Patent Office

The Patent Office is the agency of the United States government that administers the patent laws of the country. The first patent statute was passed on April 5, 1790, by Congress and signed into law on April 10 by the President. Rhode Island ratified the Constitution and joined the Union as the thirteenth state on May 29, 1790, 49 days after the first patent statute was in effect. The first patent law preceded the thirteenth state. The law, however, did not establish an office for dealing with patents and instead required applicants to petition the Secretary of State. The first patent was issued in 1790.

The first patent official was the superintendent of patents, an employee of the Department of State beginning in 1802. A fire destroyed the records of the first 10,280 patents issued between 1790 and 1836. Fewer than 3000 of them were recovered and reissued with a number ending in "X." Patents since 1836 were renumbered starting at one. The Patent Office was housed in its own new building in 1836 under a commissioner for patents, being transferred in 1948 to the new Department of the Interior and eventually in 1925 to the Department of Commerce.

In addition to the patent laws, the office administers trademark laws and is now officially known as the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO). Beginning with the new numbering system, patent 10,000 was issued in 1854, patent 100,000 in 1871, patent 1,000,000 in 1912. In total, the PTO has issued more than 8,000,000 patents. It is widely claimed that in 1899 the head of the U.S. Patent Office sent his resignation to President McKinley urging the closing of the office because "everything that could be invented has been invented." Even President Reagan used it in a speech. However, there appears to be no actual evidence that this ever happened.



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