Scientific American, v 1 (ns) p 82, 6 August 1859
The United States Patent Office
To the student in pursuit of knowledge upon any branch of science and invention there is no museum or collection of material in this country at all to compare with that so beautifully and artistically arranged in the spacious halls and galleries of the Patent Office. Like the other institutions of the Federal Government, the growth of this office has increased with the development of the resources and rapid expansion of the power and population of the republic. A glance at its history shows that such an establishment early gained the attention of the wise and able men of the revolutionary era. Hence we find that, on the 10th of April, 1790, Congress passed an act authorizing the Secretary of State, the Secretary of War, and the Attorney general, or any two of them, to grant patents for such new inventions and discoveries as they should deem sufficiently useful and important. This act, which originated the Patent Office, was repealed, and a new act passed on the 21st of February, 1793. Under this latter act patents were confined to the citizens of the United States, and they were to be granted by the Secretary of State, subject to the revision of the Attorney general. By the act of the 17th of April, 1800, the privilege of suing out a patent was extended to aliens of two years' residence in the United States, and the act of July 13, 1832, only required the alien to be a resident at the time of his application for a patent, and to have declared his intention, according to law, to become a citizen. By the act of July 4, 1836, all former laws on the subject were repealed, and the patent system was re-enacted with important improvements, embodying a new organization of Office, and conferring upon it much more extensive powers than it had heretofore possessed. Under this act the establishment was organized essentially as it exists at this day, except that by subsequent acts the power of appeal was allowed from the decision of the Commissioner to either of the judges of the Circuit Court of the District of Columbia. The Patent office occupied a part of the General Post Office building, which was destroyed by fire on the 15th of December, 1836. All its invaluable contents were lost by this sad accident; and by the act of 3d of March, 1837, Congress provided for the recording anew of patents and assignments of patents recorded prior to the date of the conflagration, and for issuing new patents for those destroyed. The offices of the Patent Office were also directed to procure duplicates of the most interesting models burned, at a cost not exceeding $100,000. The loss of the Patent Office, or rather its contents, caused a deep sensation throughout the country, and universal regret was expressed on all hands at this untoward event. Even the ruthless Admiral Cockburn, who fired the Capitol and President's House, and other public edifices of this city, had spared the Patent Office, and yet accident, in a few hours, destroyed the labors of many men for many years, which even that modern barbarian feared to touch.
This sketch of the legislation of Congress on the subject of patents, familiar as it is to the professional man, may give to the general reader an idea of the early and continuous importance attached by the law makers to this important branch of the government. Growing out of, and forming as it were an integral portion of, the patent system is what may be termed the patent law branch of our jurisprudence. The minds of the most eminent of our jurists, both on the bench, and at the bar, have been taxed to their utmost by the intricacy and subtlety of the investigation of many cases which have arisen and been adjudicated upon under these laws. A legal writer justly terms the patent law branch of our jurisprudence "the metaphysics of the law." And so it must continue to be and to increase, because of the increasing spirit of improvement in agriculture and manufactures and machinery, both here and in Europe. The Patent Office is essentially and necessarily a national institution in every sense of the word, and will always remain so, inasmuch as it would be impracticable for the States separately to make provision fro the effectual protection of the rights secured to inventors under the patent laws.
All the parties concerned in patents, whether as inventors or users of the machines for which they are granted, are fully aware of the importance of the faithful execution and enforcement of the patent laws; and there is no class of cases tried by our courts to which the community generally take more interest.
In all countries, and in all ages, inventors or discoverers of any new agent or implement useful to man in his varied pursuits, have been considered as among the most valuable citizens of the State, and deserving of its encouragement and protection. Of late years this appreciation of such men seems greatly to have increased, both in the United States and in Europe. We trust that it will ever be so, and that worth and merit, in whatever walk of life it may develop itself, may always meet with recompense and reward.
Scientific American, v 1 (ns) p 102, 13 August 1859
A Visit to the Patent Office at Washington
(Correspondence of the New York Herald)
A visit to the Patent Office at Washington is well worth a trip to that city if there was nothing else to attract attention. The building is one of the most beautiful in the world, occupying two entire squares, the noble front being a facsimile of the Pantheon.
