LETTER FROM THE COMMISSIONER OF PATENTS
Transmitting his annual report for the year 1863
March 23, 1864 -- Laid on the table and ordered to be printed
UNITED STATES PATENT OFFICE
Washington, D.C., January 30, 1864
I have the honor herewith to transmit the annual report of this office for the year 1863, to be laid before Congress.
I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Commissioner of Patents
Hon. Schuyler Collfax
Speaker of the House of Representatives, Washington, D.C.
UNITED STATES PATENT OFFICE
January 30, 1864
In obedience to the requirement of the fourteen section of the act of March 3, 1837, entitled "An act in addition to an act to promote the progress of science and the useful arts," I have the honor to submit a report of the operations of this office during the year 1863.
The receipts and expenses of the office for the past year, together with the present condition of the patent fund, will be seen by reference to the following statements:
No. 1 Number of applications made during the year 1863 6014 Number of patents granted, including reissues and designs 4170 Number of caveats filed during the year 787 Number of applications for extension of patents 40 Number of patents extended 48 Number of patents expired 31st December, 1863 968 Of the patents granted, there were to Citizens of the United States 4048 Subjects of Great Britain 58 Subjects of French Empire 37 Subjects of other foreign governments 27 ______ 4170 No. 2 Statement of money received during the year 1863 On application for patents, reissues, etc. $178,617.00 For copies and for recording assignments 16.976.29 ___________ $195,593.29 =========== No. 3 Statement of expenditures from the patent fund For salaries $89,559.94 For contingent expenses 42,715.29 For temporary clerks 54,438.41 For withdrawals 1,680.00 For refunding money paid by mistake 720.00 For judges in appeal cases 300.00 __________ 189,414.14 ========== No. 4 Statement of the patent fund Amount to the credit of the patent fund January 1, 1863 $38,361.15 Amount paid in during the year 195,593.29 __________ Total 233,954.44 Deduct amount of expenditures during the year 189,414.14 __________ Leaving to the credit of the patent fund January 1, 1864, the sum of 44,540.30 ========== Table exhibiting the business of the office for twenty-seven years ending December 31, 1863 Years Applications Caveats Patents Cash Cash Filed Filed Issued Received Received 1837 435 $29,289.08 $33,506.98 1838 520 42,123.54 37,402.10 1839 425 37,260.00 34,543.51 1840 765 228 473 38,056.51 39,020.67 1841 847 312 495 40,413.01 52,666.87 1842 761 391 517 36,505.68 31,241.48 1843 819 315 531 35,315.81 30,766.96 1844 1,045 380 502 42,509.26 36,244.73 1845 1,246 452 502 51,076.14 39,395.65 1846 1,272 448 619 50,264.16 46,158.71 1847 1,531 553 572 63,111.19 41,878.35 1848 1,628 607 660 67,576.69 58,905.84 1849 1,955 595 1,070 80,752.78 77,716.44 1850 2,193 602 995 86,927.05 80,100.95 1851 2,258 760 869 95,738.61 86,916.93 1852 2,639 996 1,020 112,656.34 95,916.91 1853 2,673 901 958 121,527.45 132,869.83 1854 3,324 868 1,902 163,789.84 167,146.32 1855 4,435 906 2,024 216,459.35 179,540.33 1856 4,960 1,024 2,502 192,588.02 199,931.02 1857 4,771 1,010 2,910 196,132.01 211,582.09 1858 5,364 943 3,710 203,716.16 193,193.74 1859 6,225 1,097 4,538 245,942.15 210,278.41 1860 7,653 1,084 4,819 256,352.59 252.820.80 1861 4,643 700 3,340 137,354.44 221,491.91 1862 5,038 824 3,521 215,754.99 182,810.39 1863 6,014 787 4,170 195,593.29 180,414.14
The law requiring the Commissioner of Patents to communicate to Congress an annual report, contemplates that in addition to statistical statements and tables, such as have been above given, he should present his reflections upon the working of the laws he is called upon to administer, and exhibit a view of the progress of the arts of the country, which is his peculiar privilege to observe. In discharging this duty, I shall take the liberty of departing from the formality of a mere official communication, and address myself through Congress, by whose munificence the reports of this officer are so widely disseminated, to the public, for whose benefit they are mainly intended.
The subjects to which shall call attention are, the policy of any system of protection by patents; the advantages of our own system as compared with those of other leading nations, and particularly Great Britain; the state of the industrial arts in this country as exhibited by the inventions examined in this office within the last one or two years; and the modifications of patent laws which, in my judgment, would give greater efficiency to our present system.
POLICY OF PROTECTION BY PATENTS
I am aware that to most inventors of this country it would seem not less preposterous to question the right of property, or the fundamental laws of morality, than to inquire into the right and policy of granting patents for inventions; but we cannot shut our eyes to the fact that within the last few years the policy of patent laws has been the subject of grave discussions in Europe. No later than 1862, a distinguished member of the House of Commons in England gave notice of a motion to consider, not only the working, but the policy, of the patent law itself; and in a debate which arose in May, 1862, upon a motion of Sir Hugh Cairnes for an address to the crown, praying for the appointment of a commission to inquire into the working of the law relating to patents for inventions, members of Parliament stated that year by year the opinion had grown more general that, practically, patents did more harm than good to inventors. In 1852 a select committee of the House of Lords was appointed to consider a bill proposed to amend the then existing law of patents, The voluminous evidence taken before this committee has been published, and is full of instruction as to the working of the patent laws of Great Britain, and the question which arose as to the policy of those laws. The character of the questions which were raised as to the policy of any patent system, is exhibited by some of the interrogatories proposed by the committee:
"Do you not think that the fact of a patent being granted is a considerable obstruction to anyone else inventing in that line?"
"You think that in no case where a useful improvement in the course of a manufacture suggests itself to the mind of a man, he would be deterred from making that improvement for fear of being dragged into litigation by reason of his infringing some other patent?"
"Do not you think that the stimulus which a patent gives to a man withdraws a great many ingenious artisans from their usual land more useful work in order to invent things which, when invented, are of no use whatever?"
A question put to Mr. Brunel, an engineer of acknowledged eminence, is "The result of your evidence is, that you are very decidedly of opinion that the whole patent system should be abolished?'
His answer is, "Yes; I think it would be an immense benefit to that unfortunate class of men whom we call inventors, who are at present ruined and their families ruined, and who I believe are a great injury to society."
"And you think that those consequences, such as ruin to inventors, and evils of that description, would subsist equally, though the patent laws were made simple and effective?"
"Yes, I think they would be very much increased; and if patents are continued, I hope the principle will be carried out thoroughly, and then it will not stand for two years."
"I can see every day that the poorer class of inventors ruin themselves by the attempt to work out some idea for the sake of getting a patent, while, in all probability, if the man had gone to his master and said 'Well, it strikes me, that by such a means we should be able to get through more work and do something better; what do you think about it?' the chances are that most masters would, if they saw it was a good idea, give the man £1 or a £5 note; and the man the next day would be at work at something else, and you would have out of that man's brains an immensely greater portion of invention, and I believe he would get much better paid for it. I believe he would really make money; whereas, now, everybody acquainted with these men knows that they lose money by it, and that an inventor, a schemer, is a poor man, who is more likely to go to the work-house than anything else."
