Patent History Materials Index - Patent Materials from Scientific American, vol 38 new series (Jan 1878 - Jun 1878)

Scientific American, v 38 (ns) no 1, p 9, 5 January 1878

Our Washington Correspondence

To the Editor of Scientific American

Business in the Patent Office is steadily increasing, the receipts in cash for the month of October being $59,049.59, the greatest amount received in any month of November since the establishment of the office, an increase of over ten thousand dollars over the receipts for the same month last year, and four thousand over the previous month of this year. Notwithstanding this the patent agents of this city, almost without exception, are complaining of hard times, and that they are doing next to nothing; from which it would appear that your agency, with the others outside of Washington, must be doing the cream of the business.

The accounts of the Patent Office are arranged in monthly statements, so that they can be readily compared, as the officers have an idea that the monthly receipts are a tolerably correct measure of the fluctuations of business throughout the country; that when all classes of industry thrive the best, the applications for patents and receipts of fees increase accordingly; and that by comparing the receipts of the office, they can form a good idea as to the state of business throughout the country. From the present steady increase of receipts, they therefore argue that business generally is improving, and that an era of prosperity is now about to begin. ....

I find the following in one of our city papers: "It may be remembered that some time ago a Frenchman, by the name of Magin, suddenly sprang into notoriety by announcing that he had discovered a process by which cotton fiber could by some chemical process, be turned into silk. Among his many propositions was the one -- of special interest to the people of Washington -- of erecting a mammoth manufactory here, from which the markets of the world could be supplied. In an evil hour he laid his papers and specimens of the manufacture before the examiner at the Patent Office, and applied for a patent. Here his brilliant plans for filling his pockets, and indirectly those of the people of the District, received a check, his papers being returned and his specifications of imitation silk, made by his process, declared to be real silk. Monsieur, with the true French spirit, accepted gracefully the verdict and took his departure for greener pastures. In New York he interested Seligman and others in the scheme, and money was advanced to enable him to go on with the manufacture. It is hardly necessary to say that Magin, as soon as he got hold of the money, decamped, and his whereabouts, despite the careful search of his anxious friends, remained a mystery. But such a man was not born to blush unseen. A little while ago an application was received from England for a patent on substantially the same discovery, and, as if conclusive proof of its worth, the immortal name of Magin was appended as witness. The application was of course rejected, and Magin once more sinks into obscurity until some new rascality shall bring him into prominence.

The part relating to the first application is substantially correct, but I have been unable to find any corroboration of the statement as to the application said to have been received from England."

Patent Matters in Congress

The House of Representatives has passed a resolution directing the Commissioner on Patents to report a bill to prevent the maintaining of suits against persons who ignorantly purchase articles which infringe upon patents.

Mr. Townsend, from the Committee on Patents, reported a bill to repeal sections 4,924-6-7-8 of the Revised Statutes, relating to extensions of patents, and declaring that it shall be unlawful hereafter for the Commissioner of Patents to renew or extend any patent whatever. He states that the object of the bill was to take away from the statute book sections of the law which were dead and inoperative; but it may be that there is something more in this bill than appears on the face, and it is possible it is part of the general attack that is now being made on our patent system.

The House Committee on Patents have passed a resolution to the effect that they will recommend to Congress no extension of patents, excepting where parties have been "providentially hindered" from enjoying the benefits of their patents.

Both Houses of Congress have agreed to appropriate the money ($45,000) called for by the Commissioner of Patents for repairing the models injured in the late fire in the Patent Office.

The President has sent to the Senate a draft of a treaty for the reciprocal protection of trademarks in the United States and Great Britain, which was signed in London by Lord Derby and Mr. Pierrepoint, October 24, 1877. I have been unable to procure a copy of it, as treaties are not made public until they have been acted on by the Senate, but the following is believed to be a correct synopsis of it:

The subjects or citizens of each of the contracting parties shall have in the dominions and possessions of each other, the same rights as belong to native subjects or citizens, or as are now granted, and may hereafter be granted, to the subjects and citizens of the most favored nation in everything relating to property in trade marks and trade labels. In order to obtain this protection, the manufacturer or tradesman must fulfill the formalities required by the laws of the respective countries. ....

Washington, D.C.


Scientific American, v 38 (ns) no 6, p 80-81, 9 February 1878

Stick to the Law

The Commissioner of Patents has recently issued a circular to the Patent Office Examiners requiring them to see that specifications contain specific statements as to the state of the art prior to the applicant's inventions, and that if a device is an improvement on a previously patented article, that fact shall also be declared; the object being to enable anyone reading the patent, even if unskilled in patent matters, to perceive not only what is claimed but the exact condition of the art on which the invention is based. The section of the Patent Laws relating to specifications (4888) requires that the description of the invention "shall be in such full, clear, concise and exact terms as to enable any person skilled in the art or science to which it appertains, or with which it is most nearly connected, to make, construct, compound, and use the same," and that the invention or discovery claimed shall be particularly pointed out. There is nothing in the law requiring any specific statement as to the prior condition of the art or science, nor the embodiment of information which will post people unskilled in the subject matter, but on the contrary the tenor of the statute plainly presupposes knowledge which may be considered at least that of an intelligent mechanic or student in the particular art or science affected by the invention. Such an amendment of the law of the law (for such it amounts to) by the Commissioner, besides not being clearly warrantable, is objectionable, because it complicates the formalities incident to the application for a patent, and makes the preparation of the same more difficult and laborious. This is diametrically opposite to the proper tendency of innovations, which should have as a cardinal object the simplification of every branch of our patent system, so that eventually the obtaining of a patent may be attended with as little ceremony and work as that of a copyright now is. It should be remembered that the majority of inventions are made by men whose pecuniary resources are too often inversely as their genius, and to whom the conception is mainly suggested by the practical needs which they see within their own immediate horizon. These inventors have neither the means, time, nor opportunity to study up the state of a great art or science; many have not the attainments requisite to make such an investigation; and therefore, to require them to do so would be burdensome to a degree hardly to be appreciated by those not familiar with the sacrifices these men now make to obtain a patent. Again, there is a large corps of skilled examiners in the Patent Office paid out of the inventors' money to do this very specific duty, and provided with all the facilities for doing it. To remove the labor from them and put it on the shoulders of the inventor would simply be to make the latter pay for the work and still do it himself.

General Spear's administration of the Patent Office has been notably successful and satisfactory to inventors, and we are the more inclined to look to him for beneficial reforms and improvements. While his object in issuing the circular above referred to is laudable, we think that for the reasons stated the measure is ill-advised.


Scientific American, v 38 (ns) no 6, p 81, 9 February 1878

Patent Office Employees to be Disgraced

Representative Douglas has brought a bill into the House which makes it unlawful for any past employee of the Patent Office to act as patent agent or attorney within two years after his connection with the office shall have ceased, and imposes penalties on any present employee of the United States who shall knowingly recognize a person so practicing. The idea is to correct certain abuses alleged to exist and to prevent impositions through knowledge acquired in Government service. The above measure is conspicuous for nothing but an endeavor to induce the Congress to interfere where it has neither the authority nor reason for so doing. Why does not Mr. Douglas go the whole length and provide that all Patent Office employees shall after their service is expired be regarded as criminals and kept under police scrutiny for two years?


