopoly. There is scarcely a machine or instrument of common use but is covered by one or more patents; and, to a person of your practical sense, it is unnecessary to say what the effect would be, both to ourselves and others. By the control of the patents we can dictate our own terms to manufacturer and mechanics.
Munn & Co.
Language is too poor to do justice to this subject, but we will venture upon it. The letter above printed, purporting to have been written by us, is an impudent forgery from beginning to end, and its author is an unmitigated scamp and deserves to be strung up within the coils of a hempen noose. The editor who published the letter and furnished the comments, is either a dupe or a knave. If the former, he will correct his error; if the latter, we shall only expect additional abuse from him. No such letter, written by us, nor anything like it, can be produced, and we challenge any party to bring it forward.
We have repeatedly been solicited by Northern and Southern men (and probably by this scamp also) to enter into some arrangement with them for securing patents in the "Confederate States," but we have uniformly declined to do so upon the ground that no patent system of the "Confederacy" could have any legitimate bearing upon our citizens until the independence of those States is formally recognized by the Federal government.
Our government is proceeding upon the theory that the Union is not dissolved, and until this position is abandoned, citizens would be guilty of a certain amount of treason to connive in any way with those who are in arms against its authority. We wish our readers to understand that we have not yet reached that degree of abasement.
The author charges us with saying that "we have now the control of several hundred patents," which is a base lie. We have not the control of a single existing patent, and have not a cent's interest, pecuniarily, either directly or remotely, in any patent ever granted by the United States government.
Whenever the independence of the "Confederate States" is recognized, we shall then be prepared to do business for inventors in those States as with any other foreign power, but we never expect to be guilty of any such conspiracy to defraud inventors and the public as is set forth in the above letter. The author is a scoundrel. Can we speak plainer?
Changes in the Patent Office
The official guillotine is doing vigorous execution in the Patent Office, ten Examiners and Assistant Examiners having been turned out on the 1st instant. Some of the very best men in the office have been decapitated and for reasons best known to the heads of the department. Some of the most objectionable are still retained.
Patentees, Read This
The new Patent Laws which went into force on the 2d of March last, authorized the Commissioner of Patents to have all the specifications which form part of the Letters Patent printed.
This is a wise provision, and it renders the documents much handsomer than the old system of engrossing them on parchment; besides, in passing before the printer and proof-reader, the clerical errors, which were often made by the copyist, are mostly obviated, thus rendering the patent more likely to be correct.
But, to enable the printer and proof-reader an opportunity to do their work properly, the Patent Office is obliged to withhold the Letters Patent after granting them, for about three weeks after the claims are published in the Scientific American.
This explanation is intended to answer scores of letters received from patentees at this office every week, inquiring why they do not get their documents. We trust it will also save the Patent Office the trouble of writing to every patentee to explain the cause of their not receiving their patents the moment they see their claims published in these columns.
Munn & Co.
That Forged Letter Again
In our last number we published a letter purporting to have been written by us to some one in New Orleans, respecting a grand patent scheme in the Southern Confederacy. This letter and some comments peculiar to that section first made its appearance in a Southern journal, and has since been copied into some Northern newspapers. We have denounced this letter as an infamous forgery so far as we have been able to follow its track of publication; but as lies always travel faster than the truth, we shall not expect to keep up with it.
If any of our readers should notice the letter referred to in any newspaper that comes under their notice, they will confer a special favor by sending a marked copy to us, in order that we may apply the corrective.
The miserable vagabond who perpetrated this infamous libel upon our loyalty and integrity is no doubt beyond our reach, but if we had him where justice could be meted out to him as he deserves, he would soon find himself in a tight place. Newspapers publishing the letter of guilty of libeling us grossly.
From a Washington Correspondent of the "Scientific American."
Washington, D.C., August 29, 1861
Messrs. Editors: -- ....
The business of the Patent Office has fallen off some since our troubles commenced; and, in consequence thereof, some changes have been made in this department, only, however, as regards the force employed and the compensation of those who are retained. I notice that a great many improvements have been made in military accouterments, the better to provide for the comfort and convenience of our soldiers during the present struggle. Inventors will find a broad field open for them here to display their ingenuity, as there are hundreds of little wants which could be readily supplied by the inventor, and those who, through disabilities, cannot enter our regiments, might contribute their share in this way.
Patents in the Southern Confederacy
The New York Tribune has just published some correspondence emanating from high public functionaries in the Confederate States, which was intercepted by the capture of a vessel in the Gulf of Mexico, on the way to Texas.