Mr. J.L. Ricardo, a member of the House of Commons, in his answers to the questions of the committee, forced the free-trade doctrines of his eminent namesake to the utmost verge. He says, "the whole result of my experience and observation has been a conviction that the whole system of granting patents is very injurious to the community generally, and certainly not of any advantage whatever to the inventor. I consider that it is in a great measure a delusion upon the inventor to suppose that the patent privileges which are granted to him render his invention more valuable than it would be, supposing there did not exist any monopoly with regard to it." He regards a monopoly with respect to a particular trade as being in exactly the same situation as a monopoly respecting any particular invention. "The object of a patent is to monopolize a particular trade." He quotes Mr. Say, who considers a patent as a recompense which the government grants to the inventor at the expense of the consumer. He quotes the opinion of Lord Kenyon, in the case of Hornblower against Bolton, in which he says: "I confess I am not one of those who greatly favor patents; for although in many instances, and particularly in this, the public are greatly favored by them; yet, on striking the balance on the subject, I think that great oppression is practiced on inferior mechanics by those who are more opulent." He does not refer to the views of Lord Mansfield, the great founder of commercial law, who held that "in all work of the mind and of genius, the common law of England ought to be held as giving an absolute property." He refers to Lord Bacon, who, in his advice to Sir George Villiers, says: "Especial care must be taken that monopolies, which are the canker of all trading, be not admitted under the specious pretext of public good." But he makes no mention of the tribute to inventive genius which Lord Bacon proposes in his Atlantis, where he says: "Upon every invention of value we erect a statue to the inventor, and give him a liberal and honorable reward."
The objectors to the policy of a system of protection by patents, as appears by the questions propounded by the committee of the House of Lords, and the answers above quoted, may be resolved into three classes:
1. Those who honestly doubt whether the system of patents affects the assumed development of the industrial resources of the nation; 2, those who believe that the progress of a nation is to be secured only through the encouragement and instrumentality of the favored classes; and, 3, those who, carrying the abstract principles of free trade to too great a generalization, deny the policy of the law which savors of a monopoly, or effects even a temporary protection of industry or genius. The objections of the first class I will hereafter attempt to answer in detail. Those of the second class not openly favored under the present political condition of affairs in this country,have found sympathy with a class now, happily, perhaps, removed from us, who always regarded with contempt the poor inventors of the north. It is this spirit which breathes in the language of the eminent engineer, who conceives that the poor inventor would be sufficiently rewarded by receiving a one-pound or five-pound note from his master. It is unnecessary to reply seriously to this class of objectors. They can be found only in a country where the avowed object of the laws which regulate the descent of property are the concentration of wealth in the hands of a few, and the support of hereditary aristocracy; where the husbandmen on small properties have been driven from the land, in order that 2,000 proprietors may possess among them one-third of the land and the total revenue of the three kingdoms; where the doctrines of political economy prevail that large farms, large machine shops, large cotton mills, and large iron works, can produce cheaper than small ones, and therefore may very properly supersede and obliterate them; and where a theologian no less respected that Dr. Chalmers can be found to affirm on the blessings of a splendid aristocracy, "that from this higher galaxy of rank and fortune there are droppings, as it were, of a bland and benignant influence on the general platform of humanity."
There is, unfortunately, in this country more sympathy with the last class of objectors, who regard, with Mr. Ricardo, a patent obnoxious as a remnant of the old abuse of monopolies, by which an individual obtained from the Crown the exclusive right to exercise some particular trade, and who consider the patent laws as a product of the semi-barbarous age of Queen Elizabeth. During her reign the sole right to buy and provide steel within her realm was granted to a single nobleman. The sale of sale, starch, leather, paper, etc., was restricted to favored persons, who in some cases raised the prices 1,000 per cent and upwards. It was this class of monopolies against which Lord Bacon inveighed. The evils of this policy increased to such an extent, that it was considered by the Parliament of James I altogether incompatible with the prosperity of the country. This feeling produced, in the 21st of James I, the famous "statute of monopolies" -- famous not only for the abolition of the former unjust monopolies of trade, but for establishing the rights of inventors, which date, according to Blackstone and other English jurists, from that law. The statute suppresses monopolies by making void the future grants of all such as do not come under the following proviso: "Provided also, and be it enacted, that any declaration before mentioned shall not extend to any letters patent and grants of privileges for the term of fourteen years or under, hereafter to be made, for the sole working and making of any manner of new manufacture within the realm, to the true and first inventor or inventors of such manufacture, which others at the time of making such letters patent shall not use, so as also they be not contrary to law, nor mischievous to the State, by raising the prices of commodities at home, or hurtful of trade, or generally inconvenient." Certain patents, more of the character of the ancient monopolies of trading, which paid a yearly rent to the exchequer, were exempted from the operation of the statute. The date of the act was 1624. In 1639, great discontent having arisen in the public mind with respect to the monopolies and privileges which remained, there was issued a proclamation abolishing a great many of the privileges which still existed, and among others "all patents for new inventions not put in practice from the date of their respective grants." There was thus in the general statute abolishing monopolies, and the subsequent proclamation clearing away such as subsisted, a distinct recognition of the claims of useful inventions to exemption.
It is a curious fact in the general history of the origin of patent policy, that the original object in granting patent privileges in France, as stated by M. Wolowski, professor of commercial litigation, in the evidence before the committee of the House of Lords, was to break up the monopoly of the guilds of trade which formerly existed in France, as well as in almost every city in Europe. All the persons practicing any one art or trade in a particular city, such as the tailors, the brewers, the tanners, the goldsmiths, etc., were united into a company, which received from the government the exclusive right to practice their vocation. The competition of the art or trade was thus restricted to those who had been made free of the company; and no person could be made free until he had complied with regulations, often intentionally made numerous and vexatious in order to prevent too many persons entering the business. No member of the guild could work except in conformity with its rules. An inventor of any improvement in the trades practiced by the guild, not a member thereof, could not employ his own invention; a patent gave the inventor the right of working individually, in derogation of the chartered monopoly of the guild. According to M. Wolowski, patents are now granted in Austria for the same object. Thus the dawn of the rights of inventors has been actually coeval with the destruction of monopolies, odious to the common justice of men. And the common sense of mankind has marked a distinction between such monopolies and the exclusive rights conceded to inventors. Their rights under patents are called monopolies only, from the poverty of language, which has failed to express in words a distinction which no less clearly exists.
The odious monopolies, or those properly so called, such as were given in the time of Elizabeth for the sale of salt, starch, paper, steel, etc., were grants simply to aid individuals in amassing wealth, and favored the aggregation of property in a few hands without opening new sources of national wealth., and were thus in derogation of the rights of others without compensatory public benefit, and were therefore positively injurious. Prof. Bowen has shown, in opposition to dogmas of Adam Smith, that individual and national wealth are not identical; that individuals grow rich by the acquisition of wealth previously existing; nations, by the creation of wealth that did not previously exist. "Invention," says Mr. Ray, according to Prof. Bowen, "is the only power on earth that can be said to create. It enters as an essential element into the process of the increase of national wealth, because that process is a creation, and not an acquisition. It does not necessarily enter into the process of the increase of individual wealth, because that may be simply an acquisition, not a creation." "Hence," continues Mr. Bowen, "the most frequent cause of the increase of national wealth is the increase of the skill, dexterity and judgment, and of the mechanical contrivances, with which national labor is applied." In this view, how can a monopoly of trade be compared with the exclusive right in an invention? How can the exclusive privilege to sell salt in Elizabeth's time, which added not one bushel to the production, but which enriched the monopolist and robbed the community, as was the fact by raising the price from sixteen pence a bushel to fifteen shillings, and the exclusive right of Whitney to his invention of the cotton gin, which has added hundreds of millions to the products and exports of the country, be both branded, with equal justice, with the odious name of monopoly?
The argument of the distinguished member of Parliament, Mr. Ricardo, against patents, on the grounds of their being monopolies, may have less weight when the immediate practical grounds of his objections are considered. It appears from his evidence before the committee that he was chairman of the Electric Telegraph Company -- the great company which, under Mr. Wheatstone's patents and a charter from Parliament, exclusively controlled the system of telegraphic communication in England. This company paid for the patent rights of Mr. Wheatstone the sum of £140,000, and that the company had paid nearly £200,000 in buying patents and litigating them; that the company had bought up a very large number of patents which interfered with their exclusive rights, because they had made it a rule, if a man offered reasonable terms, to buy an invention, however bad it might be, sooner than litigate it; and they paid for one patent -- that of Mr. Bains -- £8,000 or £9,000, which, although it did not quite come up to the expectation of the company, they found useful in combination with other patents. The obvious question occurs, how, but for the existence of the patent law which recognized the rights of the company to the exclusive use of Mr. Wheatstone's and Mr. Bain's patents, for which they had paid, the inventor a full equivalent, could they have had the means of reimbursing themselves for the vast expenditure for the original and competing patents? What more instructive illustration could be found, except the whole free-trade policy of Great Britain, of the fallacy of political economy founded simply upon the individual interests of men and nations?