Scientific American, v 38 (ns) no 6, p 84, 9 February 1878

Our Washington Correspondence
To the Editor of the Scientific American

As a result of a recent competitive examination the following promotions have been made in the corps of assistant examiners in the Patent Office: To be first assistant examiners --- R.L.B. Packard of Maine; L.B. Wynne, of the District of Columbia; S. Brashears, of Maryland; and F.S. Williams, of New York. To be second assistant examiners -- F.B. Pierce, of New York, H.S. Underwood, of Mississippi, George P. Fishee, of Delaware; and R. Mason, of Tennessee.

Patent Office Matters

The Commissioner of Patents has recently sent a circular to the examining corps which is causing some little excitement among the attorneys practicing before the office.

The circular requires that the examiners shall exercise greater care in cases before them to see that the state of the art prior to the applicant's invention is stated specifically in the specification, and where it is an improvement on a previously patented article, it must be so stated, in order that any one reading the patent, even if unskilled in patent matters, would see not only what is claimed, but would see set forth clearly the exact state of the art upon which the invention was based. The fact that, owing to the great number of patents granted with claims of a trivial nature, our patent system has grown into considerable disrepute, the Commissioner thinks is sufficient reason for greater care in this respect.

Many of the attorneys are of the opinion that the ideas set forth in the Commissioner's circular cannot be carried out, as it would be impossible to set forth the state of the art in many cases without making the specification of an inordinate length. It is probable, however, that the office will not require such a full statement as to cumber up the specification in this manner, but only when it can be clearly seen that the alleged invention is only a slight improvement on a previous machine or device that it shall be so stated, instead of having the specification so worded as to convey the idea to unskilled readers that the patent covers the whole machine or device shown therein, when it really covers only some little point that is of very little value to any one and only useful as a means of obtaining a patent. There is no doubt that many worthy people have been badly swindled through purchasing "rights" in patents of this character, and if such swindles can be avoided it will certainly help to sustain our patent system against the outcry now being made against it. ....

A recent visit to the burned district shows that considerable progress is being made with the work of restoring the partially destroyed models. About 130 hands are employed at present, and the interior of the north hall has the appearance of a large machine shop. Long rows of benches furnished with lathes and vises extend from one end to the other, and on which a variety of work is carried on. Large numbers of models are being picked out which when cleaned and painted look as good as new, and many of them I have no doubt look better than before the fire.

The first number of the Patent Office Gazette for 1878 has just been issued, and is a great improvement on that of the last year. The form of the page has been changed from three to two columns, which allows of much better display of the engravings, as under the old style the engravings had to be so much cut down as to render them almost unintelligible in many cases.

It has been the practice with many persons desiring to begin the business of a patent agent to get a position in the Patent Office in some way, and then, as soon as they had a slight knowledge of the practice of the office, resigning on purpose to open a patent agency. In this manner they got Uncle Sam to pay them while they were educating themselves for their own private business. This, however, is not the worst of the matter, for some of them took lists of all partially rejected cases they could find and then wrote to the inventors, boasting of the facilities that their connection with the Patent Office had given them, and stating that unless they were employed, the cases referred to would finally be rejected, and in this manner took a large amount of business out of the hands of experienced practitioners. Worse than this, one or two have been credited, or rather discredited, with rejecting cases previous to their leaving the office, so that they might have a chance to get them passed afterward, when acting as agents. To prevent these practices a bill has been brought into the House by Mr. Douglass, which provides that it shall be unlawful for any officer, clerk or employee of the Patent Office to act as counsel, agent or attorney in the prosecution of applications for letters patent, or of any interest in letters patent, or be interested, directly or indirectly, in any firm established for prosecuting patent applications, or of any interest in letters patent, nor by any manner or means to aid in the prosecution of such patent applications within two years next after he shall have ceased to be such officer, clerk, or employee, that any person in the service of the United States violating the provisions of this act by knowingly recognizing any such ex-officer, clerk of employee in any application for letters patent or any interest in letters patent as counsel, attorney or agent, shall be, ipso facto, discharged from the service of the United States, and the District Attorney shall proceed by writ of quo warranto, against any person in the United States service who shall violate the provisions of this act, and shall prosecute the same to the removal of such person from office. Bills similar to this have been introduced into Congress several times before, but have never passed, and it is doubted if Congress has power to pass such a law under the Constitution. ....

Washington, D.C.


Scientific American, v 38 (ns) no 7, p 96, 16 February 1878

A Patent Office Court

The Commissioner of Patents recommends, in his report, that the present system of appeals be abolished, and that "a Patent Court be established in connection with the office, to be composed of three members, appointed as other judges of the United States Courts now are." The Commissioner says that this tribunal would relieve him of his judicial duties and establish uniform precedents.

The idea of a court sitting to discover whether a party shall have a standing in court -- and this would be the character of the proposed establishment -- certainly possesses the charm of novelty' but it assumes a more important and reassuring aspect when it is remembered that the grave and weighty questions which so often threaten the average examiner with premature baldness may by this plan be subjected to the learned body in banc. Perhaps, armed with microscopes, their Honors will be able to demonstrate to lower orders of intelligence the hidden principle which underlies the granting of patents on infinitesimal distinctions, as exemplified in the envelope-opener case illustrated herewith. In 1858 Mr. Charles Phelps obtained a patent for a letter-opener, consisting of a thread placed in a crease of the envelope as shown in the upper figure of our engraving. In 1871 Mr. Henry Gregg obtained a patent for a letter-opener, consisting of a thread placed in a crease of the envelope, as shown in the lower figure of our engraving. In either case, to open the envelope you pull the thread so as to make it cut the paper. Unwary intelligence, ignorance of the profundity with which the Patent Office burrows into these subjects, would rashly assert that here was no difference, but the lynx-eyed genius of that institution pityingly points to a knot in the thread, to be found on our lower figure by the aid of a magnifying glass, and triumphantly issues a patent on that. Single minds cannot constantly be subjected to such stress, and a court is the obvious remedy.

[line drawing of two envelopes, 1858 above 1871]

Nothing short of a bench of gown-clad judges learned in the law can consistently grapple with such claims as that of Mr. Joseph A. Griffin, of Syracuse, N.Y., who, on December 7, 1875, patented the "compound as a substitute for eggs." What, for instance, are such simple legal questions as are involved in contingent remainders, the "rule in Shelley's case," and cestui qui trusts, besides the consideration of "ten parts cream tartar, three parts tartaric acid, one part alum, nine parts bicarbonate of soda," besides additions of "curcuma, sulphur, sugar, gum arabic, and starch?" It must be clear that nothing but the longest practice in digesting law can fit any one for digesting "plain cake" composed of the above appalling ingredients mixed with butter, etc., and baked in a quick oven. Better is the agony of three judges with dyspepsia than that one patent for delusive eggs should be improperly issued.

