Annual Report of the Commissioner of Patents to Congress For the Year ending December 31, 1880

Department of the Interior
United States Patent Office
Washington, D.C., January 31, 1881

In compliance with section 494 of the Revised Statutes, I have the honor to submit the following report of the operations of this Office during the year terminating the 31st of December 1880.


Detailed statement of all moneys received for patents, for
copies of records or drawings, or from any source whatever


    Cash received                        $591,696.00

    Cash refunded                           1.555,00


    Net cash                             590,1141.00

    Certificates of deposit                60,274.00


         Total cash and certificates      650,415.00



    Cash received                          58,661.25

    Cash refunded                           1,888.92


    Net cash                               56,772.31

    Certificates of deposit                 1,282.62


         Total cash and certificates       58,054.95


Recording instruments

    Cash received                          22,832.00

    Cash refunded                             813.90


    Net cash                               22,018.10

    Certificates of deposit                   275.75


         Total cash and certificates       22,293.85


For subscription to Official Gazette

    Cash received                           8,674,67

    Cash refunded                             370.65


    Net cash                                8,304.02

    Certificates of deposit                   139.50


         Total cash and certificates        8,443.52


Registration of labels

    Cash received                           2,152.00

    Cash refunded                             636.00


    Net cash                                1,516.00

    Certificates of deposit                   102.00


         Total cash and certificates        1,618.00


Registration of trade marks

    Cash received                           9.045.00

    Cash refunded                             185.00


    Net cash                                8,860.00



Cash received                   $693,060.92

Cash received                      5,449.47


Net cash                         687,611.45

Certificates of deposit           62,073.87


    Total cash and certificates  749,685.32


Amount expended under the several appropriations from 

January 1, 1880, to January 1, 1881

Salaries                 $423,474.57

Contingent expenses        24,418.70

Official Gazette           25,581.10

Photolithographing         34,535.48

Copies of drawings         24,081.63

Tracings of drawings        2,340.00

Scientific library          4,443.69


    Total                 538,865.17


Statement of contingent expenses in detail

Stationary portfolios for drawings                $114.00

Furniture and labor connected therewith          4,885.30

Repairing                                        2,427.35

Papering                                             1.00

Painting                                           148.64

Carpets                                          1,828.12

Ice                                                818.37

Moneys refunded                                     40.00

Printing engraved patent heads                     117.40

Temporary clerks                                 6,280.00

Extra labor on indexes                             672.60

    Other contingencies, viz:

