Granted In 19 Hours

Patent examiners have an extremely hard job.  They’re given a patent application—which could be anywhere from a page long up to hundreds of pages, with patent claims ranging from a…

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The PTO’s Inability To Reject An Application For Good Has A Long History

I was recently alerted1 to an entry in John Q. Adams’ diary, pertaining to patents in the early days of the United States.  The entry, from Dec. 27, 1804, reads:

“Next I called at Dr. [William] Thornton’s Office, acting under the Secretary of State as Commissioner of Patents; to speak with him regarding the application of a JW: Jacob Walsh, from whom I received some days since a letter, requesting my attention to this business.  Dr. Thornton had got the patent nearly made out, but told me he thought it was not a new invention. Which indeed he says is the case of almost all of the applications for patents – and others are for things impossible – In the present state of the Law, a Patent cannot be refused to any person who takes the oath and pays his thirty dollars.  The Doctor [Thornton] told me of many egregious impositions on the public under this system.  One particularly by a clergyman of Bordentown, New Jersey, named Burgess Allison, who has a patent for improving spirits by filtration through charcoal, which had been known and practiced for many years.”

  1.  My thanks to Karen Barzilay, who located this text as part of ongoing efforts by the Adams Papers Editorial Project at the Massachusetts Historical Society to put a searchable version of JQA’s diary online and available to all.  Further details can be found here: https://www.masshist.org/publications/jqadiaries/index.php.

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