Inventing Fun, Facts & Trivia
"Everything" you always wanted to know
about the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office
(and a Basic Primer on Patents & Trademarks)
- In 1997 there were 111,984 patents issued.
Of these, 17,639 (16%) were issued to independent inventors.
- There is only one U.S. Patent and Trademark Office;
it is located in Arlington, Virginia.
- The USPTO employs approximately 6,000 people.
- The USPTO is totally fee funded —
not one penny of taxpayer money supports it.
- A U.S. patent is granted by the U.S. government.
It grants a monopoly for a limited period of time
on an invention that has been deemed
by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office
to be novel, non-obvious and useful.
A patent gives its holder the right
to exclude others from making, using, or selling the invention
that is claimed in the patent.
- A trademark is a brand name or symbol
that identifies a product or service.
- A copyright protects an original work
of expression (such as books, movies, artwork, game rules, etc.)
by giving the copyright holder
the right to exclude others from copying
or commercially using the work without authorization.
- WWW site:
- The PTO fee to file a patent application is $385
for an independent inventor.
The total cost to obtain a patent,
including issuance fees and attorney fees,
is approximately, $4,000 to $5,000.
- A patent lasts 20 years from the date of the filing
of a patent application.
It is enforceable only in the U.S.
- For basic information,
the USPTO has a toll-free line, 1-800-PTO-9199.
Famous words about the Patent System
"The patent system added the fuel of interest
to the fire of genius." Abraham Lincoln
"A country without a patent office and good patent laws
is just a crab and can't travel anyway but sideways and backways."
Sir Boss, a character in Mark Twain's
"Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court"
"We must introduce the patent system.
America has shown us how.
May our sister republic serve as our model in this."
A Swiss manufacturer to his countrymen
upon returning home from the U.S. in the 1800s.
Switzerland introduces a patent system in 1888.
"We have looked about us
to see what nations are the greatest,
so that we can be like them.
We said, 'What is it that makes the United States
such a great nation?'
and we investigated and found that it was patents
and we will have patents."
1900, a Japanese commissioner in Washington
to study the American Patent System
A Brief History of the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office
- On April 10, 1790,
President George Washington signed the bill
which laid the foundations of the modern American patent system.
- The U.S. patent system was unique;
for the first time in history
the intrinsic right of an inventor
to profit from his invention is recognized by law.
Previously, privileges granted to an inventor
were dependent upon the prerogative of a monarch
or upon a special act of a legislature.
- Thomas Jefferson was the first Patent Examiner.
- In 1790, the cost to obtain a patent was between $4 and $5.
- The first U.S. patent was granted on July 31, 1790,
to Samuel Hopkins of Pittsford, Vt., for an improvement in
"the making of Pot ash and Pearl ash
by a new Apparatus and Process."
- Mary Kies of Killingly, Conn.,
was the first women to obtain a patent.
In 1809 she received a patent
for a way to weave "straw with silk or thread."
- During the War of 1812,
the British burned Washington.
The Patent Office was spared
because Dr. William Thornton, Superintendent of Patents,
pleaded with the British Commander
not to "burn what would be useful to mankind."
- Daniel Webster eloquently explained the value of invention
to the nation's economic well being when,
in a speech in Congress in 1824,
he declared that invention is the fruit of a man's brain,
that industries grow in direct proportion
to invention and that therefore the government
must aid in progress by fostering the inventive genius
of its citizens.
- On December 15, 1836,
the Patent Office was completely destroyed by fire.
Lost were some 7,000 models, 9,000 drawings,
and 230 books plus all records of patent applications and grants.
- During the Civil War,
the Confederacy established its own Patent Office
which issued 266 patents, a third of which concerned implements of war.
- 1880 - 1890, one of the greatest decades
of invention of all time:
The trolley car, the incandescent light, the automobile,
the cash register, the dynamo, the pneumatic tire,
smokeless powder, transparent film, electrical welding,
the cyanide process, the steam turbine,
the aluminum manufacturing process, and the electric furnace
are all invented or introduced.