Annual Report of the Commissioner of Patents for the Year 1874

To the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled:

In compliance with section 9 of the patent law, I submit the following report for the year ending December 31, 1874.

1.  Statement of moneys received

Amount received on applications for patents, 

    reissues, extensions, caveats, disclaimers, 

    appeals, and trademarks                           $655,625.00

Amount received for copies of specifications, 

    drawings, and other papers                          53,914.53

Amount received for recording assignments               18,400.70

Amount received for subscriptions to the Official 

    Gazette                                              9,011.94

Amount received for registration of labels, 

    (since August 1, 1874)                               1,326.00


    Total                                              738,278.17


2.  Statement of moneys expended

Amount paid for salaries                              $482,157.89

Amount paid for photolithographing current issues       42,315.15

Amount paid for photolithographing back issues          31,765.65

Amount paid for illustrations for Gazette               29,512.29

Amount paid for tracings of drawings                    17,418.40

Amount paid for contingent and miscellaneous 

    expenses, viz:

Advertising                             $1,621.21

Stationery                              13,277.20

Painting, glazing, varnishing, paper 

    hanging, etc.                          959.33

Furniture, carpeting, etc.              10,096.86

Fitting up cases in model rooms, 

    carpenter's work, and repairing 

    furniture                           16,591.68

Plumbing and gas fitting                 1,203.78

English patents and foreign periodicals  1,781.21

Refunding money paid by mistake            550.00

Hardware                                 1,497.30

Pay of temporary employees              17,752.81

Miscellaneous items, viz: Books for 

    library, ice, subscriptions to 

    journals, freight, washing towels, 

    withdrawals, repairing carriage and 

    harness, keeping horse, etc.         9,788.25

                                        _________       76,119.63


    Total                                              679,288.41


3.  Statement of the balance in the Treasury of the 

United States on account of the patent fund

Amount to the credit of the patent fund, 

    January 1, 1874                                   $806,124.21

Amount of receipts during the year 1874                738,278.17


    Total                                            1,544,402.38

From which deduct expenditures for the year 1874       679,288.41


    Balance January 1, 1875                            865,113.97


4.  Statement of the business of the Office for the year 1874

Number of applications for patents during the year 1874    21,602

Number of patents issued, including reissues and designs   13,599

Number of applications for extension of patents               216

Number of patents extended                                    199

Number of caveats filed during the year.                    3,181

Number of patents expired during the year                   4,908

Number of patents allowed but not issued for want of 

    final fee                                               2,561

Number of applications for registration of trademarks         648

Number of trademarks registered                               559

Number of applications for registering of labels              221

Number of labels registered                                   151

    Of the patents granted there were to

Citizens of the United States         13,072

Subjects of Great Britain                352

Subjects of France                        74

Subjects of other foreign governments    101

5.  Number of patents issued by the United States Patent Office 

to residents of the different States, Territories, and foreign 

countries from January 1, 1874, to December 31, 1874.