The grand entrance is by a flight of granite steps leading into the vestibule, which contains a splendid and unique double flight of marble steps, which astonish the visitor unacquainted with architecture, being suspended in air and supported and held up because they form a horizontal arch. Upon entering the second floor we perceive an immense hall, 264 feet long by 61 feet in width, and height 30 feet, ornamented with a quadruple row of massive stone Doric columns rising with their entablature twenty feet, above which spring a series of vaulted ceilings ten feet higher, covering the whole area and forming a highly ornamented plafond. In the center of this gallery a grand cylindrical arch of forty feet span towers above the rest. This was not the first design of the architect, but circumstances arose which compelled him to change the plan, which produced a blemish that may hereafter be remedied. This hall contains the collections of the National Institute and rejected models. The curiosities that have been collected during the past forty years, and also many of the early reminiscences of the government are deposited here -- the press of Franklin, the coat of Jackson worn at the battle of New Orleans, a model of the Bastille, presented by the son of Lafayette, and fragments of the Peacemaker, which deprived the country of the services of two members of the Cabinet and other distinguished individuals.
At the lower end we come to the machinist's room, to the right of the entrance to the great model room. This contains about 25,000 patented models, all arranged in ninety-six cases. These are divided into twenty-two classes, and are readily found with the assistance of a catalogue just published by Mr. Hunter, and sold in the vestibule. Visitors from all parts of the States and Europe are found examining these models. The cases are kept in admirable order, under the charge of Mr. Bell, the machinist. The property invested in patents is enormous, and the profits of a successful invention are very great.
The new Commissioner, Mr. Bishop, of Connecticut, has taken his seat, and with the aid of the twelve examiners and assistants, the operations of the office work smoothly and efficiently. Nearly one hundred patents are granted weekly. It is supposed that upon an average every patent nets to its owner $50,000. This is the opinion of one of the examiners who long had a desk in the Office, but who gave place to another gentleman upon the change of administration. This room also contains curiosities collected and belonging to the government -- the Declaration of Independence, the commission of Washington, the sword he wore in his campaigns, the uniform worn at Annapolis when he surrendered his commission, his old camp chest (it looks war-worn and hardly worthy of the leader of our armies, even of the Revolution) -- the old tin plates -- he says in his invitation to Mrs. Livingston to dine with him -- "once tin, but now iron;" they have the same appearance now they had then. There are also the treaties with the foreign governments deposited here; here are the treaties with Louis XVI, the Directory, Napoleon, Louis Philippe, the Georges, and others of equal note.
The new hall in the west wing is just completed and for architectural beauty surpasses anything of the kind either in the Old or in the New World. It is intended to contain the rejected models, of which there are about 70,000, each of which costs the inventor not less than $50, and so on up to $800 -- an enormous amount of money -- which, taken in connection with the anxiety of mind, caused by delay and hope deferred, would lead one to suppose some remedy could be devised to prevent such a waste of time and money. Congress last session thought something was wrong, as a bill was brought in by Mr. Seward for a publication of all rejected cases, with the reason of their rejections; it is supposed that this was preliminary to further legislation upon the subject. The copyright works are also being removed to this room and are now being arranged systematically and in order.
I would call the attention of publishers of engravings who have copies deposited here, to the fact that they are now placed in a roll entirely out of sight. If they were handsomely framed, I have no doubt the Secretary would allow them to be placed upon the walls, as is done in London and Paris. Here these fine engravings would be an additional attraction, as well as profitable to the owners, who would find purchasers in some of the thousand visitors who here lounge away their idle hours during the Congressional season. The east wing contains the office of the Hon. Jacob Thompson, Secretary of the Interior, with the numerous clerks attached to that department; also the amiable Chief Clerk of the Patent Office, with the Pay Clerk, withdrawal and numerous officials of the various departments of the Office.
Below, in the basement, are copying clerks of the Patent Office, depositories for the models, where they are arranged and labeled prior to being placed in the examiners' hands. The Indian Bureau here has its office and archives, employing a numerous force under the able superintendence of its chief clerk, Mr. Mix. There are few changes made in this department, and some of its members have been attached to it for years. Mr. Dowling, born and brought up a printer in Washington -- one of its most efficient attaches -- is much respected by the community.