Then there is the great army of inventors of woman-power baby rockers, combined hair crimpers and hog scratchers, and excelsior mouse traps. Every one of them is prepared to assert that his particular invention is the discovery of the age, and probably inwardly believes that nothing short of a tribunal of archangels is really competent to pronounce upon it. Shall these men be denied the poor substitute of a bench of human judges who will investigate the scratchers and baby rockers by the light of the back numbers of the Patent Office Gazette, the common law, and the Revised Statutes? Certainly not. Let us have that court, and at the same time any other complications which will obstruct and muddle the business of the office and provide more expensive and useless officials for the inventors to pay for.

None more than ourselves applaud the well-meant efforts of Commissioner Spear in the direction of useful reform; but he can readily inform himself of the fact that the great majority of applications for patents are based on very simple devices, and that it is rarely that one is so obscure as to be beyond the intelligence of any well versed mechanic. This being the case, there certainly is, or ought to be, ample ability among the members of the examining corps to meet all questions which may come before them, and consequently a new Patent Court is necessary as it is objectionable.


Scientific American, v 38 (ns) no 7, p 100, 16 February 1878

Our Washington Correspondence
To the Editor of the Scientific American

From the following figures, showing the issues during the months of January, 1877 and 1878, the Patent Office business appears to be still increasing:

                  Patents  Reissues  Designs  Trademarks  Labels

January 1877       1,105      33       43        83        27

January 1878       1,166      48       40       137        58

The office has received from the English Patent Office a duplicate set of English patents, which are to be classified according to the nature of the invention and distributed in the examiner's rooms, so that they may be more readily examined in making searches as to the novelty of alleged new inventions. It will take considerable time and money to properly mount the drawings and classify them, but when done its cost will soon be paid for by the increased facilities given the examiners in their work, and it will prevent the granting of many useless and invalid patents that would otherwise be granted for inventions already shown in foreign patents, but which cannot now be found under the present system.

The work of photo-lithographing the back issues of drawings has made considerable progress, all being now done except the following sub-classes: artificial limbs, builders' hardware, coffins, coopering, cutlery, dentistry, locks and latches, locomotives, nut-locks, safes, steam boilers, steam engines, boiler furnaces, steam valves, surgery, wheelwrights' machines, wood sawing, wood turning, woodwork, and wood working tools. These are under way, and will, it is believed, all be finished by the end of the year, so that printed copies of the drawing of any United States patent may then be readily obtained at a moderate price.

The Secretary of the Interior has prepared a communication, which will probably be sent to Congress ere this is printed, calling the attention of that body to the present condition of the roof of the Patent Office, and asking for an immediate appropriation to repair the building in conformity with the recommendations and suggestions made by the commission appointed by the President to examine into the condition of the executive departments. The recommendations of that commission were transmitted to Congress during the extra session, but nothing has yet been done in reference to the matter, and the condition of the Patent Office calls for prompt action, in order that the structure may at an early day be restored and rendered as nearly fireproof as possible. Much of the work of the office is now done to great disadvantage from the overcrowded state of the rooms, and some that should be done in the office now, to the great inconvenience of attorneys and examiners, done in outside buildings. ....

Washington, D.C.


Scientific American, v 38 (ns) no 8, p 113, 23 February 1878

Printing the Patents

While we agree with so much of Commissioner Spear's recommendation relative to printing patents which states that it would be desirable in point of cheapness, convenience, and rapidity, if the work could be done in the Patent Office instead of the Government Printing Office, we do not coincide in the suggestion to increase the final fee by adding thereto the cost of printing the patents. It is proposed to graduate this tax in accordance with the length and complexity of the specification.

Our objection is that under this agreement the Government would be paid twice for the same extra printing, first by the inventor and second by the public, as the charge to the latter for copies of patents is also to be increased with their length, etc. It would be less objectionable to charge only purchasers of copies of patents the extra price; but this might necessitate a relay of clerks to calculate the various costs. The result would be useless and unprofitable labor. The aim should be to reduce the present charges, not to increase them. The present uniform rate asked for copies of patents has proved satisfactory and remunerative. If any change is to be made in the price, let us lessen it.


Scientific American, v 38 (ns) no 8, p 113, 23 February 1878

The Commissioner of Patents on Models

Commissioner Spear takes a very sound and sensible ground on the model question. He says in substance that the models usually forwarded with applications are unnecessary, that they always add largely to the expense, and are troublesome to keep in the Patent Office. This coincides with our own opinions already expressed. Models are a great tax on the resources of inventors, any examiner ought to be able to obtain as clear ideas as he desires through good drawings and clearly written specifications; and the late fire in the Patent Office has shown that to the dry accumulation of old models might well be applied a stronger term than troublesome. The Commissioner proposes to reserve the right to call for a model where an examiner is in doubt as to the practicability of an invention. This is well enough, but there is no need of the Commissioner proposing when he has only to issue the necessary order. The law already says that "the applicant, if required by the Commissioner," shall furnish a model, etc. The Commissioner has only to break loose from mere precedent, which is not at all obligatory, establish at once the better regime that he contemplates, and so earn the thanks and commendations of his countrymen.


Scientific American, v 38 (ns) no 8, p 113, 23 February 1878

Restoring the Models

The results of the attempt to restore the models damaged by the late fire bids fair to more than realize expectation. About 5,000 models have already been restored, and from present indications the whole number capable of being put in good condition will reach at least 5,000 more than the Commissioners estimate, or about 15,000. It is doubtful, however, if the present appropriation will be sufficient for the purpose, as it is believed that it will be exhausted by the time that the restoring of the 10,000 models originally estimated for has been completed.


Scientific American, v 38 (ns) no 9, p 128, 2 March 1878

Opposition to Patents Natural

"Hello, Pat! what are you doing there?" cried the driver of a horse car the other day, to an Irishman at work in an excavation for the new Elevated Railway.

"Arrah, now!" was the prompt reply, "I'm digging the grave of a car driver!"

Ever since the march of improvement began every notable advance in material progress has been the occasion of much grave digging. Materially as well as morally, we rise on stepping stones of our dead selves to higher things. And since vested interests are no more willing to step down and out than are ancient habits or over-lived individuals, it is very natural that there should prevail, especially in circles interested in and dependent upon established conditions, a more or less pronounced objection to the frequent changes incident to rapid progress in material civilization.

When stage lines, with low fares, were first placed upon our streets the prosperity of many people whose business had been to furnish other means of transit, received a severe check; and it was not surprising that they should look upon the invading omnibuses as little better than public nuisances. But the larger part of the community were benefited by the change, and the improvement carried the day. The parties to the contest changed, but the principle did not, when the street car subsequently crowded out the omnibus.