States, etc.         No. of     One to 

                     Patents    Every

Alabama                   39   25,564

Arkansas                  14    3,465

California               301    1,861

Colorado Territory        22    1,812

Connecticut              668      804

Dakota Territory           4    3,543

Delaware                  39    3,205

District of Columbia     145      901

Florida                   12   15,645

Georgia                   69   17,161

Illinois                 944    2,478

Indiana                  355    4,762

Iowa                     312    3,506

Kansas                    74    4,924

Kentucky                 125   10,568

Louisiana                 76    9,556

Maine                    151    4,151

Maryland                 218    3,578

Massachusetts          1,506      960

Michigan                 380    3,110

Minnesota                110    3,997

Mississippi               56   14,784

Missouri                 306    5,625

Montana Territory          1   20,595

Nebraska                  29    4,241

Nevada                    16    2,675

New Hampshire            127    2,506

New Jersey               616    1,471

New York               2,785    1,581

North Carolina            47   22,811

Ohio                     928    2,872

Oregon                    30    3,031

Pennsylvania           1,644    2,142

Rhode Island             164    1,325

South Carolina            42   16,860

Tennessee                 89   14,027

Texas                    113    7,244

Utah Territory             9    9,642

Vermont                  126    2,625

Virginia                  71   17,255

Washington Territory       4    5,926

West Virginia             38   11,632

Wisconsin                255    4,136

Wyoming Territory          4    2,279

Great Britain            352       --

France                    74       --

Other countries          101       --

United States Army         7       --

United States Navy         1       --

United States in general  --    2,556

6.  Comparative statement of the business of the Office from 1837 to 1874, inclusive

Years Applica- Caveats Patents   Cash        Cash

       tions    Filed  Issued   Received    Expended

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  189,414.14

1864   6,972  1,063    5,020  240,919.98  229,868.00

1865  10,664  1,937    6,616  348,791.84  274,199.34

1866  15,269  2,723    9,450  495,665.38  361,724.28

1867  21,276  3,597   13,015  646,581.92  639,263.32

1868  20,420  3,705   13,378  684,565.86  628,679.77

1869  19,271  3,624   13,986  693,145.81  486,430.78

1870  19,171  3,273   13,321  669,476.76  557,149.19

1871  19,472  3,624   13,033  678,716.46  560.595.08

1872  18,246  3,090   13,590  699,726.39  665,591.36

1873  20,414  3,248   12,864  703,191.77  691,178.98

1874  21,602  3,181   13,599  728,278.17  679,288.41

The business of the Office during 1874 presents several interesting features. From the above statement it will be seen that, notwithstanding the general prostration of business, a larger number of applications was received during the year 1874 than in any preceding year; and a larger number of patents was granted than in any year before, with the exception of 1869. It also appears that 2,561 applications were allowed, but patents were not issued, because the final fee was not paid within six months, as the law requires. If this number be added to the number of patents issued, it will be seen that of the 21,602 applications filed during the year 16,160 were allowed, leaving only a little more than one-fourth of the entire number of applications finally rejected. The fact that nearly three-fourths of the applications were finally decided favorably to the petitioners is a sufficient answer to the inconsiderate charge sometimes made of illiberality on the part of the officials of the Patent Office.

I desire, also, to call attention to the fact that, notwithstanding the heavy expenditures of the Office for photolithographing the drawings of current and back issues and for the publication of the Gazette, the excess of receipts over expenditures during the year amounts to $58,989.76, an increase of $46,976.97 over and above the surplus of the year immediately preceding.

Expenses of the Office

An examination of table 6 will show that for the last eight years the average number of applications for patents has been about 20,000 per annum. It is probable that this may be expected as the average annual business of the Office for years to come, unless some great change should occur affecting directly the operation and influence of our patent system. Should the business keep up to the present standard, however,it will not materially increase the expenses of the Office. The photolithographing of the drawings of current and back issues has so facilitated the labor of making examination that the same force can do very much more and much better work than ten years ago. This is accomplished by putting into each examiner's room a full set of the photolithographs of his class as soon as the work is completed, so that his examinations, to the extent of patents granted in this country, can be made without leaving his room, and yet with a certainty that all the drawings in the class are before him. The full benefit of the reproduction of old drawings cannot be realized, however, until the work is entirely completed. It will be of great advantage, not only to the Patent Office, but also to the public, if this can be speedily accomplished. I have recommended, therefore, an increase of the appropriation for this purpose for the next fiscal year. If the amount asked for, one hundred thousand dollars, is appropriated, it will enable the Commissioner to complete the work within the year. The sale of copies will be largely increased by having in store photolithographs of the drawings of all patents, thus enlarging the receipts of the Office, while at the same time the facilities for examining applications will be improved to such an extent that, I am confident, the working force of the Office can be decreased by dispensing with one entire grade of the examining corps. A large saving in the annual expenses of the Office will thus be effected, while the increase in appropriation desired is only about one thousand dollars more than the surplus receipts for the last year.