On the floor leading to the west wing are situated the library and draughtsman's room. The library contains perhaps the most valuable collection of scientific works in the world. There is no work upon any subject of science or mechanics but may be found here, even to the advertising card of a New York stove manufacturer, which has been found here to be in the way of some unfortunate inventor, to the ponderous and valuable publications of the English Patent Office. The librarian, Mr. Turner, speaks several languages and is an author himself, having assisted in the compilation of some of the most profound works issued by the Smithsonian Institution.
The draughtsman's room, under the able superintendence of Mr. McIntyre, is a model of order. Here are arranged the drawings of upwards of 75,000 inventions all arranged and classified so that any one wanted can be furnished in a moment. Here also all the specifications of applications yet pending are deposited.
The record room, in charge of Mr. Dorsey, claims attention. Copies of specifications of patents, assignments, etc., carefully copied off in large folios for convenience of reference, also original specifications of cases that have been withdrawn, are found in this room. Large tables are here seen, surrounded by keen patent agents and anxious inventors, searching tome after tome, fearfully but carefully investigating cases that have been patented. Sometimes years of hope are blasted in a twinkling; at others patient toil and thought receive new vigor with the prospect of coming independence, on finding the field of invention still open to them, and not closed by a previous invention. Farther on, on this floor, is the Land Office. This is a very important bureau, and many clerks and agents are employed from Maine to California, all centering here. There are eighty registers and receivers, some of whom receive a commission on moneys entered at their offices; others a stated salary of $3,000.
A Commissioner, Chief Clerk, Recorder, Draughtsman, etc., receive from $1,600 to $3,000. In the Patent Office, examiners-in-chief $2,500; assistants, $1,800; watchmen, clerks, etc., same as the others, copying clerks who make copies of specifications, patents, assignments, etc. for the use of courts and for the information of inventors, ten cents a hundred words. Of these there are about twenty. Here is also the Agricultural Department, under the superintendence of Mr. Brown, who is in daily receipt of letters from all parts of the country in regard to agricultural interests.
The report for the year is nearly completed, and will soon be ready for distribution, of which there are 212,000 copies printed, at a cost of about 60 cents each. Each member of the House receives 800 copies for his constituents. Some of them do not take the trouble to mail them, while others purchase them and distribute them also with their own. The Agricultural Bureau employs about six or eight clerks, and at times 100 boys and girls in putting up seeds, of which there are millions of bags put up and distributed. The basement of the west wing is occupied by the clerks of the Land Office; and there remains the north wing, now slowly being constructed. It is said the interior of the square will be paved with glass. The whole number of officials about the building is 283, to which may be added as many more attached to the department elsewhere.
Scientific American, v 1 (ns) no 8, p 121, 20 August 1859
The Patent Office Reports for 1858
In answer to numerous inquiries about the Patent Office Reports for the last year, we would state that the two volumes containing the claims are already issued; those containing the illustrations are in press, but it is uncertain at what time they will appear. As the Commissioner of Patents receives but a limited number of these reports, he can supply but a few of the calls that are made upon him for them; and he has no stock on hand for sale, as some seem to suppose when they inquire of us, "how much does the Commissioner of Patents charge per volume for his annual reports?" That officer only supplies the patentees for the year, and such other persons as have a recognized business connection with the Patent Office. The great bulk of the reports are handed over for gratuitous circulation to patriotic Senators and Representatives, each of whose autographs, when seen on the brown Manila wrappers that cover the volumes, sends a thrill of grateful emotion through the veins of the constituent who is thus noticed, to the exclusion of his more humble neighbor. Those of our readers who cannot, for reasons indicated, receive the direct autographical attention of the Commissioner of Patents (who, by the way, is an excellent penman), should lose no time in finding out the name and post office address of the members of Congress for their respective districts, and make formal application to them for copies of the reports. No one of our readers need feel afraid to write to a live member of Congress. We have seen and conversed with many of them in our day, and have invariably found them made up of flesh, blood and bone, and they are not always perfect Masters of Arts or professors of the Belles Lettres.
