This Fourth of July, as we commemorate the adoption of the Declaration of Independence just as we’ve done every year since 1776, we also celebrate the 175th anniversary of the 1836 Patent Act.
The Act marked the creation of the first United States Patent Office, designed to streamline patent application and registration procedures. While this first office went up in flames in the Great Patent Fire of 1836, it eventually led to the creation of the United States Patent and Trademark Office, which handles all patent matters in the U.S. today.
As the Constitution gives Congress the power to enact patent laws, the USPTO carries out Congress’s directives.
The first patent law was enacted in 1790 and revised in 1793. The 1836 Patent Act made the Patent Office a part of the State Department and re-numbered patents starting with 1, marking all previous patents with the suffix “X”. In 1849, the Patent Office was transferred to the Department of the Interior, where it still resides. The depression of 1850 created an unfavorable view of patents; as such, patent laws weren’t revised again until the early 1950s. The most recent revision was the American Inventors Protection Act of 1999.
Because of the current backlog of patent applications, bills have been introduced in both the House and Senate to again reform patent legislation. However, differences in the bills could delay passage of this critical legislation.
The USPTO is proactive on this front. Working as its own advocate, the USPTO recently held a gathering at Stanford University to address how it can improve customer service and reduce the backlog of patent applications. Since a significant percentage of the USPTO’s work involves medicines and medical devices, such improvements could mean accelerated access to new or improved products.
In a letter to Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Research!America President and CEO Mary Woolley declared Research!America’s support of this patent reform legislation.
“Meaningful reform of our patent system is a long-time goal, the fulfillment of which will bear on our nation’s capacity for innovation in an increasingly competitive global economy and have a positive effect on the U.S. pipeline of new medical treatments,” Woolley wrote.