Each advance in rapid transit only paves the way for one still more rapid; and today the contest goes on between the interests vested in street car lines and the projectors of steam roads. What was but lately an innovation, a movement of radical progress, now becomes conservative, and its promoters lustily protest that there ought to be some limit to the mania for speed. Progress was good so long as it was their progress; it ceases to be good the moment it builds up rivals and curtails their profits, the demands of the public to the contrary notwithstanding.

Only the other day a new era in the progress of humanity was begun by the invention of what seemed to be the greatest possible improvement in the means of transmitting intelligence. The benefits of the electric telegraph were incalculable, and its cheapness seemed to be surprising and caring for telegraphic apparatus speedily became very great and remunerative. But one day a man comes along with a couple of small wooden boxes and a coil of wire. Straightway the elaborate and costly machinery of the printing telegraph is, for many uses, antiquated, and the financial grave is dug for many interests vested in the means and methods of transmitting intelligence soon to be largely superseded. That the owners of the old should resent the change is natural; but cheapness and convenience win, and the stream of progress flows on, individual protests being swallowed up and lost in the general acclamation of the community to whose immediate benefit every improvement accrues.

So it ever has been; so it ever must be to the end of time. And the more rapid the progress of any age, the more numerous must be its graves. It is not surprising, therefore, that at a time like the present, when inventors are so active and fertile, there should be a numerous and influential class which feels that after all so much progress may be the reverse of desirable. And since our national patent system has been to so great an extent the mainspring of the rapid changes of recent years, it is not surprising that it should be the subject of no little animosity. It is not surprising either that in so many cases the opposition to patent rights should come from those who have reaped the largest benefits from the privileges they confer. The moment an inventor ceases to invent and becomes a manufacturer and merchant, that moment his interest in patents is completely changed. So far as the patent system conserves his interests and protects him in the enjoyment of his temporary monopolies he can look upon it as a blessing; but it becomes obnoxious just when and so far as it helps to raise up against him a better furnished and more successful competitor. So likewise with manufacturers and special users of patented articles and processes. From their point of view the inventor is a public benefactor so long as they have the exclusive right to control his actions. They are willing that he should be encouraged -- until he carries his grist to another mill; then they would suppress him as a nuisance, or curtail his right to the fruits of his own brain, at least so far as to prevent his keeping his inventions away from them.

But these two do not exhaust the parties to this controversy. The largest stake is held by the public at large. By the will of the people the patent system exists neither for the protection of manufacturers nor the rewarding of inventors. it was established rather for the advantage of the whole to accrue from the encouragement of inventors and the publication of its results. That this end has been attained by the system to a degree surpassing the most sanguine expectation of its founders is beyond question. That it will be even more beneficial in the future is all but certain, since progress is cumulative and its ratio of advancement geometrical. In the perpetual feud between new and old the nation can take no part. It is a feud which can end only by the cessation of all progress. Secure in the knowledge that the fittest will survive, the nation is therefore willing to let each day's conflict be settled by the inevitable and impartial laws of trade. The livelier the struggle the more rapid must be the progress and the greater the public benefit to accrue therefrom.


Scientific American, v 38 (ns) no 9, p 129, 2 March 1878

Patent Office Models

We have before us an argument in favor of the abolition or modification of the patent office model system, prepared by Mr. H. Howson, of Philadelphia, to support a petition in that behalf, which has been signed and forwarded to Congress by numerous patentees and others interested in patents. Mr. Howson is himself a patent solicitor of long experience. That he has carefully studied the question he discusses is evident from the exceedingly able and exhaustive manner in which he marshals his statements, with which probably a majority of our readers will fully concur.

The principal points of Mr. Howson's argument -- to which we shall have further reference hereafter -- are summed up in the following ten sentences.

First. That it has hitherto been the practice of the Commissioner of Patents, under the law, to demand a model with every application for a patent in which the character of the invention admits of one.

Second. That the making of these models is a serious tax on inventors, involves the premature exposure of inventions, and needless delay in making up applications for patents, and detracts from the revenue of the Patent Office, because the demand for models frequently deters inventors from making applications.

Third. That models are not as a rule necessary for attorneys in preparing applications for patents, or for Examiners of the Patent Office in the performance of their duties.

Fourth. That with rare exceptions complete well executed drawings afford more ready means of determining the character of an invention, and should be, in any case admitting of them sufficient for the interpretation of the specifications forming part of the patent.

Fifth. That owing to the furnishing of models, there is a tendency in the Patent Office to admit drawings which are wanting in fullness and perspicuity, and which would not be admitted in the absence of models, an evil resulting in the delivery of patents which cannot be easily understood without the aid of models.

Sixth. That the models deposited in the Patent Office occupy a large amount of space which could be devoted to much more useful purposes.

Seventh. That the increase of models must eventually involve the necessity of either disposing of many of them to make room for the rest, or of finding room for the rapidly growing collection in places outside of the Patent Office.

Eighth. That the models deposited in the Patent Office are rarely working models, but generally fragmentary, and in many cases distorted representations of the machines they are intended to represent and are consequently unfit for an industrial museum.

Ninth. That an industrial museum worthy of the name can be best established by permitting patentees and manufacturers to deposit at their option and at their own cost properly proportioned and working models of patented machines which have proved to be successful in practice.

Tenth. That ample provision should be afforded to investors and the public for the examination of drawings of patented inventions.


Scientific American, v 38 (ns) no 9, p 132, 2 March 1878

Patent No. 200,000

Among the patents leaving the Patent Office on a recent date, is one issued to Shea and Hamilton, for a carbureter, which bears the number 200,000. This, however, is not the whole number of patents that have been issued, but only those granted since the reorganization in 1836, as before that period the patents were not numbered. The whole number of patents issued from 1790 to the reorganization in 1836 numbered 11,348. By adding these to the No. 200,000 above referred to, we get 211,348 as the whole number of patents issued up to the granting of the patent of Shea and Hamilton. The average number of patents issued yearly, up to and including 1836, was 247. The average since that time was 4,839.


Scientific American, v 38 (ns) no 10, p 145, 9 March 1878

A Brief History of Our Patent Office

The Constitution of the United States provides that Congress shall have power to promote the progress of science and the useful arts by securing, for limited times, to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries. Acting upon this authority Congress passed the first patent law, which secured to inventors the sole and exclusive right to make and sell their inventions for a term of fourteen years, upon complying with certain conditions. This law was approved April 10, 1790, and remained in force three years, when it was repealed. During the first year of its operation, but three patents were granted; the second year the number was increased to thirty-three; and the next year the number declined to eleven.

The second patent law, amended from time to time, remained in force until 1836. One of the first patents granted under it was for Whitney's cotton gin, an invention which good authority has pronounced of more worth to the country than the whole cost of administering the patent law from the beginning till now, "including the expenses attending the litigation of patents." During the first ten years, the last decade of the eighteenth century, the number of patents granted was 266. In 1819 the infringement of patents was brought under the equity jurisdiction of the Circuit Courts of the United States. In 1832 provision was made for the reissue of patents which should be inoperative or invalid owing to any incompleteness or error in the description of the invention, made without fraudulent or deceptive intention.