It is gratifying to observe that Mr. J.S. Mill, admitted to be the ablest living writer upon political economy, and a strong advocate of free trade, thus frankly admits the reasonableness of granting patent rights: "the condemnation of monopolies," he says,"ought not to extend to patents, by which the originator of a new process is permitted to enjoy, for a limited period, the exclusive privilege of using his own improvement. This is not making the commodity dearer for his benefit, but merely postponing a part of the increased cheapness which the public owe to the inventor, in order to compensate and reward him for the service. That he ought to be both compensated and rewarded for it will not be denied; and also, that if all were at once allowed to avail themselves of his ingenuity, without having shared the labors or the expenses which he had to incur in bringing his idea into a practical shape, either such expenses and labors would be undergone by nobody, except by very opulent and very public-spirited persons, or the state must put a value on the service rendered by the inventor, and make him a public grant. This has been done in some instances, (as when Parliament offered a reward of £20,000 for a method of finding a ship's longitude at sea,) and may be done without inconvenience, in cases of very conspicuous public benefit; but, in general, an exclusive privilege of temporary duration is preferable, because it leaves nothing to any one's discretion; because the reward conferred by it depends upon the invention's being found useful, and the greater the usefulness the greater the reward; and because it is paid by the very persons to whom the service is rendered, the consumers of the commodity." -- Political Economy, vol. II, page 497.
I now recur to the first and most important question, whether the patent policy has actually increased the industrial resources of nations.
It is grateful to refer to the testimony upon this point, given before the committee before referred to, by intelligent practical men, thoroughly familiar with the operation of the patent laws and the condition of the arts in Great Britain. Mr. Carpmael, a patent agent of great experience, in reply to the question, "Are you of the opinion that the present patent law might be safely repealed altogether, and inventions deprived of all privilege of protection?" replies, "I can only say that I can see no inducement to an inventor to come forward to benefit the manufacturers of the country, unless you give him some reward. Looking through the history of the whole of the manufactures of this country, you will find that all the steps have been founded upon patents, from the earliest date up to the present time. Take any branch, whether it be the cotton manufacture, the steam engine, the manufacture of flax or wool -- in the case of every one, if we trace the history of it through, which I should be happy to do if it were necessary, it will be seen that the whole system is based upon patents: Paper making is the same, and so in every branch that I remember." Being asked, "Can you, without difficulty, point out a certain number of very important inventions, which were preceded by such costly experiments that they could not have been carried out without the patent law?" Mr. Carpmael says: "Watt, in the case of the steam engine, was seven years before he got the first engine to work efficiently. In the case of Arkwright's machine for spinning cotton, he was several years before he got efficiently to work. In the case of Crompton, the same; in the case of Hargraves, the same. Then, in regard to combing wool by machinery, and the first power-loom by Cartwright, he did not succeed in getting practically to work for many years, and he was rewarded by Parliament for what he had done, because he had not been remunerated in the working of his patent. The paper machine was worked out by a series of costly experiments, which never would have been entered upon but for the patent laws of the country. In this manner might I go through all our manufactures; indeed, in no instance has any manufacture grown into importance in this country, except by a series of costly experiments, and costly machinery, carried on for many years, in the hopes of deriving benefits through grant of letters patent."
Mr. Webster, the well known writer on patent laws, stated before the committee: "I am quite sure of this, that if any person who may be disposed to think that patents should be done away with, comes to examine the way in which particular manufactures have been built up by reason of the large amount of capital which have been thrown into them, in reliance upon the action to be obtained by means of the protection given for a short time, he will be very much surprised. In some of the most successful inventions of the present time, it will be found that the first patent effected little; but, in attempting to work this out, further improvements were made, and fresh patents obtained, so that by the protection which has been given to different stages of the invention, and the quantity of capital which has been laid out upon it, the invention has been perfected and introduced, and made useful to the public at a time within which it never could have been done but for the money which has been employed upon it, in reliance upon the protection of the patent. The whole of our experience of cases before the privy council is proof of that, and leads to the conclusion that many inventions would never have been introduced at all without such protection; and no man, so far as my knowledge of manufactures goes, would have ventured upon those experiments had it not been from some such inducement as the reward offered by the patent law."
Mr. Bennett Woodcroft, the accomplished Superintendent of the Great Seal Patent Office in England, under the Commissioner of Patents, to whom more than any other person is due the publication of the specifications and drawings illustrative of all the patents granted in England since 1617 -- a work which may be justly regarded as one of the proudest monument of British genius -- has added to the many obligations conferred upon this office by presenting to it, within the last year, a series of engravings executed in the highest style of art. Their subjects can be best described in his own words: "Actuated by a sincere respect for mechanical genius, and a warm admiration of its productions, I have collected all the known portraits, eight in number, of the ten mechanicians whose inventions laid the foundation, raised the superstructure, and now secure the continuance of the cotton manufacture, the most marvelous for its extent and effects that ever employed the ingenuity of man."
Mr. Woodcroft, in a memoir which he has published containing brief biographies of these ten inventors of machines for the manufacture of textile fabrics, observes that in looking at the progress and magnitude of the cotton manufacture, surprise is excited at the simple construction of the few machines which have produced such wonderful results, "at the lateness of their revelation and their tardy adoption." And he appositely applies to those works the words of Milton:
Th' invention all admired, and each how he
To be th' inventor missed; so easy it seemed,
Once found, which, yet unfound, most would have thought impossible.
The ten mechanicians to whose inventions the results produced in the cotton manufacture are by Mr. Woodcroft mainly attributed, are -- Kay, who was inspired to run the shuttle on pulleys, and impel it by a short lever attached to a string, by which one weaver was enabled to do the work of two or three; Paul, who taught a method of spinning a hundred or more threads at once; Arkwright, who reinvented and revived roller spinning; Hargraves, who invented the jenny, which drew sixty or seventy threads at once; Compton, who invented the mule, (so called because it combined Paul's and Hargrave's inventions;) Radcliffe, the author of the improvement in sizing or dressing the whole of the warp before it was wound upon the beam, thus removing the grand difficulty then existing in the art of weaving; Cartwright, who brought forth a loom which would weave cloth by a mechanical, instead of a manual, motor, and thus quadruple the power of the weaver; Jacquard, who invented the apparatus to which his name is given for selecting the warp threads, which superseded the services of the draw-boy at the loom; Roberts, who made the mule of Compton automatic, or self-acting; and Heilmann, who, from observing his daughters comb their hair, conceived the machine for combing cotton and wool, ever since in universal adoption.
Mr. Woodcroft thus states the result in Great Britain alone, produced mainly, as he considers, by these ten inventions. In 1760, at the accession of George III, the entire value of cotton goods manufactured in England was about £200,000 a year. In 1772 British calicoes were made to the number of 50,000 pieces. In 1816 upwards of 1,000,000 pieces were manufactured. In 1750 the population engaged in the cotton manufactures was about 20,000. In 1801 the persons engaged were about 80,000. In 1823 there were 10,000 steam-looms in Great Britain. In 1862 their number was 399,992 driven with a power of 294,000 horses, and employing 451,000 work-people in 2,887 factories, containing 30,387,457 spindles. Every one of the ten inventions which have produced these marvelous results was protected by patents; each inventor was stimulated by the reward which this protection opened to his hope, if not his fruition, and, without the prospects of appropriating to himself wealth and honor, would have shrunk from the labors of creating and introducing his invention. Granting, as is quite probable, that the individual importance of these men, in relation to the cotton manufacture, is somewhat exaggerated, and that the credit given to them should be shared with the eight hundred men who have taken out patents for improvements in this manufacture, it is no less true that the whole system of the manufacture of cotton in Great Britain is founded upon patents.