The demands for these useful reports are increasing every year, and it is therefore important that they should be well circulated; we mean by this, that they should be placed in all our libraries that are accessible to the public, sent to every editor who reads and writes, and circulated gratuitously, so far as they will go, among that class of citizens who know the difference between the modern spinning jenny and the old-fashioned "quill" wheel, whose music has so often hummed in our ears. We heard a Senator once declare -- while speaking against appropriating money for the publication of such "trash" as he thought these reports contained -- that he had bags of them at a certain post office in his State, but did not know what to do with them. This same grave Senator could undoubtedly have found open channels for the distribution of his political verbiage to the extent of thousands of copies, yet he was dumbfounded with ignorance when he found himself encumbered with a few mail bags of patent reports, showing forth the progress of the nation's material interests which he in part represented. This stupid indifference gives a clue to the reason why session after session of Congress treats the Patent Office and its interests as though such things existed in Spitzbergen instead of at the Federal capitol.
The Commissioner of Patents would make the most proper distribution of these reports, and ought to have them under his sole control. There are thousands of persons who want these reports, and yet never receive them; we confidently believe this, from the vast number of applications made to us for them, every year.
Scientific American, v 1 (ns) no 20, p 321, 12 November 1859
Reform of the Patent Laws
It will be observed in our editorial correspondence from Washington in another column, that this important subject is touched upon, and that new light and life are thrown into it. Our patent laws require but very few alterations, but these are of pressing necessity and vital consequence. We have directed public attention to this subject on several occasions, in former volumes; but as nothing has yet been done effectively in the matter we deem the present moment well fitted for bringing the subject before the members-elect of Congress, and other persons holding high offices in Washington; as great responsibility rests upon them in regard to effecting the necessary reforms during the next session of our Federal Parliament.
We are gratified to learn that the Hon. Commissioner of Patents, although but a brief period in office, has become deeply interested in this question. His position and duties have brought the present evils so prominently before him that he is prompted by duty and generous impulses to exert his influence in the work of reform. Having recently filled the position of a member of the House of Representatives, he has the peculiar advantage of knowing personally many of the present members, and will thus be enabled to exert a salutary influence in bringing about the desired result. If the Commissioner can succeed in getting the favorable action of Congress upon a reform bill, he will be entitled to, and will receive, the gratitude of the whole host of inventors and patentees.
The reforms required are very reasonable, and we believe that, if presented in the proper light, they will meet with the entire approbation of Congress. The bill reported by the late Senator Evans, in 1858, published on page 222, Vol 13, Scientific American, covers nearly the whole of the required amendments. We recall attention to this bill, because it affords a good foundation for legislative action, and it will avoid the labor and trouble of commencing the work de novo. As we reviewed its principle section on page 229 of the volume just referred to, we will not take up space with going over the same ground again, but will content ourselves with noticing, briefly, two or three prominent features requiring attention.
1. Interfering Cases. -- According to our law, the original or first inventor alone is entitled to a patent. The principle upon which this action is based is no doubt correct; but the manner in which it is sometimes applied is very wrong. Thus, for example, if A were to invent an improvement today, and secure a patent for it tomorrow; he may be dispossessed of it, after it has been held for several years without a single question being raised regarding its validity during all that period. To do this, another inventor, B, has only to prove that he discovered the same improvement first, and that he was prevented by untoward circumstances from applying for a patent at an earlier date. There are instances on record where patents have been set aside by such actions, after the first patentees have been at an enormous expense in introducing their inventions and building machinery to operate them. Very great injustice has been done, and great hardships suffered by innocent parties on account of this failure in our patent law. That such an evil should be removed from our patent system no one will deny; but the question is, how shall this be done and yet carry out the just principle of granting patents to original inventors only? It is proposed, for this purpose, that the fee for filing a caveat shall be so reduced as to enable every inventor, however poor, to take advantage of it and record his improvement nearly as soon as it is conceived, and that the date of the caveat be the only evidence allowed of priority in invention. Such an amendment of the patent law will fully protect inventors in their just rights, and make patents (as they should be) inviolate, except in cases of fraud. We hope to see such an amendment, or one equally as effective, adopted at the next session of Congress.