Of course the annual increase of patents granted adds just so much to the labor of examining subsequent applications; but, with the completion of the reproduction of the old drawings, and the improvements in working facilities in other particulars, which may be obtained, it is hoped that this increase will not be felt so seriously as heretofore.


Upon the completion of this work the Patent Office will be relieved of one large item of expense, while, as I have shown, the amount required for the payment of salaries may probably be diminished. This will result in a much larger surplus of receipts over expenditures. There is yet much to be done before the mass of information stored away in the Patent Office will become easily accessible to the public.

From 1836 to the present time over 158,000 patents have been issued. Since 1836 the specifications have been printed, and copies can be obtained at a very small expense. But no information can be gained by the public of patents granted prior to 1866, except from the old and very meager reports, from manuscript copies of the records, and from photolithographs of the drawings of some classes only. When the photolithographing of the drawings of all back issues has been completed, I believe that a portion of the surplus receipts of the Office should be devoted from year to year to the printing of the specifications of all patents granted prior to 1866. We shall then have all the American patents, like the English, in symmetrical, easily examined printed form, with an ample supply, so that libraries in different parts of the country may be provided with the complete record of all patents granted, and full information in relation to old patents may be obtained as cheaply and readily as of the current issues.

As the records of this Government now stand, of part of the patents granted prior to 1866 only one copy of the drawings (excepting that in possession of the patentee) is in existence; of the specifications the Office has only one or two manuscript copies; and it is easier for our inventors to gain full information of English patents than of those of their own country, for the reason that some public libraries to the country are provided with complete printed records of English patents. In fact, this Office (by the liberality of the English government) has all these printed records of English patents, but not of its own. But the multiplication of copies in printed form concerns not only the public at large. The records of the Patent Office sustain a relation to the current work differing widely from that of any other bureau under the Government. In other Government offices the papers in cases once decided are filed away, with little probability of ever being consulted again; but in the Patent Office an application once made and decided upon may become, in turn, a reference for subsequent applications of its class. Hence the files of the Office must be inspected daily in the work of examining pending applications. I therefore respectfully urge that these records, which are truly the only complete history of the progress of invention in the country, the only reliable exponent of the state of the art, the sole and constant reference both of the Office and inventors, may be multiplied in printed form.

There is also urgent need of complete digests of all the patents in each one of the one hundred and forty five subdivisions, as inventions have been classified in the Office. These would render the work of examining more expeditious and certain. The English government has published such digests. These contain, in greatly abridged form, properly classified and arranged, all the patents issued by the government, and appear to have met with great favor. There is also a strong demand for the publication of an abridgement of specifications in this country. If the Commissioner should be authorized to publish the volumes as fast as completed, in form something like that of the English abridgements, they would doubtless meet with a ready sale, which would nearly if not quite cover all the expense of publication. So seriously is the want of this abridgement felt by inventors and manufacturers, that every year examiners in the Patent Office are importuned by persons outside to prepare complete abridgements of patents in their class for publication and sale as a private enterprise; and in some instances large sums have been offered for complete digests of some special classes.

There is no occasion for any reduction of the fees demanded of applicants. They are trifling compared with the expenses attending the grant of a patent in other countries, and there is no complaint that they are exorbitant. I firmly believe that they should be kept at their present rate, and that most of the surplus receipts should be expended in the direction indicated for the benefit of the Office and that large portion of the public vitally interested in patents. Such use of the funds of the Office would meet a continually increasing demand, and be received with popular approbation. I should be glad if a small approbation could be made this year for the commencement of digests, and most earnestly recommend a special appropriation for this purpose, even though it may not exceed five or ten thousand dollars.