Subscription to journals, washing towels, 

  keeping horse, rent of telephone, lumber, 

  copies of court decisions, paste, file 

  wrappers, engraving, etc.                      7,085.92


    Total                                       24,418.70


               Receipts over expenditures

Total receipts                 $749.685.32

Total expenditures              538,865.17


    Receipts over expenditures  210,820.15



Statement of balance in the Treasury of the United States on 

account of the Patent fund

Amount to the credit of the fund January 1, 1880    $1,420,806.56

Amount of receipts during the year 1880                749,685,32


    Total                                            2,170,491.88

Deduct expenditures for year 1880                      538,865.17


Balance January 1, 1881                              1,631,626.71



Summary of the Business of the Office

Number of applications for patents for inventions          21,761

Number of applications for patents for designs                634

Number of applications for reissues of patents                617


    Total number of applications relating to patents       23,012


Number of applications for extensions                           0

Number of caveats filed                                     2,490

Number of applications for registration of trade marks        390

Number of applications for registration of labels             375

Number of disclaimers filed                                    18

Number of appeals on the merits                               773


    Total number of applications requiring 

      investigation and action                             27,058

Number of patents issued, including designs                13,441

Number of patents reissued                                    506

Number of trade marks registered                              349

Number of labels registered                                   184


    Total number of patents granted and certificates 

      issued                                               14,480

Number of patents expired during the year                   3,781

Number of patents withheld for non-payment of final fee     1,365


                    Patents Issued

Patents issued to citizens of the United States, with the ratio 

of population to each patent granted

States and Territories    Patents   One to 

                            and     Every


Alabama                        62    20,366

Arizona Territory               2    20,220

Arkansas                       44    18,240

California                    349     2,491

Colorado                       24     8,110

Connecticut                   610     1,020

Dakota Territory                8    16,897

Delaware                       23     7,376

District of Columbia          116     1,531

Florida                        15    17,823

Georgia                        77    19,987

Idaho Territory                 2    16,305

Illinois                      943     2,263

Indiana                       359     5,510

Indian Territory                1       ---

Iowa                          285     5,700

Kansas                         96    10,374

Kentucky                      170     9,639

Louisiana                      66    14,243

Maine                         101     6,425

Maryland                      229     4,081

Massachusetts               1,339     1,333

Michigan                      450     3,636

Minnesota                     114     6,849

Mississippi                    39    29,015

Missouri                      337     6,435

Montana Territory               3    13,052

Nebraska                       31    14,594

Nevada                         24     2,590

New Hampshire                 111     3,125

New Jersey                    518     2,183

New Mexico Territory            2    59,215

New York                    2,802     1,814

North Carolina                 36    38,888

Ohio                          917     3,486

Oregon                         22     7,943

Pennsylvania                1,324     3,234

Rhode Island                  205     1,348

South Carolina                 39    25,528

Tennessee                      82    18,810

Texas                         147    10,833

Utah Territory                 10    14,390

Vermont                        76     4,372

Virginia                       99    15,280

Washington Territory            6    12,520

West Virginia                  52    11,893

Wisconsin                     276     4,766

United States Army              6        --

United States Navy              3        --

     Total                 12,655

Patents issued to citizens of foreign countries  

Of patents issued to foreigners there were granted to 

citizens of 

Great Britain             275

Germany                   174

Canada                    160

France                     91

Switzerland                22

Austria                    15

Belgium                    10

Sweden                      8

Italy                       7

Russia                      3

Australia                   5

Cuba                        4

Denmark                     2

New Zealand                 2

Brazil                      1

Chili                       1

Spain                       1

United States of Columbia   1

Ecuador                     1

Bermuda                     1

Barbadoes                   1

Isle of Syra                1

    Total                 786

Comparative statement of the business of the Office from 1837 to 

1880, inclusive

Years Applica- Caveats Patents   Cash        Cash        Surplus

       tions    Filed  Issued   Received    Expended