2. Fees of Foreigners. -- Our patent laws contain odious distinctions in the amount of fees required from foreigners. A citizen of Great Britain is charged $500, and the citizens of all other foreign nations only $300; this is neither just nor republican in principle. England charges our citizens higher patent fees than we do, but much less than we charge her citizens; and, to her honor be it spoken, she charges all alike -- the American stands on the same platform with the Englishman, in securing a patent. It should be the same with us; and we see no reason why the patent fee should not be reduced for all foreigners to the same standard as that for our own citizens. Such a reform could do no harm, but an enormous amount of good, as it would invite the best foreign mechanics to seek protection for their inventions in our country, and thus be the means of introducing every valuable improvement from abroad. Our attention has been particularly directed to this feature, at the present time, by a petition from the committee of the Manchester (England) Patent Law Reform Association, to Duncan Macauley, Esq., the American consul in that city. This petition is signed by no less a person than William Fairbairn, the great engineer, who points out the impolicy of the very high patent fee imposed upon British subjects by our law, and requests the consul to lay the matter before our government. The petition pays a high complement to inventors, and points out what discoveries in science and art have done to increase commerce and advance civilization. We cannot forbear quoting two of its clauses because they are so full of the right spirit: --
"That, in order to develop, to the fullest extent, inventive talent, every encouragement and security should be given to inventors consistent with the public welfare.
"That, for many of the most valuable discoveries and inventions, we are indebted to the expansive minds of operatives and individuals in humble life, who are prevented from securing to themselves the advantages of their inventions, on account of the present expensive process of obtaining patents."
So far as it relates to foreign inventors, our patent law is grossly aristocratic. A poor English or French mechanic is totally unable to obtain an American patent, unless he finds some rich man, upon whom he must become a dependent, to advance the patent fee. This is not republicanism.
3. Evidence before the Commissioner: -- We have but little space to devote to this head, and will therefore conclude with a few remarks. The patent law requires the Commissioner to make just decisions upon testimony relating to all the cases presented before him for adjudication; and yet no provision is made to enable him, as in trials at common law, to compel the attendance of witnesses, so as to develop the whole truth in relation to the question at issue. Such a broad defect in the law is apparent to every person. The most important witnesses in such cases can snap their fingers and refuse to utter a word on the side of law, truth and justice.
Scientific American, v 1 (ns) no 20, p 321, 12 November 1859
Washington, Nov. 1, 1859
Washington is, according to geography, the federal capital of the United States. It will be found to contain, at almost any season of the year, a large number of living celebrities; in fact, it is asserted upon competent authority that it contains the well-known "White House,: where, in the retirement of his domicile, a venerable bachelor indulges in his reveries. These reveries are supposed to consist of varied gyrations and evolutions of huge government wheels forming a part of a monstrous machine invented and patented in part by "Uncle Samuel" -- a man of wisdom, gravity, and profound conceit -- a sort of "Sir Oracle" whose word is law. The latter personage, although little over eighty years of age, and although hale and hearty -- taking his three meals a day with some extras, and regularly digesting the same -- is nevertheless sometimes called an "old fogy;" and there are symptoms, about once every four years, of his being ousted; yet it is found, after the due process of electioneering and voting, that the old gentleman remains there still, quietly presiding over the affairs of the nation.
Strolling along the broad Pennsylvania avenue, the other day, arm-in-arm with a friend, we met the impersonation of "Uncle Sam," arranged in good old homely semi-winter garb. There was no want of elasticity in his step, and even the cane was slung carelessly under his arm as a useless appendage. Imitating the example of other well-bred folks, we tipped our beaver; and in return we received the Chief Magistrate's very courteous acknowledgement. Leaving all the officers of the government, from the Head downward, to the full enjoyment of all the honors, emoluments, pabulum, and physic that belongs to them, we will come back to the federal city, and propose briefly to touch upon the old and perhaps stale complaint against its incongruity of arrangement. Nothing more painfully impresses the stranger who visits Washington than the utter want of taste and good judgment displayed in locating the public buildings. Washington was planned under the direction of the "Father of the Country," by Pierre C. l'Enfant; and the purpose was to have broad avenues of direct communication, so as to connect the separate and most distant objects with the capital, and to preserve throughout the whole a reciprocity of sight at the same time. After the public buildings were burned in 1814, and it was settled that the city should remain the seat of the general government, it is astonishing that some common sense did not obtain a hearing on this subject. If the government buildings had been erected on all sides of one grand square, with the usual botanical and horticultural accessories, we could now bid defiance to all the competition in this respect, instead of presenting a system which, for uncouth jumbling, has hardly an equal; but what is the use of complaining now? for those who were guilty of this foray on good taste and sound judgment are most of them altogether beyond the reach of the soundest "basting" which could be applied to them.