One of the letters appears to have been written by our old friend Rhodes, formerly in the United States Patent Office, but now Commissioner of Patents in the C.S.A. Hear what he says to an inventor:
Richmond, Va., June 22, 1861
To A. Richards, Danville, Montgomery Co., Texas:
Sir: -- A letter, dated S.C. Patent Office, with reference to the petitions, oaths, and specifications in the matter of two applications of A. Richards, Danville, Montgomery Co., Texas, for Letters Patent for alleged improvement in breech-loading cannon, together with photographic representations of said improvements, informs the luckless inventor that his photographs are poor, and that the fee will be forty dollars in each case, and though the whole amount is not required to be paid upon filing of the application, you are yet recommended to pay it, to prevent delay in issuance of your letters, if their issue should be ordered.
Rufus Rhodes, Commissioner of Patents
Death of an Eminent Patent Lawyer
The name of Seth P. Staples has been familiar to us for many years, but in announcing his death we are somewhat surprised to find that he had attained to so great an age. He was born in Canterbury, Conn., Sept. 1, 1776. His father, the Rev. John Staples, was a lineal descendant of Miles Standish of the Plymouth Colony. He entered Yale College in 1794, and, on graduating in 1797, received an honorable appointment, and immediately afterward commenced the study of law, and was admitted to the bar at Litchfield, Conn. in 1799. He practiced with considerable success in that State, where he founded the Law School connected with Yale College. In the commencement of his legal career, he was elected a member of the Connecticut Academy of Arts and Sciences, and subsequently was representative in the State Legislature for seven or eight sessions, and retired from political life in 1816. He afterwards removed to New York city, where he attained the summit of his profession, first as a commercial solicitor, then as a lawyer in patent cases. He was at one time the leading counsel in this class of cases and was connected with the Goodyear India Rubber suits, the Tathan Lead Pipe cases, the Wilder and Herring Safe litigation and many others. He was considered an able and upright lawyer.
Condition of the Patent Office
The Secretary of the Interior in his report to Congress gives the following exhibit of the condition of the Patent Office.
No branch of the public service connected with this department has been so much affected by the insurrection of the Southern States, as that of the Patent Office. The receipts of the Office from January 1, to September 30, 1861, were $102,808.18. During the corresponding period of the last year the receipts were $197,348.40, being $94,840.22 more than the receipts for the same part of this year. During the same period 3,514 applications for patents and 519 caveats have been filed, 2,581 have been issued, and 15 patents have been extended. To meet this deficiency in the income of the office, the Commissioner, with the concurrence of the department has reduced the clerical and examining force by the discharge of thirty of the employees, and reduced the grade of the remainder in order to lessen their compensation. By this reduction it is believed by the Commissioner that the expenditures will be brought within the receipts.
The expenses of the office have been increased during the present year by the printing of the drawings and specifications authorized by the fourteenth Section of the Act of March 2, 1861. The Commissioner contracted for the printing in conformity with the law, and the work was executed in a satisfactory manner until the 1st of November, when, in consequence of the decline in the receipts of the office, it was discontinued.
The printing of the drawings and specifications of patents, in the manner in which it has been done under the law of March last, would unquestionably be of great service to the office, as well as to all interested in its business, and should, if possible, be continued. Although the expenses of the Patent Office have been increased by this printing, a saving of a larger amount has been effected in the Treasury. The mechanical reports of the Patent Office have heretofore been printed at the expense of the government. These reports consist of extracts from the specifications of the patents issued, giving a brief and general description of the improvement or inventions for which the patents were issued. They possess no interest for the general reader, while they are too brief to be of service to mechanics or inventors. The plates for the Mechanical Report of 1860, costs the government $47,398.21 -- a sum greater than the entire cost of printing provided for by the law of March last. The cost of paper, printing and binding was probably as much more, while the work was without practical value. The printing of the drawings and specifications, as provided for by the law of March last, will render unnecessary the printing the mechanical reports, and save the expenses heretofore incurred for their publication.
Several amendments to the law of March last are proposed by the Commissioner of Patents, which would doubtless render it more effective, and they are recommended to the favorable consideration of Congress. The law regulating copyrights should be amended to effect the objects contemplated by Congress.
The act of February 3, 1851, authorizes the clerks of the United States District Court to grant copyrights, and requires the author to deposit a copy of his work with the clerk. The clerks are required to send to the Department of the Interior all such copies deposited in their office. This duty is very imperfectly performed. Probably not more than half the books, maps, charts and musical compositions which are copyrighted are deposited in this department as required by law.
The object of collecting in one library copies of all the copyrighted literary productions of the country is thus defeated. To secure this object, amendment of the law is recommended which shall give the sole power of granting copyrights to the Commissioner of Patents, and require from every applicant the payment of a fee of one dollar, and a deposit in the Patent Office, of a copy of the work to be copyrighted.