1837                     435  $29,289.08  $33,506.98            

1838                     520   42,123.54   37,402.10   $4,721.44

1839                     425   37,260.00   34,543.51    2,716.49

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    5,264.20

1843     819    315      531   35,315.81   30,766.96    4,538.85

1844   1,045    380      502   42,509.26   36,244.73    6,264.53

1845   1,246    452      502   51,076.14   39,395.65   11,680.49

1846   1,272    448      619   50,264.16   46,158.71    4,105.45

1847   1,531    553      572   63,111.19   41,878.35   21,232.84

1848   1,628    607      660   67,576.69   58,905.84    8,670.85

1849   1,955    595    1,070   80,752.78   77,716.44    3,036.54

1850   2,193    602      995   86,927.05   80,100.95    6,816.10

1851   2,258    760      869   95,738.61   86,916.93    8,821.68

1852   2,639    996    1,020  112,656.34   95,916.91   16,739.43

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   36,919.02

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   10,592.42

1859   6,225  1,097    4,538  245,942.15  210,278.41   35,663.74

1860   7,653  1,084    4,819  256,352.59  252.820.80    3,531.79

1861   4,643    700    3,340  137,354.44  221,491.91

1862   5,038    824    3,521  215,754.99  182,810.39   32,944.60

1863   6,014    787    4,170  195,593.29  189,414.14    6,179.15

1864   6,972  1,063    5,020  240,919.98  229,868.00   11,051.98

1865  10,664  1,937    6,616  348,791.84  274,199.34   74,593.50

1866  15,269  2,723    9,450  495,665.38  361,724.28  133,941.10

1867  21,276  3,597   13,015  646,581.92  639,263.32    7,318.60

1868  20,420  3,705   13,378  684,565.86  628,679.77   52,866.09

1869  19,271  3,624   13,986  693,145.81  486,430.78  206,715.03

1870  19,171  3,273   13,321  669,476.76  557,149.19  112,307.57

1871  19,472  3,624   13,033  678,716.46  560.595.08  118,121.38

1872  18,246  3,090   13,590  699,726.39  665,591.36   34,135.03

1873  20,414  3,248   12,864  703,191.77  691.178.98   12,012.79

1874  21,602  3,181   13,599  738,278.17  679,288.41   58,989.76

1875  21,638  3,094   16,288  743,453.36  721,657.71   21,795.65

1876  21,425  2,697   17,026  757,987.65  652,542.60  105,445.05

1877  20,308  2,869   13,619  732,342.85  613,152.62  119,190.23

1878  20,260  2,755   12,935  725,375.55  593,082.89  132,292.66

1879  20,059  2,620   12,725  703,931.47  529,638.97  174,292.50

1880  23,012  2,490   13,947  749,685.32  538,865.17  210,820.15

An Increase of Force Necessary

The number of patents, including reissues and designs, granted during the past year has only been exceeded in the years 1869, 1875, and 1876, and the receipts of the Office have never been exceeded except in the year 1876. The excess of receipts over expenditures, $210,820.15, is greater than that of any former year. This result is due to the large receipts of the Office and the comparatively small expenditures during the year, such expenditure being less than that for any year since 1866, except the years 1869 and 1879. In the year 1875, when there was the greatest number of applications ever presented to the Office in any one year except the last, the expenditures were $721,657.71. The comparatively small expenditure of the past year, necessitated by the appropriations made by Congress, has greatly embarrassed me in the proper and prompt dispatch of business. The force employed, as well as the salaries paid to many of the employees of this bureau, is entirely inadequate to the amount and character of work required. Some of the examining divisions are several months behind with their work, which accounts in some measure for the proportionately less number of patents granted as compared with former years, many of the applications filed during the year remaining undetermined at its close. This is a serious difficulty, because inventors as a class are impatient of delay. The importunity and pressure brought to bear for speedy action often results in imperfect examination and ill-considered decisions, sometimes resulting in the granting of patents which cannot be maintained in the courts. Our laws contemplate that an applicant's right to a patent for the device or matter claimed shall be determined before the same is issued. Such being the theory of our system, the grant of an illegal patent serves to mislead and deceive the public, and tends to throw distrust and discredit upon patented property, and injures the commercial value of meritorious inventions.

The practice of the Office and its investigations should be such as to command the entire confidence of the public, so that business operations and the investment of capital can with safety be founded upon them. To accomplish this a large number of examiners having a high order of ability is requisite.

It was said by Mr. Commissioner Foote, in his report for the year 1868, that --

Questions as to the patentability of inventions become more difficult with the increase in the number of previous devices. An examiner must familiarize himself with all the inventions that have been made in his class -- not only in this country, but in Europe. Their great number and complexity have rendered the study of them a profession to be acquired by years of labor. An examiner's decisions involve nice questions of law, of science, and of mechanics. The more recondite principles upon which depend the practical success of processes and machinery, must be familiar to him. Large amounts of property often depend directly or indirectly upon his action. The ability and acquirements necessary to the proper discharge of his duties must be of a high order -- scarcely less than those we expect in a judge of the higher courts of law.