Illustrations, less striking, it may be, but not less convincing, of the beneficial influences of the protection afforded by patents, can be found in the history of the industrial arts in this country. I will point to a totally different branch of manufacture which had its undoubted origin, and has attained its perfection, in the United States -- the manufacture of India-rubber goods. The facts are obtained from records in this office and reports of committees in Congress. India-rubber was introduced into France in 1776. Dr. Priestley says that, in 1791, he saw a specimen of the gum at a stationer's, where it was used to erase pencil marks -- hence the name. In 1823 five hundred pairs of shoes, made by the natives in South America directly from the exudations of the gum-bearing tree, were imported into this country, and sold at Boston. In the years 1832, 1833, 1835, and 1836, several manufactories were established in New England for making India-rubber goods. Upon their introduction into market it was found that the goods became clammy and sticky when exposed to heat, and were stiffened by the cold. They were therefore useless. In consequence of these defects, in 1839 all the companies and individuals engaged in the manufacture were ruined. The manufacture was utterly prostrated.
At this time a simple workman in Connecticut, named Hayward, who had undertaken to carry on this manufacture by himself, who, to use his own words, hired the shop he worked in, and whose only income from the uncertain profits of his business was about five hundred dollars a year, sought day and night to discover some substance which might be combined with India-rubber and cure its defects. Absorbed in the search of what to him was the philosopher's stone, "he dreamed at night," as he asserts, that the desired solvent was sulphur. He combined the rubber with sulphur, and, to his delight, discovered that the defects in the goods were almost wholly overcome. He had miraculously, as it were, discovered a substance which combined chemically with the rubber, making, in fact, a sulphuret of rubber -- indeed, a new substance, whose structure is fibrous like horn, whereas the structure of rubber alone is granular, or molecular. He obtained a patent for his discovery; but being heavily in debt, and perhaps unable to conceive of the vast consequences which would result from his invention, he sold the right to his invention for a mere pittance to Mr. Goodyear. The latter experimented upon the new compound discovered by Hayward, and discovered the art of vulcanizing it.
This invention is thus described by Mr. Webster, in his great speech at Trenton: "The great peculiarity of this vulcanizing process is this: If you take a compound of sulphur and rubber in a dry state and grind and mix them together, and apply heat, the consequence is, that the substance softens and softens as the degree of heat increases, until it reaches a certain height in the thermometer, say 212 degrees Fahrenheit and along there, a little more or less. Well, anybody," says Mr. Webster, "who ever tried the effect, to see what would be the operation upon this compound, and finding that it ran up to a great degree of heat, softening and rendering it more and more plastic as the degree of heat was augmented, would naturally be of the opinion that if the heat was carried still higher, the whole substance would melt. But Mr. Goodyear, as the result of untiring experiment, found out that, although the application of heat produced a melting effect upon this compound, rendering it more and more plastic and soft as the degree of heat augmented, yet when the heat, going on, had got up to a certain much higher degree, its effect was the reverse of what it had been, and then the rubber composition commenced to vulcanize and harden, and in fact to make metallic the vegetable substance." The result of the two inventions is thus stated by Mr. Webster: "It introduces quite a new material into the manufacture of the arts, that material being nothing less than elastic metal. It is hard like metal, and elastic as pure original gum-elastic. Why, this is as great and momentous a phenomenon occurring to men in the progress of their knowledge, as it would be for a man to show that iron and gold could remain iron and gold, and yet become elastic like India-rubber."
Mr. Goodyear obtained a patent for his discovery, and granted licenses to manufacture under his and Hayward's patents. The manufacture at once revived. Twenty years afterwards the yearly sale of goods created by these inventions in the city of Boston alone was set down at $2,500,000. Thousands of operatives are employed in the manufacture. The uses of which the vulcanized rubber is applied are innumerable, and new uses are discovered every day. Water-proof shoes, clothing, tents, pontoons, blankets for soldiers -- invaluable as they have been proved in our service, preventing the loss of thousands of lives, and promoting the health and comfort of the soldiers to a degree beyond estimation -- buckets, life-preservers, mail bags, car springs, suspenders, pencil cases, combs, boxes, are only a few of the countless articles made, specimens of which may be seen in the beautiful collection deposited by Mr. Goodyear in the saloons of this office. There is probably not a family in the country that does not use these goods, and there is hardly an instance on record in which inventions have within so short a period become essential to general comfort and convenience.
It is unnecessary to say that this great manufacture was founded upon the stimulus which the patent privilege gave to the inventors, and the protection which the patents have given the manufacturers.
I have spoken of the great spinners and weavers who have carried the cotton manufacture to its great perfection in Great Britain. An invention in the class of textile manufactures has been made in America, which equals in ingenuity anything which has been accomplished in Great Britain or France. The history of the invention proves that it would not have been introduced without the protection which the patent afforded, and there is precise evidence on record of the saving in money which it has effected for the consumers of the country. Previous to 1842 all three-ply and ingrain carpets were woven in hand looms, the motive power being furnished by the weaver. Numerous and costly experiments to weave ingrain carpets by power looms had been made in England, but had proved unsuccessful. Mr. Erastus P. Bigelow, of Massachusetts, in 1842, conceived of a series of devices for making the carpet loom automatic, so that the costly labor of men might be dispensed with, and the whole process of weaving might be conducted by girls and boys. After laying his plans before many manufacturers, without obtaining their approval, he succeeded in engaging the attention of the treasurer of a manufacturing company in Lowell, who had the intelligence to see the importance of the undertaking, and to understand the grounds of its probable success. Through him he made an engagement with "the Lowell Company," which, in consideration of the exclusive right to use all his inventions then or afterwards made, so far as they could be applied to the weaving of ingrain carpets, agreed to pay the expenses of putting a trial loom in operation, and if that proved successful, to build a power-loom mill, and to pay Mr. Bigelow a certain patent rent per yard upon all carpeting woven during the existence of the patents which Mr. Bigelow was to take out for his inventions. The trial loom proved successful, and the company proceeded to erect mills to manufacture carpeting under Mr. Bigelow's patents. The cost of these works was many hundred thousand dollars, the fixed capital of the company in their carpet works being $978,956. This vast outlay was made, and in fact the whole improvement was based, upon the protection given by the exclusive right under the patents. The invention was of such a character that it could be developed, tested, perfected, and made practically useful only by the expenditure of a vast capital. The only security for this outlay, which no individual could have made, was the protection of the patent. The company were careful to secure the right to all future improvements which the inventor might make. Encouraged by the certain though moderate reward offered by his arrangement with the company, the inventor continued for four years after the first loom was devised to add new improvements, which were protected by five more patents; and it now presents a machine which is admitted to be unsurpassed by anything which the mechanical genius of man has ever devised. The benefits which this invention has conferred upon the manufacturing company, the inventor, and the public, are precisely shown by records in this office. The "Lowell Company" granted to the "Hartford Carpet Company" a license to use these inventions, the use being confined to these two companies. The profit in the carpet department, in the Lowell Manufacturing Company, from October 31, 1859, to April 30, 1863, was $1,009,649.50. The par value of the stock, $100 per share. The market value, $155 to $160 per share. The total receipts of the inventor from his royalty have been $50,432.12.