Previous to 1836, when all existing patent acts were repealed and a new law was passed, the number of patents issued amounting only to 10,020; since then the number has increased to over 200,000. This third patent law, with certain modifications, remained in force until 1870, when it was revised, but not essentially altered. The term for which patents were issued was extended in 1861 to seventeen years. By the act of 1870 [sic, actually 1836], the Patent Office was created as a branch of the Department of State. It has since been attached to the Department of Interior.

The law was again modified, though not materially, in 1874; and still further changes, chiefly for the benefit of infringers, are now pending the action of Congress.


Scientific American, v 38 (ns) no 10, p 145, 9 March 1878

Wanted -- A History of American Inventions

In the printed histories of our country a thousand pages are devoted to political conflicts, civil and foreign wars, and other obstacles to national progress, where one page is given to the real springs of our phenomenal growth and prosperity -- the achievements of our inventors. Great as has been the influence of some of our soldiers and statesmen, much as we are indebted to their wisdom and courage for the privileges we enjoy, they have done comparatively little to make this country what it is. They fill the larger space in the annals of their time, but their real influence has been slight compared with that of inventors like Whitney and Fulton and Morse and scores of others, who get no mention, or but the briefest notice, in our current histories. Indeed the real history of the American people is yet to be written. And any young writer, who will bring to the investigation of American inventions, and their social, industrial, and political effects, the patience, persistence, and enthusiasm which Parkman has devoted to the study of New France, or Motley to the records of the Dutch Republic, will find the field infinitely more fertile and interesting than any hitherto explored; and if he possesses the requisite qualifications he may be sure of an attentive hearing and an honorable fame.


Scientific American, v 38 (ns) no 11, p 164, 16 March 1878

Our Washington Correspondence
To the Editor of the Scientific American

It has been reported around this city and telegraphed to other places that another appropriation had been asked for by the Commissioner of Patents to complete the restoration of the burnt models. Information from headquarters, however, contradicts this, and it is stated that, so far from a new appropriation being required, it is believed that the present one will be sufficient to restore the models that are really worth the trouble.

It may be interesting to your readers to know the means adopted in restoring the models, as there are no doubt tens of thousands of them who have models in the office. Most of this work of restoring models is done in the North Hall, one that was formerly considered the finest of the four halls forming the model museum. It was the last wing of the Patent Office finished, and probably furnished a resting place to many of your soldier readers, for it was used as a hospital during the war, and just before it was fitted up to receive the models it was used for the Inauguration Ball at Lincoln's second inauguration, so that it has seen gay times as well as sad ones. At the present time it presents the appearance of a huge machine shop, except that comparatively little machinery is employed, which consists mostly of small lathes run by foot power, and two or three portable forges. The models are first picked out of what appears to be heaps of scraps, and arranged as near as possible in the classes to which they belong, the location in which they are found being in many cases the only clew to the class. The examiners in each class then compare the models with the drawings which accompanied them when originally filed, and affix a card to each giving the name of the inventor, the date of the patent, and the name of the invention. The model is then entered in a book, with a description of its appearance and condition, and is then passed to the laborers for cleaning. The first operation is to pickle it in a solution of sulphuric acid to eat out the rust and dirt, and then wash it in a bath of lime water to counteract the acid left on its removal from the pickling tank, after which it is dried with sawdust. Then, if needed, the model is put to soak in a bath of kerosene oil to loosen the screws and such other adhering parts as could not otherwise be readily started, and after draining it is passed to a machinist, who now cleans, refits, and repairs it as far as possible or allowable. In many cases the model has simply been bent out of shape by the heat, and it is then taken to pieces and the bent parts straightened by the aid of the portable forges. If any part is missing search is made for it among the miscellaneous mass of pieces, and when it is found it is replaced in proper position. In many cases small parts are made and added to the model to make it complete, which parts, however, are always made to correspond exactly with the drawing. The model is then taken back to the bookkeeper, who enters it upon his register the second time, with a description of the part that has been added, and the model is then transferred to temporary cases in the West Hall, looking in many cases better than it did when originally filed. ....

Washington, D.C.


Scientific American, v 38 (ns) no 12, p 177, 23 March 1878

Patent Office Models

The matter of providing accommodations for models in reconstructing the burned portions of the Patent Office will shortly come before Congress. Suitable apartments for the storage of those already on hand will have to be arranged, and some provision should also be made for the large annual increase in their numbers, which before many years will cause the room now capable of being rendered available to be insufficient. The new quarters will, of course, have to be constructed with especial view to their purpose, and so built as to protect their contents from the recurrence of such disasters as the recent fire. This will involve expenses and require consideration, which will be unnecessary if the obligatory furnishing of models in all cases is to be done away with, and therefore the present is a fitting time for the careful review of the arguments advanced in favor of this proceeding.

We recently gave a brief summary of Mr. H. Howson's very able pamphlet on the subject, and we now recur to the same in order to examine more fully some of the principal considerations which he suggests. Referring to the anomalous state of affairs now existing under the present system, he says: "An examiner, in acting on an application for a patent, has before him a specification and drawing, which he interprets by the light of the model, the latter constituting no part of the patent." Hence it is argued that a specification and drawing are all that is necessary to afford an examiner a clear idea of the subject matter, and when these means fail to do so, it is certain that they are not in a proper condition to go before the public in the shape of a patent. Again, it is believed that the knowledge on the part of inventors, that if an invention is not set forth with proper clearness and exactness a model will be called for, will tend to render the specifications and drawings more accurate and comprehensible.

Whether the furnishing of a model be regarded in the light of a penalty or otherwise, it is certain that the removal of the obligation as it now stands will be a great relief to the inventors. Mr. Howson states that the yearly tax from this cause cannot be less than $250,000, and he points out, as we have frequently already done, how onerous an imposition this becomes when the circumstances of the inventor, as often is the case, are straitened. When a tax is oppressive and at the same time unnecessary it can have but one effect, and that is repression, and it is a legitimate conclusion consequently that many valuable inventions are "thus smothered in their infancy."

The same point which Mr. Howson makes as regards inventors preparing their papers in better manner because of the absence of models, he adduces with greater emphasis with reference to patent solicitors, and he asserts with much truth that these practitioners should not need models to obtain a clear comprehension of inventions committed to them, but that they should be able to take their clients' rough sketches and ideas and put them in proper and complete form. "A patent," he says, "should be simply a lesson, by which any member of the community familiar with the art to which it relates may acquire a positive knowledge of the thing patented, with the least possible trouble." Elaborate working drawings, therefore, should not find place in the patent; but a similar course should be adopted to that taken by scientific and technical journals in rendering their readers conversant with new and improved devices. Perspective drawings might, it is true, cost more, but their expense would be less than that of models, while the fact that inventors are constantly availing themselves of the former means of elucidation in presenting their devices in a business way to the public, plainly indicates their efficiency.