In order to thoroughly examine and decide the intricate questions which arise, the ablest and most experienced examiners must have sufficient time for mature consideration on each claim. The number of claims presented in each application will average not less than four. Applications, upon being filed, are distributed to the Principal Examiners, according to the invention, for examination. It is the duty of the Commissioner of Patents to furnish an applicant with any and all information which in his judgment shows that the device or matter claimed is anticipated by former patents or publications, after which the applicant may either amend his application or demand a reconsideration of the decision. As a rule applications are amended; and as they may be amended as often as new reasons or references are given by the examiner, which by reason of the change in the claims often becomes necessary, it is not extravagant to say that the average actions, each of which amounts to a decision upon evidence, which the Examiner himself must find are not less than four to each application, so that upon the twenty three thousand applications filed during the past year not less than ninety two thousand decisions were made. With the force now provided bylaw the twenty four Principal Examiners, including the Examiners of Trade Marks and Designs, are required to superintend and are held responsible for this large number of decisions, making for each examiner about four thousand decisions during the year.

Some conception of the magnitude of the labors of the examining corps of this Office, and of the necessity for an increase thereof, may be gained from the foregoing. The examiners have been urged by the public, by myself, and by the exigencies of the service to extraordinary efforts, and they have responded with remarkable unanimity, to prevent the business of the Office from becoming seriously delayed. Under this pressure patents may have been granted upon hasty examination which ought to have been refused. This difficulty must continue to exist unless Congress provides for an increase in the number of examiners and assistants, or confers upon the Commissioner authority to add to such force from time to time as the exigencies of the business require. As the inventors of the country pay for all the expenses of these examinations, it is due to them that their business should be transacted properly and promptly. I therefore recommend an increase over the present force of one principal examiner, three first, three second, and three third assistant examiners. This increase would add one entire division to the examining corps, and also provide assistants to the Examiners of Designs and of Trade Marks, who now, in order to equalize the work, are charged with the examination of a large number of subclasses of applications in addition to the special class for which their offices were created. This would provide twenty five examining divisions, (aside from the Examiner of Interferences,) and would, in my judgment, be sufficient, for a time at least, to insure prompt action upon applications as they are filed in the Office.

The appropriations for the year ending June 30, 1881, provide salaries for three hundred and sixty nine persons. This includes the Commissioners, the examiners and their assistants, the clerks, copyists, messengers, and laborers.

By reasons of the demands of the public services I have been compelled to employ a much larger number, and am now employing four hundred and eleven persons, exclusive of the carpenters, who are paid out of the contingent fund. In order to do this and keep within the appropriations, a large number of persons are employed as laborers at salaries not much above half pay -- that is to say, at about one half the salary that is contemplated by Congress for a given character of services. The appropriation for the next fiscal year should be so increased as to secure the retention of those now employed at least, and at such salaries as have heretofore been paid for like services.


A serious embarrassment which I have met, and which has been frequently referred to by my predecessors in office, is the want of sufficient room for the convenient and proper transaction of the business of the Office. This want of room largely diminishes the effectiveness of the force. Mr. Commissioner Paine, in his report for the year ending 1879 [I cannot find this in the report for 1878 or 1879. KWD], referring to this subject, said:

The rooms occupied by the examiners are utterly inadequate to the requirements of the public service. Many of them are too unhealthy to be fit for any use except the storage of material. Each of the examining divisions needs two well-lighted and well-ventilated rooms; but in most cases a single room is the only accommodation afforded for the entire examining divisions, including the clerks, with all their desks, models, drawings and books required for the performance of their work. It necessarily results that each examiner is disturbed by the consultations of the other examiners with inventors and attorneys.

The crowded condition of the rooms retards the transaction of business, and at the same time occasions much sickness as well as discomfort among the examiners and clerks. This entails serious loss upon the Government, and involves gross injustice to these officers. The Government has already levied upon the inventors contributions nearly equal to the cost of the Patent Office building. In the original statute providing for its erection, which was enacted July 4, 1836, it was ordered that the cost should be paid out of the "patent fund in the Treasury not otherwise appropriated." This would seem to have dedicated at the outset all the net revenues realized by the Government from the Patent Office to the construction of the building.