The benefit to the public by this invention is, first, the production of superior goods, the texture of the power-loom carpeting being more uniform, the selvage more even, and the matching of the figures more perfect. The actual saving to consumers is thus calculated: Prior to the introduction of the power-loom, the Lowell Manufacturing Company paid, as wages for weaving by the hand-loom the description of carpeting known as two-ply, 11 3/4 cents per yard, and for three-ply 25 cents per yard; whereas, with Bigelow's power-loom, they only pay for weaving the former article 2 57/100 cents per yard, and for the latter 2 83/100 cents per yard; thus showing a saving by the power-loom in wages paid for weaving 9 18/100 cents per yard for two-ply, and 22 17/100 cents per yard for three-ply, being an average of 15 67/100 cents per yard. But the savings in wages is partly neutralized by the more costly repairs of the power-loom machinery, and interest on the larger investment of capital required therefor, so that the average net saving by the power-loom is estimated at ten cents per yard. Accurate returns from the mills of the Lowell and Hartford companies up to April 1863, show that the number of yards of carpeting woven upon looms was 25,964,185 yards; thus the savings to the people by this invention has been two million five hundred thousand dollars. That the savings in the price of manufacture of carpets has accrued to the consumers is evident from the fact that at the time Mr. Bigelow's invention was introduced the wholesale price of the best quality of two-ply was from eighty-five to ninety cents per yard, and of three-ply from one dollar and thirty to one dollar and thirty-three cents per yard; whereas, in 1860, the former description of goods, power-loom wrought, of a better quality than the hand-loom wrought, sold for from seventy to seventy-two and a half cents per yard, and the latter from ninety-five to ninety-seven and a half cents per yard, making an average reduction of over twenty per cent. It is worthy of observation that the ingrain carpets are not used so much by the wealthy as the middle classes. They give comfort and attractiveness to the homes of the people, and thus this invention, originated and introduced by the patent policy, has had a sensible effect in ameliorating and refining society.
Another class of inventions benefit the community, not by diminishing the price of good for which there is already a public demand, as in the case just cited, but by producing and introducing labor-saving contrivances which the people must be taught to appreciate and use. Such are the inventions of labor saving agricultural implements, which within the last twenty years have aided so materially in developing the resources of the country. The inventors and manufacturers of these machines, although prompted by a selfish but at the same time intelligent interest, have been more truly and effectually the instructors of the people than all the agricultural colleges in the land. The protection which the patent affords, is not only the cause in a majority of instances of an invention being made, but it is positively the cause why it is introduced and received. Losing sight of this practical truth, the government of Canada prohibited Americans from obtaining patents in that province mainly for the reason that they could obtain the benefit of our inventions without paying for them. The result has been, that, as it was for no one's interest to instruct the Canadians in the new mechanical arts of agriculture, they have plodded along with the old tools, and have been benefited by none of the inventions which have stimulated the agriculture of the neighboring States.
In this country, in consequence of the protection which the patent laws afford, the inventors have found a ready sale of good inventions to capitalists and manufacturers who possessed the capital required to put the inventions into practical form. It is to those manufacturers that the introduction of the seeding, harvesting, and mowing machines, threshers, cultivators, etc., is immediately due. With a single eye to commercial results, they sent their agents through the rich agricultural districts, principally of the west, to exhibit the new machines and teach their operation. The agents convinced the farmers that the savings in the gathering of one year's crop would reimburse the cost of the machines, and readily made sales upon the understanding that the notes given in payment for the purchase should be paid out of the proceeds of the crop gathered by their use. The unparalleled rapidity with which the labor-saving machinery of the farm has been introduced throughout the west, in contrast with the proverbial slowness of the farmers of former times in adopting new improvements, must be attributed to the system I have just described.
We can hardly overstate the benefit which the country has derived from these inventions, whose origin and introduction can be so clearly traced to the stimulus and protection by patents.
It is stated by Mr. Kennedy, in the census report for 1860, that a threshing machine in Ohio, worked by three men, with some assistance from the farm hands, did the work of seventy flails; and that thirty steam threshers only were required to prepare for market the wheat crop of two counties in Ohio, which would have required the labor of forty thousand men. It is estimated that a single reaping machine effects the saving of the labor of five men. With a good reaping machine ten men will cut, bind, and stack and house from ten to twelve acres per day, or two hundred acres in a single season -- a task which would have required, without machines, the labor of fifteen men for its accomplishment. From reliable returns, in possession of this office, it is shown that forty thousand reapers have been manufactured and sold with the last year; and it is estimated by the manufacturers that over ninety thousand will be required to meet the demand for the next year. They will effect the saving of the labor of 450,000 men. The quantity of wheat grown in all the States and Territories in the year 1849 was 100,485,944 bushels. The quantity grown in 1859 was 171,183,381 bushels -- an increase of nearly seventy per cent, or about double the increase of population in the same period.
It has been remarked that just before the commencement of the present war there was throughout the whole north, from no apparent cause, but, as it seemed, by an inspiration of Providence, a revival of military enthusiasm which had slumbered for years. Without any concert, military organizations sprang up in every northern State, and at the sound of the first gun at Sumpter, regiments, fully armed and equipped, were ready to rush to the capital. It is no less remarkable that the inventive genius of the nation within the last few years had taken a direction which has prepared the nation for the enormous demands upon her men and treasures. In consequence of this influence, the productive energy of the country has not been slackened, yet a million of men could be spared to fight our battles. And thus to each call from our great leader, the people have been able to respond --
"We are coming, Father Abraham,
Six hundred thousand more!"
The war, instead of checking, has stimulated our creative power in every branch of industry.
Within the last year there have been patented 240 inventions in implements of war, but during that period there have been patented 490 inventions of agricultural implements. And although the happy time foretold by prophecy has not yet come, when the nation shall know war no more, the sword and the spear still yield to the ploughshare and pruning hook, and the arts of peace hold supremacy over the arts of war.
JUSTIFICATION OF THE UNITED STATES PATENT SYSTEM
The next question which I propose to discuss, is the comparison of our own system of patents with those of the great industrial nations. Our patent system is founded mainly upon the statute of 1836, framed under the advice of the most experienced lawyers of the period, but carried through by the energy and wisdom of a distinguished senator of Maine, Mr. Ruggles, who deserves the grateful acknowledgements of the country for securing the passage of an act which has proved one of the most beneficial in our legislative history. The characteristic feature of our patent policy is the system of examination as to the novelty of inventions conducted by the Commissioner of Patents through an examining corps, selected for their special accomplishment in the arts which it is their duty to examine. No system of examination like ours exists in Europe, except to a very limited extent. I have before me a synopsis of the patent laws of nearly all the countries in Europe. In Great Britain, France, Austria, Belgium, Spain, the Roman States, Sardinia, and the Sicilies and Saxony, there is no examination as to novelty. In Prussia, Russia, the Netherlands, Hanover, and Bavaria, there is an examination by learned societies and commercial boards, instituted mainly for other purposes, but the whole number of patents granted in the last-named countries in 1858 was only 173; while in the first named countries, in the same year, there were issued 10,297 patents. So that, considering the number of patents issued, our own peculiar system stands comparatively alone among those of all civilized nations.
Before proceeding to a consideration of our own system, I will state the principal features of the present patent law in Great Britain, which are of more interest to American inventors than those of any other country. These are well stated in a sensible speech made by Sir Hugh Cairnes, in the House of Commons, in May, 1862, whose language I shall use, with some abbreviations. The act of 1852 completely altered the system of patents which had previously prevailed. In the first place, before 1852 there was no means by which a person, who supposed he had arrived at an invention, could obtain temporary protection during the time he was endeavoring to perfect it by experiments; and while making the experiments, there was the danger of their publication, and thus preventing the obtaining of any patent at all. In 1852 the legislature provided that, upon an inventor lodging a description of his invention, he should have a provisional protection for six months. The second change was in reference to the publication of specifications. Up to 1852 the specifications were kept in writing in certain very obscure offices in London, and were virtually inaccessible to the manufacturers of the kingdom. The act of 1852 provided that all specifications should be printed and sold at a moderate price. A mode of payment entirely novel was originated in 1852. An inventor suing for a patent pays £5 on lodging the provisional specification, and he pays nothing more for six months; at the end of six months, if he wishes to obtain a grant, he pays a sum of £20, and he pays nothing more for three years; during the three years he is able to consider whether the patent is worth any further outlay, and if so, a payment of £50 carries him on for seven years; during the seven years he has the opportunity of considering again whether the patent is worth any further outlay; and if at the end of that time he wishes to be further protected for fourteen years he has to make a final payment of £100; the total payment is, therefore, £175. And it is held that the payment being made by installments, and increasing only as the profits of the invention might be supposed to increase, it is hardly irksome in any degree to the patentee -- a view, I may remark, by no means supported by others in England who have discussed this feature of the present law. The honorable member inquires what had been the consequence of the change of the law in the increase of the number of patents, and the results of his inquiries remarkably illustrate the benefits of a liberal legislation. Twenty years before the act was passed in 1833 the number of patents was 108. In 1851, the year before the alteration of the laws, the number of patents was 455. In 1852-'53, after the new act came into operation, the number of provisional protections for inventions was 3,260, out of which 2,050 patents were actually sealed.