A large portion of Mr. Howson's argument is devoted to the elaboration of these views, and we commend it to the attentive perusal of inventors. He suggests as a corollary to his demonstration the opinion that the presence of a model must in some measure react unfavorably upon the preparation of drawings and specifications, owing to the fact that these are apt to be slighted and dependence placed upon the model to supply deficiencies. It would hardly be justifiable to postulate this as a rule, although it is an open possibility. Still, the argument may be conceded in so far as it reaches the conclusion that the abolition of the model will compel the writer of specifications "to exercise patience and forbearance in discovering the main points of the invention, and the consequence is that more brains will be put into the specification than if he had a model."

Mr. Howson's other points are, that the consequent increase in the number of models will in course of time necessitate the provision of very extensive accommodations for them; that, as a rule, models fail to represent accurately the machines, etc., to which they relate; and that when collected, as at present, they do not furnish the "great museum of national industry" which some suppose. He further points out the dangers of fraud entering into attempts at reissues of patents on the models, and offers some good suggestions as to how a really valuable national industrial museum might be founded upon properly made models contributed voluntarily by patentees. To some of these topics we shall recur in another article.


Scientific American, v 38 (ns) no 13, p 191, 30 March 1878

Notes Given for Patent Rights

Judge Sharswood filed the opinion of the Supreme Court on Monday, in the case of Haskell vs. Jones. The case is one of a series pending in this State which involve the constitutionality of an act of Assembly, which makes it a misdemeanor to issue a promissory note given for a patent right without the words "Given for a patent right" written across its face. In this case the note was actually given for a patent right, but the words were not written across its face. The court decided that the note was nevertheless good. -- Harrisburg (Pa) Telegraph, March 6

[We have several times called the attention of State legislators to the folly of enacting laws like the above, in the hope of regulating patents. All such State laws are invalid. Under the Constitution of the United States all legislation relating to patents is vested in Congress. Judge Sharswood's decision is in accordance with analogous decisions by the courts hereto published in the Scientific American.}


Scientific American, v 38 (ns) no 14, p 212, 6 April 1878

Our Washington Correspondence
To the Editor of the Scientific American:

Owing to insufficient appropriations many very valuable clerks were recently dismissed from the Patent Office, and complaints have already begun to be made of the interruption of business resulting therefrom. The Commissioner, however, says that the discharge was unavoidable, as funds had run short, and that the allotment for salaries, etc., had even been exceeded. This should be remedied at once by Congress. It is not as if the Patent Office were an expense to the Government, as in that case there might possibly be some excuse for the parsimony which Congress exhibits; but when it is considered that over $130,000 more was received for fees than was paid out for expenses last year, and that over $1,100,000 lies to the credit of the Patent Office in the Treasury, a good reason is shown for more liberal dealings toward the office.

There is another matter where Congress is also derelict in its duty; it has suffered the Patent Office to remain for months without a decent roof, and has taken no steps toward repairing the injuries done by the fire. The inventors of the country have a right to demand that the edifice should be put in order again with the least possible delay, so that the model museum may be again ready for the convenient arrangement and storage of the models, as they pay fees enough to entitle them to sufficient accommodation.

The Proposed Patent Court

Mr. Vance has introduced into the House a bill to establish a Court of Patents, with three judges at a salary of $5,000 each. It allows appeals from the Commissioner to the court, and the decision of the court is to be conclusive, but not to the extent or preventing any person from testing the validity of a patent in any court of law or equity. The clerks and messengers of the court are to be assigned by the Commissioner of Patents from his force, and the rooms to be occupied by the court are to be in the Patent Office building. The board of examiners in chief is to be abolished, and all statutes applicable to it are to be made to apply to the Court of Patents. We have already pointed out the objectionable nature of this project. ....

Washington, D.C.


Scientific American, v 38 (ns) no 14, p 213, 6 April 1878

The Status of Patent Medicines

In a recent decision by the Assistant Commissioner of Patents the question of the patentability of medical compounds is discussed at considerable length, in reply to a doubt expressed by the primary examiner as to the patentability of this class of inventions. The Assistant Commissioner takes the following grounds: The old English case of Boulton vs. Ball, 2 H.B.L. 482 and Rex vs. Wheeler, 2 B.A.L.D. 349, expressly mention medicines as being comprehended under the term "manufactures," and as proper subjects for patents. Our patent system having been derived from England, if it had been the intention of Congress to have excepted medical compounds from the list of inventions to be patented, such intention should have been expressed. This was not the case; but, on the contrary, the law ever since 1793 has expressly provided for the grant of patents for "any new and useful composition of matter," in distinction from and in addition to an art, machine, or manufacture.

The discovery of a principle in medicine or medicines, or the effects produced by a medical or mechanical agent, is not patentable, but when a certain composition of specified ingredients is found by reference to the state of the art to be new and useful, the law is perfectly clear in providing that a patent may be granted for it, and it will not do to refuse it upon the ground of policy or distaste.

The case of the Morton patent, in the 8th vol. of the Attorney General's opinions, is often cited against granting patents for medical compounds; but the cases are not parallel, as the patentees in that case attempted to uphold a patent for the discovery of an effect. "The effect discovered was produced by old means upon old subjects." No claim for a medical compound was therein made, involved, or discussed.

The objections to the granting of patents on medical compounds must be the same as those in alleged inventions in other classes, such as want of novelty, utility, etc. Mere professional skill in combining, in the form of prescriptions, ingredients well known to the materia medica may not evince inventions any more than an arrangement of mechanical elements due to ordinary mechanical skill. Originality may be lacking in both cases. There are petty nostrums and quacks in mechanics as well as in medicine, and there are deserving inventors in both cases, all of whom should be treated with the consideration their cases merit, under the same law and rules of practice.

The decision from which the above is condensed would seem to settle, so far as the practice of the office is concerned, the question of the patentability of medical compounds -- a question which has been argued by many able examiners and attorneys both pro and con, but without, so far as we are aware, ever having received such an authoritative answer as is given by Mr. Doolittle's decision.


Scientific American, v 38 (ns) no 14, p 216, 6 April 1878

Death of Patent Office Examiners

Two members of the Examining Corps of the Patent Office, Professor Brainard and Dr. Mercer, have recently met with sudden deaths, the former of neuralgia of the heart and the latter of apoplexy. Professor Brainard was one of the oldest examiners in the office, and was well known outside of his connection with the examining corps, having much knowledge of many other branches of science not connected with his official duties. He formerly had charge of the class of agriculture. Dr. Mercer was a first assistant examiner, who had been in the office for about eleven years.


Scientific American, v 38 (ns) no 16, p 241, 20 April 1878

Progress at the Patent Office

The Commissioner of Patents has just issued an order to the examining corps relative to pending cases in arrears, which will command the hearty approval of every one having business before that bureau. As we have taken occasion to point out already, thousands of people are inventing at the present time who never did so before, in the hope of retrieving impaired fortunes, through disposal of their patented devices. Especially to these inventors delay is a hardship; to all classes of patentees it is annoying, and sometimes prejudicial to their interests, while it adds materially and unnecessarily to the labors of all those who have constant dealings with the office.