General Index

For the purpose of providing for the public some readily accessible information in regard to patents already granted in this country, the Commissioner has caused to be prepared, within the last two years, a general index of all patents issued from 1790 to 1873, inclusive. This index will be published in two sets of three volumes each -- one being an index of subject matter, and the others the names of patentees. Of the first, one volume has been published, the second will be out soon, and the third will follow shortly. The first edition has been limited to a thousand copies; but the matter has been stereotyped, so that any future demand can be readily supplied. A small number of copies is required for Office use; the remaining volumes will be sold at $20 per set. The patentees' index is not yet completed. Many orders have been received already for these indexes, and it seems reasonable to expect that the receipts from their sale will ultimately reimburse the Treasury for the expense of their publication.

Official Gazette

The Patent Office Official Gazette, the publication of which was commenced in 1872, has grown in popularity from year to year. The increase in its circulation, however, has not been rapid, owing in great measure to the fact that there is no authority for advertising it. Persons coming to the Office for the transaction of business frequently express surprise on learning of the publication of this journal. If some provision could be made for giving more general information of the publication of the Gazette, it is believed there would be large increase in subscriptions. A change has been made in the mode of publication during the last year. Up to the commencement of the current fiscal year the illustrations were produced by photolithography, and each weekly edition numbered ten thousand. This large number was necessary because the edition was not stereotyped, and as the Gazette is now the only Patent Office report, there will be a steady demand in the future for full sets. More than half the edition was stored for sale, and the pressure for more room in the Office made it desirable that some change should be effected by which less space for storage would be required. Accordingly, in the advertisement for proposals in the year commencing June 1, 1874, bids were asked for plate illustrations for an edition of five thousand copies only, the plates to become the property of the Office. A proposal for doing this work by the "heliotype" process, submitted by J. R. Osgood & Co., of Boston, Mass, was accepted, and a contract entered into with them by my predecessor for illustrations and plates for an edition of five thousand copies. The plates occupy very little space, and are readily stored in the Office. The letter-press portion of the Gazette is stereotyped at the Government Printing Office, so that the plates of both letter-press and illustrations are preserved, and a new edition of any number of volumes of the Gazette can be produced, should a necessity therefor arise.

At the same time, a change was made in the arrangement of the matter. A brief of the invention, and the claim of each patent are placed on the same page with the illustrations, the whole page being then reproduced by the heliotype process. On account of these changes, the appearance of the illustrated portion was for a short time quite unsatisfactory, but for the last three months it has been constantly improving, and is now very acceptable.

The Gazette is regarded with favor, not only by inventors and manufacturers, but also by gentlemen engaged in patent suits, both lawyers and judges. Since its first appearance it has contained, from time to time, reports of such decisions of the courts in patent cases as the Commissioner has been able to obtain. Under this practice these decisions are published some time before their appearance in any official report; hence the Gazette has become valuable as a medium for the prompt publication of judicial decisions. I have perfected an arrangement by which, during the year 1875, all decisions of the United States courts in patent cases will be reported at once in the Gazette. This, it is hoped, will enhance its value and increase its circulation.

The subscriptions for the Gazette do not cover the expense of publication; but it will be remembered that, in authorizing the work, Congress also provided for a large gratuitous circulation, each Senator and Representative being entitled to one copy for himself and to eight for public libraries designated by him. If the regular subscription price were received for these free copies, the cost of publication would be nearly if not quite repaid.

Of the first volume of the Gazette an edition of only one thousand was published. This edition was exhausted long since, and there is a constantly increasing demand for the volume. I respectfully recommend that provision be made for the publication of a new edition of this volume, which covers the first half of the year 1872. An edition of five thousand copies will cost from ten thousand to twelve thousand dollars. If this is authorized, I suggest that the Commissioner be allowed to send an unbound copy, gratuitously, to each person and library that the received the second volume free of expense.

Revision of the Law

Although a new and revised patent law was enacted in 1870, very little material change was effected, and the law today is essentially that of 1836. In the meantime business relating to patents, both inside and outside of the Office, has increased enormously. In the Office the organization is substantially the same as thirty-five years ago, when the number of applications was only a few hundred a year. The annual applications have increased from four hundred and thirty-five to twenty-one thousand six hundred and two, and the corps of examiners from one to one hundred. These officials make the primary action on all applications received, and if the decision is favorable to the petitioner, it is final.