These changes, although far from realizing the demands of the inventors of Great Britain, were vast improvements upon the laws existing previous to that time. Under the old law the process of an application for a patent, as stated in the London Quarterly Review, was required to pass through no less than nine stages and seven distinct offices situated in different places. Indeed, the object of sending the application through one of these offices was openly stated in the statute of Henry VIII, c.11, "that the clerks should not by any manner of means be defeated of any part or portion of their fees." If the letters patent were required to extend to Scotland and Ireland, as well as to England, all the proceedings had to be gone through separately in each of the three cases. Thus the same patent may be said to have run the gauntlet of twenty-one offices. So heavy were the fees, applied not to the expenses of the patent offices, but mainly to swell the emoluments of the lord chancellor, attorney general, and other high officers, that the cost of a patent for the United Kingdom could not be estimated at less than £350, while the attendant expenses of preparing the specification, etc., often doubled the amount. It cannot be wondered that Mr. Dickens's poor inventor was forced to complain: "is it reasonable to make a man feel as if, in inventing an ingenious improvement meant to do good, he has done something wrong? How else can a man feel when he is met with such difficulties at every turn? All inventors taking out a patent must feel so. And look at the expense. How hard on me, and how hard on the country, if there is any merit in me, (and my invention is took up now, I am thankful to say, and doing well,) to put me to all that expense before I can move a finger!"
Under the present, as well as the old laws, the only investigation which alleged inventions undergo before patents are granted is conducted by the law officers of the crown. They never inquire into the novelty of the invention. All that they do is to see that the alleged inventor describes in a clear and intelligible manner what he claims as his invention, so that he may not add to or take from it.
The system of granting patents in Great Britain without previous examination as to novelty has led to the granting of a great number of patents for the same thing -- an evil which became so great as to lead to the publication of all the specifications, which only partially remedies the evil. Mr. Woodcroft says, "that having found so great an abuse to exist, as to granting patents for the same thing over and over again, he was led to prepare a list of those which related to the origin and progress of steam navigation." "I found," he says, "that no step in the art of steam navigation had been made which was not the subject of a patent. Among 400 patents, I found that a very few heads would comprise the whole of the invention; for instance, of vertical paddle-wheels there have been a score of patents which are identically the same in mechanical action; for drawing water at the bow of a vessel and pumping it out at the stern, there have been another score or two; then for making the float-boards of paddlewheels move in various directions on their axes, there have been also as many patents; and for propellers in imitation of duck's feet, there has been a large number of patents." A striking instance of the evil resulting from this system is taken from Mr. Woodcroft's evidence. He says: "I have known of a patent within the last year upon which a gentleman had spent about £11,000. He came and consulted me, and wanted me to go and look at a boat he had been constructing. I said it is of no use; I have seen the drawing, and the invention is as old as the hills, and you will never drive the boat six miles an hour; in addition to that, the invention is not yours -- it has been patented over and over again." Mr. Hodge, and English patent agent, who had personally witnessed the practical working of our system of examination, and heartily approved of it, speaking of the English practice, says: "Many inventor have been ruined in consequence of taking out patents under our (the English) system; whatever amount the patent may have cost the inventor, it may be assailed the very next hour. I can refer to a case in which the patent was tried before a special jury; upon their decision being given, the patentee went out of court saying he was a ruined man. And if he had not had a few friends to come and support him he would have been ruined. If the government had appointed a board of examiners to examine his patent, and to show him that it was not quite original, and that there was a little infringement upon another patent, he would not have occasion to go to this great cost.
The evils of this system were many years since pointed out in an able article on patents published in the Edinburgh Encyclopedia, and written by Mr. Simpson, under the direction and sanction of the eminent philosopher, Sir David Brewster, himself a patentee, whose beautiful optical toy, the kaleidoscope, some years ago, used to delight so many thousands of children, and even wise men, with its wonderful changing polychromic beauties. This writer, after a severe reprobation of the then existing system of patents, observes, "the causes of these aggravated mischiefs are both before our readers, when we say that patents ought not to be granted of course, and 'at the hazard' of the patentee, but causa cognita, by a sufficient and competent authority." He continues: "The expression is common, that a patent may be got for anything, but very few are found good when they come to the ordeal of a jury. Is not this saying, in so many words, that many that have, ought not to have been granted, and that it is unworthy of this great country to pervert a valuable privilege, and confound the trash of every pretender, whose end is answered by a mere patent mark, with those inventions which illustrate the genius and exalt the character of the people?"
More than thirty years afterwards Sir David Brewster declared that his opinions were clearly expressed in the article above quoted, that the protection of patents ought only to be extended to new ideas, and that he would ascertain the novelty of such ideas by means of a board of commissioners composed of scientific persons. It is due to the pervading knowledge that a patent in Great Britain is not even prima facie evidence of the originality of an invention, and that it is of little value, except to give the patentee a status in the courts until it has passed a judicial ordeal, that such severe litigation exists in that country in relation to titles to inventions. The costs of such litigation are sometimes frightful. Two startling instances are related by Sir Hugh Cairnes in the speech in the House of Commons, before referred to. A patent had been taken out by an eminent manufacturer in Sheffield for an invention which effected a revolution in the manufacture of steel, by the introduction of a chemical substance, and enabling steel to be produced at a reduction of thirty or forty per cent on the previous cost. Mr. Heath, the alleged inventor, from the time he obtained the patent, in 1842, till he died, in 1853, spent his life in litigation. The suit was formally carried to the House of Lords, and he obtained a statement which showed that the costs of the defendant were estimated at £7,000, and those of Mr. Heath at £8,000, showing that the two sides had expended in litigation connected with a single patent the sum of £15,000. It appears by the statement of a writer in the London Quarterly Review that this patent was extended in 1853 for the benefit of Mrs. Heath. In August, 1853, Mrs. Heath brought an action against an infringer, and then, for the first time, credible evidence was given that the invention was not new at the date of the original patent. A patent was taken out in 1850 or 1852 by a Scotch gentleman named Menzies for capsules and tops of bottles. The invention being a very valuable one, litigation in connection with it was carried on both in chancery and in the courts of common law. After, according to Mr. Montagu Smith, a verdict in favor of the patentee, the case was taken to the Queen's Bench, where the patent was defeated on the ground that an old patent had been discovered in the office by which the invention had been anticipated. Finally, the case was carried by appeal to the House of Lords, where, in 1862, it was still pending. Sir Hugh Cairnes stated that the solicitor to the plaintiff informed him that the costs of his client amounted to £14,487, and he estimated those of the defendant at £10,370. So that the total costs of legal proceedings, in connection with the invention, amounted to not less than £24,857. The legal expenses connected with these two patents, which might have been saved to the unhappy litigants by a system of preliminary examination, was £39,857, or about $199,285, about $10,000 more than the total expenses of this office for the last year, viz: $189,414.14, which, during this period, has made examination of 6,014 applications. Of these applications, 1,844 were refused, principally on the ground of a want of novelty, while 4,170 patents have been granted. It is not pretended that errors from unsoundness of judgment or insufficiency of investigation may not have occurred in these decisions. But I feel confident that, as the general result of our system, its benefits have accrued no less to the unsuccessful than to the successful applicants; that while the latter have secured patents to which an intrinsic value has been imparted by the scrutiny to which the inventions have been subjected, and by the sanction of the office are comparatively protected from infringement and litigation, the former have been saved from waste of time and labor upon well-known machines, and from the cost and misery of defending in courts of law rights to which they could maintain no title. This view of the benefit of a system of examination in preventing infringement and litigation is fully borne out by observation in Prussia, where there is an admirable plan of examination as to novelty by a board of patent commissioners, each one of whom is selected for his proficiency in some special department of the arts. Mr. Weddinge, a member of the board of trade of Prussia, as well as a member of the patent commission, stated, before the committee of the House of Lords, that in Prussia there are very few infringements of the patent rights of patentees, and that manufacturers generally prefer to get permission of the inventor to use his rights under the patent.