The present official staff appears to be large enough to keep the work clear of arrears if all the members of the staff were strict in attention to duty. But the members of the bureau are so mutually dependent that laxity on the part of any is certain to hinder and affect the labor of all. No matter how hard a commissioner may strive to make his administration satisfactory, he will labor uselessly if he does not insist upon real industry on the part of his subordinates. If one, Examiner A., conceives the idea that sitting with his heels on a desk from 10 A.M. to 2 P.M. reading newspapers is most promotive of inventors' benefits, Examiner B., although possessing conscientious ideas about what he ought to give in return for his pay, he will see no harm in putting a tough case over until tomorrow or next week, and, in brief, the office will ultimately adopt the pace of its slowest member.

When Commissioner Spear strikes at the root of this difficulty and peremptorily orders, as he has lately done, that working hours be extended until 5 o'clock P.M. until further notice, that all the force in the examiners' rooms shall be kept at work, and that examiners shall make daily reports of what they and their assistants have accomplished during the preceding day, he is doing inventors a genuine service; and now that he has put his hand to the plow we trust that he will not look back until his bureau is as well regulated and as free from abuse as any properly managed private business house.


Scientific American, v 38 (ns) no 17, p 260, 27 April 1878

Thomas C. Connally

In the notice of deaths in the Patent Office at Washington, omission was made of one which creates a profound impression among a large circle of acquaintances. Thomas C. Connally was long connected with the Patent Office as Assistant Examiner, and filled the position with credit to himself and satisfaction to the government. He was a man of great purity of character, much personal worth, kind, generous, sympathetic. An acquaintance of many years enables me to bear this slight tribute to his memory.

Mr. Connally was formerly a journalist, and the writer first became acquainted with him as editor of the Evening Telegraph, published in Washington 1852-3. He was highly esteemed by his cotemporaries, Messrs. Gale and Seaton of the old National Intelligencer, Blair and Rives of the Globe, and Gideon of the Republic. He was an honorable laborer in the field of Washington journalism, and contributed not a little to the enviable position of metropolitan political papers of the day.

Mr. Connally never wholly relinquished his interest in the press, and during the last Presidential campaign contributed the power of his pen toward the success of his party. He was fond of literary and scientific work, devoting much of his leisure to the advancement of their claims. Several gentlemen residing at the Capitol organized, a few years since, a scientific association, holding bi-monthly meetings, to discuss matters of general scientific interest. Mr. Connally was an active member.

It is always painful to record the departure of friends, but when men of so much usefulness and great personal excellence die, we feel that no common loss has befallen the community. Peace to his memory.


Scientific American, v 38 (ns) no 18, p 273, 4 May 1878

Congress and the Patent Office Funds

It has been the practice for some years past, says a correspondent, to pay into the United States Treasury all the fees received at the Patent Office, and for Congress to appropriate such money from the general funds as it thought fit, to carry on the business of the Patent Office; the amount appropriated lately being generally more in accordance with the ideas of particular congressmen having charge of the appropriation bill than with the necessities of the case as pointed out by the amount asked for on behalf of the Patent Office.

The appropriation of $106,680, asked for by the Patent Office for the current fiscal year for printing the Gazette, the specifications of patents, patent heads, etc., titles to drawings, etc., was cut down to $65,000, although it was well known from the experience of previous years, that the amount of printing required to carry on the business of the office could not be done for that sum, unless the number of patents issued fell off in proportion, of which there was not the least probability. Nevertheless, although the necessity of the whole sum asked for was capable of mathematical demonstration, Congress in its misdirected desire for economy refused to appropriate anything more than the sum mentioned; and as a result the appropriation has all been expended on needed work, which causes the stoppage of the printing of the Patent Office Gazette with the issue of March 26, and of the specifications of patents with those bearing date April 2. As the patents cannot be sent out without the printed specifications, the patents which should be issued on the succeeding weeks will have to be suspended until Congress appropriates more money, by the deficiency bill now before it, to carry on the printing.

In the deficiency bill, the $40,000 asked for to finish the printing for the remainder of the fiscal year has been cut down to $30,000, and it may be yet further reduced before passing both houses. To get along with the $30,000, even if that much is granted, the printing of the Alphabetical Index of Patents, which has been in preparation some time, will have to be postponed. This work, when published, will be a great help to inventors and attorneys, and it is believed that every dollar spent on it will be returned to the Patent Office in the sale of copies.

It is now proposed to cut down the examiners' salaries from ten to fifteen percent, when it is well known that many of the best officers resign even at the present salaries because they can obtain a better income outside the office than in it. If the Patent Office is to be, as it ought to be, provided with a corps of examiners capable of appreciating the nice points of inventions, skilled in mechanics and learned in the law, fair salaries will have to be paid. Economy on this point may save a few thousands to the Treasury, but a single patent wrongfully issued may cost the public many times more than the saving thus effected, and a patent refused that ought to have been granted may delay the introduction of an invention that would save the people generally tenfold the amount saved by the proposed reduction of salaries.

For several months past the "burnt district" of the Patent Office has had nothing but a temporary tarred paper roof on it, although a large portion of the business of the Patent Office, and much of the Interior Department, is done in that part covered by the paper roof, and much inconvenience is felt for want of room. The attention of Congress has been called again and again to the necessity of something being done to remedy this, but thus far without result.

Now, why is this mistaken policy of stinting the Patent Office? Is it because the Government is so poor that the money cannot be raised to make the needful appropriations for printing, paying proper salaries, and for necessary repairs? If this were so, and the Government had to pay out its own money, there might be some excuse. The Government, however, is not called upon to pay a penny of its own for either of the purposes mentioned; as it now has lying idle in its coffers over eleven hundred thousand dollars belonging to the Patent Office funds, which the office has received over and above expenses and paid into the national Treasury, every cent of which of right belongs to the Patent Office and should be kept for its use. Congress can find time and money enough to provide tens of thousands of dollars for an unnecessary mint in New Orleans, and appears willing enough to appropriate hundreds of thousands of dollars for the payment of confederate mail claims, but is not willing that the Patent Office -- the only government institution that is purely self-sustaining -- should control and spend its own revenues. All that is wanted from Congress is that the Patent Office may help itself with its own income, that it may use some of the money that it has garnered up, not from a tax on labor but as the price of protection to inventions, which money should be devoted to that purpose, to the encouragement of inventors, and to spreading information that may help them on their way, and not be allowed to lie in a constantly accumulating hoard, doing good to none.