After an experience in the Patent Office of nearly eleven years in varying positions, I have no hesitation in saying that the present organization is not entirely adapted to the large amount of business now transacted. Among so many persons, acting to some extent independently, mistakes will inevitably occur, and they are as likely to be in favor of an applicant as against him. There should be some provision for revising the favorable as well as adverse decisions of examiners. Other changes are demanded in the law to make the practice of the Office more simple, certain, and satisfactory.

There is also great complaint of the burden of litigation under the present law, which has become a great hardship to patentees under the present practice. A final decision by the United States Supreme Court cannot be expected in any case much short of six or seven years from the commencement of the suit. The expense of money attending patent litigation is fully as extravagant as that of time. It must be remembered, too, that all this expenditure of time and money occurs in the determination of rights which have only a limited duration. If seven years of the life-time of a patent are consumed in litigation, the enjoyment of the exclusive privilege intended by the grant is in reality reduced to ten years. The establishment of some more summary and inexpensive method of determining patent suits seem almost imperative.

I have great hesitation, however, in recommending changes in the law, and have hitherto only presented to the Committee on Patents of the two houses of Congress some few special amendments to overcome difficulties which have occurred in the conduct of business in the Office. What is needed is a careful and thorough revision of the entire law by persons familiar with out patent system, the respective interests of inventors and manufacturers, and the rights of the general public. In order that this may be done for the benefit of all classes interested therein, an examination should be made of the relations between patents and our manufactures, the general effect of our system, and the practice and wants of the Patent Office. I, therefore, very respectfully and earnestly recommend the appointment of either a special committee or a commission to prepare a new and revised patent law, to be reported at the first session of the next Congress.

Officials of the Patent Office, Civil Service, etc.

The work of the Patent Office calls for the exercise of judgment and intelligence of a high order. A thorough knowledge of the applied sciences and useful arts, especially on the part of those employed in the examining corps, is absolutely necessary. It gives me pleasure to speak in commendatory terms of the persons thus employed.

The operation of the civil-service rules has been of great advantage to the Patent Office. The entire force has been improved, but the change in the examining corps is more marked than elsewhere. The examinations for appointment and promotion have been conducted with great fairness and with the single intention of obtaining accurate information of the qualifications and aptness of candidates for the special work of the Patent Office. No system will produce uniformly satisfactory results. The operation of competitive examinations in the Patent Office forms no exception to this rule. But, notwithstanding occasional complaints, the opinion is quite generally expressed among gentlemen who have been acquainted with the Patent Office for twenty or thirty years past that the examining corps is, on the whole, in better condition now than ever before.

It is to be regretted that the most efficient and competent men cannot be retained in the Office. When they become thoroughly familiar with their duties and efficient in the performance of them, their services will command a much more liberal compensation outside than in the Office. The result is that some of the best examiners are led to resign their positions for the purpose of entering more lucrative employment, where their experience in the Patent Office becomes available.

The ready transaction of business in the Office is considerably impeded by the crowded condition of the rooms. I am compelled to reiterate the request for more room, which has been made repeatedly within the last few years. Some relief must be found before long. The model galleries are already filled to repletion, and new models are received at the rate of fifteen to eighteen thousand annually. In the rooms for drawings it is almost impossible to keep the records inside the doors, while in many other rooms the employees are so crowded as to greatly interfere with good health, and the convenient transaction of business. It would be a great mistake to dispense with either drawings or models. The former are indispensable for record purposes and as the basis of all illustrations prepared by the Office, while models furnish the best and sometimes the only satisfactory evidence of what in invention really is. A description or drawing may be obscure and liable to misinterpretation -- a model never. Additional room is an absolute necessity for the proper preservation of most valuable records, the public exhibition of an increasing number of models, and a prompt and efficient transaction of the very large amount of business now done in the Patent Office.

Respectfully submitted.
J.M. Thacher
Commissioner of Patents


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