It is true that litigation to no inconsiderable extent will always exist in this country, where such vast capital is invested in patent property, and especially in relation to questions of interference, or where the question of priority arises between two inventors, both of whom may have been original authors of the discovery; but the amount of present litigation is trifling compared with the vast number of patents issued, and the value of property based upon them. I assume merely that litigation is most materially prevented by our system of examination. If even this is true, it is the highest commendation of our system, for, as Lord Langdale, the late master of rolls in England, says, "it is the great object of good legislation to cut off the causes or sources of litigation; that I conceive to be the object of government.
It is the duty of patent agents, who now form so important a class of professional men in this country, not too earnestly to press doubtful applications, and not to demand of the office a liberality in granting patents, which, if carried too far, would destroy the system which is the foundation of their business. It is the duty of the office to conscientiously and rigorously scrutinize every application, and to be sure that no patent is granted for anything which is not absolutely new, and at the same time to see that the applicant shall have the benefit of whatever, whether claimed or not, is shown by the specification, model or drawing, to be a new invention. That both these objects have been kept in view by the office, at least under its more recent administration, is shown by the fact that more than half of the applications upon which patents are granted are amended by the applicant at the suggestion of the office, so that he may not claim any more than has been found by the office examination to be actually new.
The reasons urged by Lord Stanley and Sir Hugh Cairnes, in the important debate so often referred to, that a patent should be granted after an inquiry little more than nominal and formal, it being understood that it should confer nothing more than a right to sue in a court of law, were, that it would be difficult to find men who were competent to pronounce authoritatively upon the novelty and utility of an invention, and that if scientific men were selected to compose a tribunal to pass judgment upon the novelty and utility of an invention, those inventions which were most original, and which, in the end, would be likely to turn out most valuable, would be most unlikely to receive scientific sanction. It was urged, for example, "Sir Humphrey Davy did not believe in the possibility of lighting houses with gas, and had he been acting as a judge, would have condemned that invention as useless." The last objection applies only to the examination as to utility, upon which with us the office does not pronounce judgment. The readiness with which persons acquainted with any particular branch of invention, and provided with facilities for investigation, can determine questions of novelty, is admitted by Mr. Woodcroft, although opposed to the system of examination. Being asked by the select committee whether, supposing he were professionally employed to determine for parties upon the novelty of their invention, he thought he could undertake generally to determine that point with a moderate degree of time and expense, he replies, "If I had the whole of the specifications before me, I could do it in a moderate degree of time, and at a moderate expense." The facilities for determining the novelty of inventions demanded by Mr. Woodcroft are most amply provided in this office. It possesses a technological library, unequalled by any in this country.
[fn.: About 14,000 volumes have already been collected. Few or no libraries in the country are so complete in many of the departments of useful knowledge. The collection of encyclopedias and of scientific and technological journals cannot be surpassed. Of journals it possesses not only the leading ones of this country and Great Britain, but those of France and Germany, and also those in the separate departments of science and arts. For example, in photography there are three American, four English, five French, and three German. The office subscribes to ninety-five periodical, and receives seventy-five by donation, in addition to the Transactions of learned societies. Of these periodicals sixty-nine are in the English language, twenty-seven published in America, and forty-two in Great Britain, thirty-five in the French language, fifty-seven in the German, two in the Italian, and two in the Dutch. Of these, eleven relate to general science, twenty-six to arts and manufactures, fifteen to photography, seven to civil engineering, seven to horticulture, four to mining, six to chemistry, two to chemistry and physics, two to chemistry and pharmacy, thirty-four to agriculture, eleven to literature, three to bibliography, three to statistics, three to mercantile affairs, two each to acclimatization, manufacture of paper, railroad engineering, entomology, gas lighting, patents, military affairs, and architecture, and one each to fine arts, microscopy, law, electricity, medicine, medicine and surgery, pharmacy, veterinary surgery, horology, coal oil, coach-making, printing, bees, botany, and geology.
To enumerate the more valuable works in this library would be along and tedious task, as it is well supplied in all its various branches, embracing in the simple subject of photography, the literature of which is of recent growth, 144 separate and independent works, not including its periodicals. During the year 1863, 574 volumes and 114 pamphlets have been added to the library. Of these, 308 were by purchase and 380 by donation.
As the business of the office extends and the number of patents is increased, the library will become a more and more important auxiliary. Its use is not confined to the examining corps, but is extended to the inventors of the country and to solicitors and attorneys from the distant cities. To those engaged in the trial of patent cases before the courts it is invaluable, as it is impossible to find so complete a history of the improvement in litigation as upon its shelves.
A liberal spirit ought always to be exercised in the purchase of books, and every means taken to render the library complete that it may at all times show the condition of the arts. Unfortunately, during the past three years, owing to the decrease of the receipts, it has been necessary to limit the expenditures, but with returning peace large additions ought to be made and improved accommodation be secured. The example of the Great Seal Patent Office, which within a few years has accumulated a library of upwards of 40,000 volumes, may well be followed. end of fn.]
It has opened relations with nearly all the governments in the world for obtaining information, up to each current month, of the progress of inventions abroad. Its portfolios of drawings, so numerous as to crowd two halls, each nearly one hundred feet in length, and yet so systematically arranged that the hand can at once be laid upon any drawing sought for, and its museum of models, unrivalled by any similar collection in the world, exhibit as in an open book all that has been done in American inventions. It is the fault of the administration, and not of the system, if the plan and facilities for examination are not as perfect as human ingenuity has devised.
Another favorable point of comparison of our own with the English policy is the cheapness with which patents are obtained in this country, the cost being limited to the amount necessary to create a fund for reimbursing the expenses of the Patent Office, while in Great Britain the cost of obtaining a patent is £175 -- over twenty-two times the cost in this country. From the fund accumulated by these fees in five years there was deducted for stamp duties the enormous tax of £67,060. It was in relation to this grievance that Lord Stanley said, in a pamphlet published in 1856: "One discovery checked, or even retarded, by exorbitant imposts, may cause a greater diminution of wealth, which would otherwise accrue to the nation, than can be compensated by tenfold the gain actually netted by the treasury." The acknowledged object of subjecting patentees to these enormous charges is the prevention of the multiplication of worthless or frivolous patents, and patents for small improvements on valuable inventions, or combinations thereon.
The objections to the frivolity and multiplicity of patents are so often thoughtlessly made, even in this country, as to be worthy of refutation. Those who have carefully studied the progress of civilization must have been observed that the uplifting of society has not been effected by paroxysmal convulsions, such as were supposed by geologists of former times to have upheaved the ancient continents at a single shock, but by causes which have operated as gradually and imperceptibly as those which modern science has shown to have been actually raised, within historic periods, vast countries, with the whole burden of their cities and unconscious people. The progress in mechanical improvements and in science has been so gradual that it is difficult to trace it except by the great general results. The fields of invention and practical knowledge have been extended by accretions as insensible as those which have formed the delta of the Mississippi. Every new fact in science, every new conception of ingenuity, no matter how trivial, has added something to their area. The noblest inventions which now astonish the world -- the steam-engine, the cotton mill, the railroad -- have been as truly built up block by block, layer by layer, as the pyramids. More than eight hundred distinct inventions were required to perfect the cotton-spinner. To refer to more recent branches of mechanical industry, we find some of the best harvesting machines protected by no less than twenty patents, each invention consisting of but a trivial improvement, yet the whole being necessary to the perfection of the machine. The art of sewing by machine, which originated no later than 1842, has attained its almost miraculous developments in this country through more than six hundred inventions for which patents have been issued. It is by no means asserted that all these inventions have been found practically useful; but perhaps no other art can so well illustrate how, in mechanical contrivances, idea begets idea, and the invention of yesterday gives birth to the invention of tomorrow.