In 1849 and 1850 specific appropriations of the patent fund were made for the construction of this edifice, amounting to two hundred thousand dollars. In addition, the Government has taken from inventors enough to make the aggregate net revenues from the Patent Office almost a million and a half of dollars; and yet this Bureau is now restricted to a small part (which is also the worst part) of the building, and the best portions are being occupied by the Land Office, the Indian Bureau, the Assistant Attorney General, and the offices of the Secretary of the Interior. The Patent Office needs, and ought to have exclusive possession of the entire building, excepting those portions only which are required for the use of the Secretary. Seasonable legislation looking to that end is imperatively required.


Attention has been called by several of my predecessors to the necessity of having a digest made, for the use of the Office, and of the public, of the inventions patented in this and foreign countries, as well as those disclosed in publications, technical works, and in scientific and other libraries. At the risk of repetition, I desire also to call the attention of Congress to the importance of such a work, in the hope that the necessity so long felt and so often referred to may, at no distant day, be relieved, and the wants of the Office and the public supplied. Nearly 240,000 patents have already been issued by this office. If the examinations of the Office upon applications filed were limited to American patents only, the necessity for a digest of such patents would, to any person at all acquainted with the business of this Office, be apparent; but when to this number of patents are added those issued in foreign countries, as well as the inventions described in scientific and other works, the importance of such a digest, in order that an examiner may know what the state of the particular art is, cannot be overestimated. As well might it be expected that a lawyer could promptly tell what the law is upon a given subject from the isolated decisions found in the reports of the decisions of the courts of this and other countries, without a digest of such decisions, as that an examiner, although an expert in the particular class, can determine from the great number of inventions already patented, as well as those described in books and publications, whether a particular device or composition of matter is patentable, without some book in which reference is made to all the patents which have been issued in that particular class, as well as the inventions described in books and publications.

The preparation of such a work would cost, it is true, a large sum of money and consume considerable time; but I think the expense to the Government would soon be reimbursed by its sale. If not in that way directly, certainly it would by its sale and the increased facility which it would afford to the examining corps of the Office, lessening their labors, and hence the necessity for so large a number of persons being employed on that kind of work. The advantage to the public, and especially to inventors and manufacturers, would be incalculable. Inventors often spend months, and even years, in producing a device to do a certain thing, only to find at the end of the time thus spent that their inventions have been fully anticipated by other devices, if not identical with the one presented, in all respects similar to it.

Capital, always cautious, seeks investment in property the chief value of which consists in the facts that its owner has the exclusive right to produce or use it, which right is guaranteed by a patent of the United States, more cautiously than in any other kind of property, because of the uncertainty felt in such guaranty of the Government until the validity of such patent is tested by the severe ordeal of a trial in the courts. This feeling of uncertainty, this want of confidence, and hesitation on the part of capitalists and manufacturers may be overcome, in a large degree at least, by having the inventions in each and every class so brought together that at least those skilled in a particular art can determine whether a particular device or composition of matter is anticipated in a former patent or publication.

Had the preparation of such a work been commenced when it was most urgently recommended by Mr. Commissioner Ewbank more than thirty years ago, and, after its publication, annually kept up, many useless and worthless patents would not have been granted, and its cost to the Government, in my opinion, would have been many times saved.

For the foregoing reasons, and for reasons which have been given by my predecessors in their reports on this subject, I earnestly recommend that action be taken by Congress looking to an early commencement of the preparation of this work. At some time, if our patent system is continued, such a work will become so necessary that its preparation can no longer be delayed. Delay in its preparation will only add to its cost when it is commenced, because the material to be examined and classified is constantly increasing. In the meantime the Office must suffer the inconvenience of not having it for daily use.

Necessary Legislation

Under existing law there is no provision for obtaining evidence as to whether or not there has been a public use or sale of an invention claimed for more than two years prior to the filing of the application. Public use or sale for more than two years prior to that time is made by the statute a bar to the grant of a patent, and in case the same is granted proof of such use or sale is sufficient to defeat it; but no way of ascertaining the facts is provided by law. I therefore recommend that the Commissioner of Patents be authorized by law to establish regulations to obtain evidence as to the fact of public use or sale in all cases where such sale or use is alleged, and also to compel the attendance of witnesses, the same as in contested cases, as provided for in section 4906 of the Revised Statutes.