Scientific American, v 38 (ns) no 18, p 276, 4 May 1878

Our Washington Correspondence
To the Editor of the Scientific American:

The appropriation for printing the Gazette, specifications, etc., at the Government printing office having been exhausted, the work of printing those documents will have to be stopped until a new appropriation has been made. The Government printer has withdrawn that part of his force employed in the branch office in the Patent Office building for the same reason, and the printing of patent heads, titles on drawings, etc., usually done in that room, has been stopped. The Gazette has been suspended with the issue of March 26, and the specifications bearing date April 2 are the last that will be printed until the deficiency appropriation bill has been passed. As the specifications cannot be printed, the issue of patents will have to be delayed, because the patent cannot go out without them. As no specifications will be printed during the interregnum, it is proposed to put the proof-readers, who are paid out of the Patent Office funds, to work at printing the titles on drawings, and thus the work of photo-lithographing may go on as usual. This interruption of the current work of the office is the result of the cutting down the appropriations by Congress, irrespective of the actual wants of the service; and this particular instance is but a specimen of many of the results of the diminished appropriations of last year. The Post Office is now in the same position as the Patent Office with respect to printing, and thus the work of the country suffers from the petty tricks and false economy of our Congressmen, who, to appear economical and to cover up their own shortcomings, cut and slashed away at the appropriations asked for, totally regardless of the necessities of the case.

Of a piece with this is the attempt now being made to cut down the salaries of the examining force from $200 to $250 each per year. If the public is to be served properly, proper salaries must be paid. The salaries now paid to the examiners are not sufficient to keep good men in that body, because they can procure a abetter income outside as patent solicitors, and if the bill is passed cutting down salaries, there is no doubt but that many of the best men will leave their positions in the examining corps, and their places be filled by less competent men.

Protection of Attorneys

A bill has been introduced before Congress for the better protection of patent attorneys. It provides for repealing Section 487 of the Revised Statutes, and requires all proceedings for suspension or disbarment of any attorney or patent agent from practice, before any bureau or department of the Government, to be commenced and determined before the Attorney-General, according to the usual rules of law and judicial proceedings. In case any such head of bureau shall disbar or suspend a practicing attorney arbitrarily, he shall be subject to a fine of from $1,000 to $5,000, and to imprisonment of from six months to two years, at the discretion of the court. The bill also provides that all persons who have been heretofore disbarred or suspended from practice as attorneys or patent agents before the Patent Office, or any other bureau or department, without charges having been made, due notice given, or proper opportunity given for defense before a competent tribunal, shall be restored to the roll of patent attorneys, and are authorized to act with the full powers and privileges from and after the passage of the act.

Washington, D.C.


Scientific American, v 38 (ns) no 19, p 292, 11 May 1878

Our Washington Correspondence
To the Editor of the Scientific American:

The order of the Commissioner of Patents to the examiners whose cases were behindhand to work until five o'clock is beginning to produce its effects, so that there will soon be much less time to wait before a case is acted on, and inventors will thus be able to know without much delay whether their hopes of obtaining a patent are well founded or not. As one effect of the order, it may be noted that the last issue of patents, that bearing date April 16, is the largest one issued in any week for two years. The following are the numbers of each class: 302[?] patents, 16 reissues, 18 designs, 38 trade marks, and 6 labels.

The owners of these patents and those of the previous week's issue will have to wait for them some time longer than is usual, on account of the failure of Congress to make any appropriations for the printing of the specifications. It is not yet known how long the patentees will have to wait, as that depends on the action of Congress in passing the deficiency bill, and there appears to be no disposition to hurry matters at the Capitol. This failure of the appropriation is going to cause considerable trouble, and will offset for the present to some extent the good effected by the Commissioner's order, because, although the patents will be numbered, dated, and signed, as the specifications are not printed, the patents cannot be sent out, and the inventors will have to do as well as they can without their long wished-for documents. It will, no doubt, be a cause of considerable annoyance to many patentees, and of actual loss to some, especially in reissue cases. The Patent Office, however, is not to blame in the matter, but the short-sighted pseudo-economy of Congress.

"Protection" to Castings

The House Committee on Patents has agreed to report favorably Mr. Sayler's bill "for the security of property in metal castings." It provides that any person counterfeiting any registered metal casting by using it as a pattern in moulding, without first obtaining the written consent of the owner of the registration, shall be liable to the latter in the amount of the ordinary wholesale profit upon the articles produced; and any court of competent jurisdiction may order the delivery of such counterfeit castings to the complainant, or their destruction by the marshal. The requirements of those wishing their rights in castings protected are these: First, such castings must have upon them the word "registered," together with the date of registration: second, the names of the parties requiring the protection must be recorded in the Patent Office, and a fee of $20 will have to be paid in the same manner and for the same purpose as the fee for a patent. The certificate of registration is to remain in force for 17 years. This is an iniquitous bill, inasmuch as it aims to empower the owner of a wooden pattern for an old stair plate, for example, which anybody can make for a dollar, the right to collect hundreds of dollars damages of any poor fellow who uses one of the cast plates for moulding. ....

Washington, D.C.


Scientific American, v 38 (ns) no 25, p 385, 22 June 1878

Good Work from Cheap Patents

It is not long since a prominent Englishman urged as an objection to cheap patents the comical plea that they gave an unnatural impulse to the inventive faculty, thereby fostering a preference for mere cleverness over honest work. As an awful example he pointed to the United States, "where the factitious value attached to inventions has tended to produce an almost total sacrifice of solid workmanship to flimsy ingenuity." A very pretty comment on this charge may be found in the explanation given in the leading English papers of the secret of the dangerous character of American competition in cottons and other manufactures. The danger lies, they admit, not so much in the cheapness of American goods as in their superior quality and finish. Where they are known, American cottons are preferred to those of England in the great markets of the East, even at a higher price, because they are honestly made. The Saturday Review attributes the decline and threatened loss of England's trade in the East as much to "the fraudulent folly of English manufacturers, who have lost their customers by palming off on them adulterated goods," as to the natural advantages of American manufacturers. In like manner the London Times attributes the increase of American manufacturers, and their superior competition with those of England, to their superiority as well as to genuine domestic advantages in the processes of manufacture. A Swiss commissioner to the Philadelphia Exhibition writes to his countrymen: "Have you ever compared a rake, a spade, a knife, a hatchet, made in America with tools made here? How much is Europe left behind! While our constructors aim generally at products heavy, massive, solid, in appearance, and save rather in the quality of the metal than on the weight, American workmanship is light, pleasing to the eye, and employs almost exclusively good material."

At the exposition of objects of art at Munich there was nothing in cast iron which could be compared with a stove which he had brought from America. "Not merely for the good quality of the casting, but also in the ornamentation." Again, he says: "Who does not know American sewing machines? And who has not already become satisfied, even when machines of the same kind are made in Europe in enormous quantities, that the somewhat higher price of the American machines is largely compensated for by their construction, their solidity, and their convenience?" So far from finding in American products any sacrifice of solid workmanship to flimsy ingenuity, this critical observer pronounces them generally "handsome, solid, practical, light, and of good material," and the verdict of buyers, the world over, confirms his testimony.


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