The apparent insignificance of an invention is no measure of its value. Inventions in the meanest of household arts, such as improvements in washing and wringing machines, have not only contributed most materially to domestic comfort, but have given rise to single manufacturing establishments employing over half a million of dollars of capital. Improvements in articles so trivial as hooks and eyes, and pins for infant's clothing, have been the foundation of patents which have produced tens of thousands of dollars.
The application, in a manner to be hereafter described, of a pencil mark in submarine blasting, and the explosion of military mines by the electric current, enables the operator to dispense with cumbersome and costly batteries and machinery formerly indispensable. A spring for holding the deflector and chimney upon a coal-oil lamp, consisting simply of a bent strip of brass, has gone into universal use, and through a tariff of a few mills upon each lamp to which the invention is applied, has yielded several hundred thousand dollars to the inventor. The more minutely the arts are studied, the more will the conviction be forced upon the mind that, as the distinction between great and small appears to be unrecognized by Providence, the distinction between important and trivial, and useful and worthless, should never be applied to any original work of human ingenuity.
This is the doctrine of Sir David Brewster, who believed that "patents should be granted for every new idea, whatever that idea might be; that every encouragement should be given to persons to bring forward such ideas; and that instead of throwing difficulties in their way, even when the ideas appear to be frivolous, every facility should be given for their development, because they may contain the germ of future inventions. They may contain ideas which will suggest others more useful and practical; and what is a simple and amusing experiment in one age, may become a great invention in another."
REVIEW OF THE PROGRESS OF THE ARTS
I proceed next to a review of the progress of the arts in this country within the last one or two years, as exhibited in the different classes of inventions which have been the subjects of examination during this period. For minute information reference must be had to the carefully prepared brief descriptions of all the patented inventions, with the claim of each patent for the present year, and the admirably executed plates of drawings which accompany this report.
I am withheld, for obvious reasons, from giving the names of particular inventors even when they may have exhibited extraordinary merit, and shall attempt only a general sketch as may indicate the direction which the industry of the country has taken, and may be suggestive to ingenious minds of the fields of invention in which there is the most promise of reward for exploration and discovery.
Upon assuming the head of this office, I found the classification of inventions, by means of which the work of examination was distributed into distinct departments, and the vast collections of drawings and models arranged for ready reference, defective in philosophical arrangement, while the development of new branches of industry exhibited the need of forming new classes; I therefore prepared a new classification of the subjects of invention, which was published for the guidance of the office, and for facilitating inventors and agents in their reference to drawings and models.
In the sketch which I propose now to present I shall follow the order of classification then adopted. It is needless to remark, that in preparing this review I have availed myself of the talent and industry in the office which the law has placed at my command.
[There follows a detailed discussion of inventions by class, which is not copied out here. KWD]
The last subject which I have proposed to consider is the question of the modification of the existing patent laws. I have endeavored to show that our system may be favorably regarded in comparison with any other existing. This view involves the opinion that no laws materially affecting our present system are expedient. The decision of the courts, and the practice of agents and inventors, are conformed to the present laws. It is therefore desirable that there should be no legislation in relation to the subject of patents except to perfect and carry out the theory and principle of the present system. It is in this view that the recommendations for modifications of existing laws are now made. By the act of March 3, 1863, it was provided that a fee of fifteen dollars should be paid upon the filing of an application for a patent, and that an additional fee of twenty dollars should be paid upon the ordering of any patent to issue. The office having been embarrassed by the delay of many inventors in paying the final fee, a provision was made by law, that if the final fee for a patent be not paid within six months from the time at which it was passed and allowed, and notice sent to the applicant or agent, the patent should be withheld, and the invention therein described should become public property as against the applicant thereof. Some cases of great hardship have occurred under the operation of this law. Applicants have been absent from the country, have been ignorant of the existence of the law, or have failed, by accident, to transmit the final fee within six months. I respectfully recommend that the patent law be so modified as to confine the forfeiture to the pending application, leaving it optional with such applicants to renew their applications for the same inventions, and any modifications they may choose to introduce, or not, as they may elect; and that this modification be also extended to such inventions as may have already been forfeited under the act of 3d March, 1863.
A modification of the existing laws has been suggested by patent solicitors of great experience, which commends itself to my approbation. It has been repeatedly decided by the courts that the application of what is old, to a new purpose, is not patentable. The records of the office show that hundreds of patents have been granted in defiance of these decisions, while an examination of the rejected department will bring to light as many applications which have been refused upon reference to these decisions. It is difficult to conceive of any sound reason why the application of what is old, to a new purpose, should not be the subject of a patent.
The attention of an expert bridge-builder is directed to iron bars of a peculiar sectional form. He perceives that these bars can be applied with useful effect to the construction of a truss frame bridge. He makes a stronger, lighter and cheaper bridge than had before been made. He applies for a patent, and must be refused upon the principle of these decisions, because bars of the form he uses had been known before and used for other purposes, and, therefore, he has done nothing more than apply what is old to a new purpose. There seems to be no reason in principle why the sound judgment and inventive faculty which led the bridge-builder to apply these bars to a new purpose should not be rewarded. I respectfully submit a draught of a bill designed to remedy this defect in our law and practice.
In concluding this report, I am impelled to present in prominent relief the important fact that, although the country has been engaged in a war which would have seemed to tax to the utmost all its energies, the applications for patents for the last year have been equalled in only two former years: and yet one-half of our territory, shrouded in the cloud of rebellion, has contributed nothing to invention or human improvement.
The institution which has blighted that portion of the republic has long since recorded in this office its adverse influence to the arts and civilization. It appears that in the year 1857 there were granted to citizens of Massachusetts 421 patents, being a proportion of one to a population of 2,362. In the same year there were granted to citizens of Virginia 58 patents, a proportion of one to 62,064; and to South Carolina 12, a proportion of one to 55,708.
Labor being degraded in these States, there was no stimulus to mechanical activity; and as labor-saving machines were supposed to have the effect of supplanting and diminishing the value of slaves, improvements were regarded as injurious to the paramount interest of the State. It was only by unparalleled efforts that a northern inventor succeeded in introducing into the cotton States the gin, which added a hundred-fold to their productiveness and value. This invention is an example of the benefit which the South will derive from new arts to be applied to her peculiar climate and products. [fn.:
In an interesting work lately published, entitled "In the Tropics, by a settler in Santo Domingo," the author says:
"Those who say the treasures of the tropics are to be best won by the brute force of ignorant labor, cannot have studied with sufficient patience the march of invention.
"Intelligent laborers; men who know how to make wood and iron perform the severest part, to the sparing of human sinews; men who can work steam in harness, these are what is wanted here.
"Under the warm sun of the south intelligent men and machinery will yet open the grandest field of civilization ever realized.
"Even in such a small matter as hoeing a corn field this is illustrated. Without violent labor I do as much clearing in a short forenoon with my little donkey cultivator as three good field hands in a whole day, and do the work much more effectually. Rating the donkey and myself as equal to a pair of Dominicans, the cultivator, which neither eats, sulks, nor runs away, (to which as a class they are subject,) counts for four common hands, which are subject to all those defects. The cultivator, I repeat, counts for four laborers, and asks no wages." end fn.]
The imagination fails to conceive of the happy future in store for this country when its fairest portion shall be regenerated by the adoption of a just system of labor, and conquered by free industry; when its land, by this change, shall, according to the remarkable estimates of Mr. Walker, have an increased value of over six billions of dollars; and when a whole race shall be taught to think, contrive, and create. The richest field of invention, with its fruits of wealth and prosperity, will then be opened that ever occupied the faculties of men. The visions of Virgil and Milton will be realized, and --
"Time will run back and fetch the age of gold."