Assistant Commissioner

While an Assistant Commissioner is provided for this Bureau, the law nowhere prescribes his duties when the Commissioner is present and in charge. It has been usual for the Commissioner to assign to the Assistant Commissioner various duties to be performed, including the hearing of cases brought on appeal to the Commissioner in person, where no objection is made by the party or parties interested. Serious objection, however, has been raised to this practice, and a case is now pending in the Supreme Court of this District to determine the validity of a decision made by the Assistant Commissioner while the Commissioner was present. The case in which this question arose occurred prior to my assuming charge of the Bureau; but, owing to the fact that the law does not prescribe the duties of that officer, and also that objection can be made at any stage of the proceedings if decided by him, thereby complicating the case, I have thus far sought to avoid any such complication, so far as decision of cases is concerned, by signing each and every decision prepared by the Assistant Commissioner. To properly investigate and decide the large number of cases which are brought on appeal to the Commissioner, some provision should be made in the law by which cases can be assigned to the Assistant Commissioner and his decision thereon be made conclusive. I therefore recommend the passage of a law defining the duties of the Assistant Commissioner to be such as may from time to time be assigned to him by the Commissioner.

Trade Marks

The Supreme Court of the United States, in the case of The United States v. Steffens, The United States v. Witteman, The United States v. Johnson (U.S. Reports 100,) adjudged "that the statute relating to trade marks cannot be upheld, in whole or in part, as valid and constitutional." Notwithstanding this decision, my predecessor, upon authority of the Secretary of the Interior, continued to receive applications for and issue certificates of the registration of trade marks. The practice then adopted, which has since been followed, is to notify the applicant in each case of said decision of the Supreme Court, and if after such notice he persists in his request for registration, the application is examined and a certificate of registration issued in the same manner as though no such decision had been rendered.

The reason assigned by applicants for desiring registration is, that they may have preserved somewhere a record of the declaration of their intention to adopt a particular trade mark or the date when one was adopted.

The fact that under the law of 1870 some eight thousand trade marks were registered in this Office prior to the decision referred to has made it practically the place where search must be made to ascertain whether any particular trade mark has been adopted, and the facility with which such search can be made by the records of the Office, both as to the adoption and subsequent assignment of such trade marks, makes the record of registration here particularly valuable.

Some legislation under the circumstances is required.


The specifications of patents issued prior to January 1, 1866, have not been printed, although about one thousand specifications following that date have been printed during each month of the past year. The drawings for these patents have been photolithographed, and are now ready to be attached to the specifications. When all of these specifications are printed the work of the Office will be greatly lessened, a large number of copyists can be dispensed with, and the public much more promptly served. At least thirty five thousand dollars will be necessary to continue this work during the next fiscal year.

The general index of patentees, extending from 1790 to 1873, which has been in preparation for several years, is now ready for the printer; but there is no money available to pay the expense of printing it. It is believed that ten thousand dollars will cover such expense, and I recommend an appropriation of that sum for that purpose.

Through some inadvertence the illustrations of the Patent Office Reports for the year 1870 have not been printed. If printed, the reports of this Office would be complete. It is estimated that these illustrations can now be reproduced by the photolithographic process at a cost of about six thousand dollars. The propriety of having the reports of this Office complete must be apparent to all. I therefore recommend an appropriation of the sum of six thousand dollars to complete this work, the same to be immediately available.

I submit herewith a detailed statement of all moneys received for patents, for copies of records or drawings, and from all other sources; also, a statement of the expenditures for contingent and miscellaneous expenses, a list of patents granted, arranged under proper heads, and an alphabetical list of the patentees, with their places of residence, said statements and lists covering the transactions of this Office during the year ending December 31, 1880.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant

E.M. Marble
Commissioner of Patents

Hon. S.J. Randall
Speaker of the House of Representatives


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