It has become part of my education to regard the Patent Office as the most interesting department of the government. What is it to me if our venerable Secretary of State has a bit of a brush with Lord John Russel, about "boundary lines" and "54� 40'"? Supposing Mr. Holt has found out that some western postmaster is a little shaky "on the goose?" These things neither excite my mind, nor move a single muscle in my frame. If the Post Office Department does not work all right, I can scold; and if it does, this is no more than I have a right to expect; no thanks to Mr. Holt. In the Patent Office, however, we find a different state of things. Here inventive genius is represented in modeled forms, after having been titurated, shaken up, and boiled down to a concentration, the study of which opens to the mind an almost boundless field of thought and contemplation. could these models but tell the lives of their projectors, what a crowd of reminiscences would they reveal, of researches involving an amount of patience that might elicit the approbation of Job himself, of toils, struggles, disappointments, sacrifices, hope deferred, and, in many cases, successful achievements; the whole forming an unwritten history more glorious than the chronicles of "grim-visaged War."
Not far from where I am now sitting is a huge "lightning" press, throwing out its thousands of sheets ever hour. If I wish to study this ponderous piece of mechanism, which confuses and baffles the judgment while in operation, here, in the Patent Office, is its perfect miniature representation, which I may handle, turn upside down, and examine with the utmost facility. Just over the way, I can hear the constant tapping of a wondrous little instrument; and I peer wistfully around the curtained partition, hoping to see what is going on. I am confronted by the words "No admittance," and my curiosity is heightened, for surely some mystery is being enacted here. Is this "the Devil and Dr. Faustus?" If not, what else can it be? At the Patent Office, this seeming enigma is made plain as day; the apparatus is simply a machine for taming down the electric field, and employing its swift wings for the transmission of that which concerns the business and bosoms of men. And thus, from the day when General Jackson, while journeying through the West, on his way to assume the office of Chief Magistrate, undertook to bring on the model of an old saddle-tree, and get a patent for it, to accommodate an old soldier -- from that day until the present hour, this noble edifice has been the depository of the ingenuity of our inventors, who, in spite of all the contumely which would-be wise men have undertaken to heap upon them, have done more to advance the material interests of the country than any other class of our citizens. Upon the records of the Office we find the honored names of Eliphalet Nott, Whitney, Morse, Hamilton, Jennings, Mott, Hoe, Blanchard, Ericsson, Goodyear, Winans; and even that ubiquitous citizen, Smith, has taken out a great many patents, along with a host of others whose names would fill a dozen sheets like this.
On entering the Patent Office -- one of the grandest architectural edifices to be found in the world -- a sensation of mystery crowds upon the mind. We inquire for the official custodian of the innumerable mysteries which surrounds us; we find him to be the Hon. Wm. D. Bishop, late member of Congress from Connecticut -- a State abounding in ingenious men. He is a proper arbiter of their claims before this interesting bureau; for, united to the other qualifications which fit him for the honorable sphere in which he is now placed, he possesses a mechanical element in the constitution of his mind which enables him to see through every invention brought to his notice. It is not, however, the Commissioner's duty to examine all applications made for patents; associated with him in the discharge of his duty, there is a Chief Clerk, S.T. Shugert (a faithful officer), twelve Chief Examiners, twelve Assistant Examiners, and a bevy of clerks and messengers employed in various subordinate departments of the Office. Each Chief Examiner and his assistant have a room set apart for their own special use; they regularly examine a classified list of applications, and may be regarded as the executioners of the Patent Office. Many an honest inventor, with an enthusiasm peculiar to his species, has his hopes suddenly "guilllotined" by these inquisitorial officials, whose duty, when faithfully discharged, is a most delicate and responsible one, for it requires a discriminating and well-balanced judgment to guard against too much liberality on the one hand, or injustice on the other. The mind of the Examiner works towards its conclusion in two different channels or modes of thought; the result intended to be reached in each case being the same. One Examiner (this is the minority case) carefully examines the applicant's papers, and having obtained the requisite knowledge of the points claimed, starts on his excursion of inquiry, hoping he may discover unequivocal evidence of a want of novelty which will justify the rejection of the application. Another Examiner, pursuing towards the same end, hopes he may be able to discover something new in the applicant's model, whereby he may pass the case for issue -- prompted by the feeling that, if there is any reasonable doubt on his mind, he will turn it rather in favor of the inventor than against him; for it is unquestionably better that a dozen patents should be granted for what is not new than that one inventor should be deprived of his just and equitable rights. A patent granted for what is old is worthless; but if one inventor is deprived of his just rights at the Patent Office he would scarcely expect to recover them from an outside tribunal.
In reference to the condition of the Patent Office, I may with propriety state that on no former occasion have I ever visited it when a better system or more uniformity of action prevailed. There seems to be a disposition on the part of every one connected with the Office to do his duty faithfully, and to recognize the ruling authority. The new Commissioner is well liked in the Office; and so far, he finds his duties agreeable, and I may safely predict for him a successful official career. He feels a deep interest in the success of a patent bill which will knock off the rough corners of our present system. In the main he is believed to be friendly to the bill reported at the last session, and proposes to engraft upon it some important changes, whereby questions of interference may be more readily settled and thus give more stability to patents after their issue, or in other words, to put an estoppel upon the rights of one inventor to contest the patent of another on a question of priority (except in cases of fraud), unless this claim is set up within a reasonable time after the patent has issued; leaving the question of the validity of the patent thus granted properly in charge of courts of competent jurisdiction. Such a provision is much needed, as I believe there is now a question of interference pending between an applicant and a patent of some eight years' standing.
A very important patent case was argued before the Commissioner of Patents on the 27th ult. Thaddeus Hyatt, the original patentee of his peculiar illuminated tile or load-sustaining grating (now becoming so extensively used in large cities for lighting vaults and basement extensions), has asked for a renewal of his patent for a period of seven years, as provided for by the section of the act of 1836. The applicant presents a formidable array of testimony to sustain his claim, and is confronted by remonstrants who scrupled not to bestow upon him some pretty choice compliments. The attention of the Hon. Commissioner was called by one of the counsel to the "stupendous audacity" of the applicant. The case, for the most part, was ably conducted; and its more spicy passages afforded considerable amusement to the spectators present. At the time of my writing, the case has not been decided; and it is impossible to foreshadow, with any degree of certainty, the result. There are some interesting points involved in this case which will invite examination. I forbear to touch upon them at present.
I observe that an extract in the Scientific American page 288 (copied from the Baltimore Sun), mentions that the Commissioner of Patents would not put in an estimate, as usual, for printing the agricultural report. This is an error. An estimate will be put in, and the responsibility of adopting or rejecting it will rest solely with Congress.
Scientific American, v 1 (ns) p 335, 19 Nov 1859
Home Patent Agents
.... In most kinds of business it is desirable to patronize home industry, and it is commendable to employ artisans, physicians, lawyers or patent solicitors, residing in the same city or village as the person needing his patronage, providing that such fellow townsmen are known to be fully competent in their respective occupations; and in such case the principle of home patronage is an evidence of good citizenship. In the profession of patent solicitors, however, it is necessary that the applicant for a patent or his attorney shall be conversant with what has been done previously in the line of invention in which he is about to apply for a patent; as without this knowledge the applicant is likely to suffer the mortification of a rejection; or his specification will be so worded as to render his patent useless. We advise inventors to be cautious in placing their inventions in the hands of inexperienced patent solicitors, as our observation has taught us that, among all half-fledged professional men, a bungling patent attorney is the most pernicious, for he is almost certain to injure the inventor.