Document 58, 24th Congress, 2d Session
IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES
January 9, 1837
Read, ordered to be printed, and that 2,000 additional copies be sent to the Senate.
Mr. Ruggles read the following REPORT with Senate Bill No. 107
The special committee appointed to examine and report the extent of the loss sustained by the burning of the Patent Office, and to consider whether any or what measures ought to be adopted to repair the loss, and to establish such evidences of property in patented inventions as the destruction of the records and drawings may have rendered necessary for its security, submit the following report:
In examining the subject referred to them, the committee has been deeply impressed with the loss the country has sustained in the destruction, by the fire of the 15th December, of the records, originals, drawings, models, etc. belonging to the Patent Office. They not only embraced the whole history of American invention for nearly half a century, but were the muniments of property of vast amount, secured by law to a great number of individuals both citizens and foreigners, the protection and security of which must now become seriously difficult and precarious.
Everything belonging to the office was destroyed -- nothing was saved. There were one hundred and sixty-eight large folio volumes of records, and twenty-six large portfolios, containing nine thousand drawings, many of which were beautifully executed and very valuable; there were also all the original descriptions and specifications of inventions, in all about ten thousand, besides caveats and many other documents and papers.
There were also two hundred and thirty volumes of books belonging to the Patent Office library, the cost of which was $1,000. Some of these were procured prior to the passage of the act of July 4, 1836, making an appropriation of $1,500 for procuring a library of scientific works. Others were procured subsequently, for which $320 of that appropriation was expended.
The model cases, press and seals, desks, book cases, and other furniture and effects belonging to the office were estimated at $6,600.
The foregoing are more particularly described in schedules A, B, and C, annexed to a letter from the Commissioner of Patents, in reply to inquiries made by the committee, which accompanies this report.
The Patent Office contained also the largest and most interesting collection of models in the world. It was an object of just pride to every American able to appreciate its value as an item in the estimate of national character, or the advantages and benefits derivable from high improvements in the useful arts -- a pride which must now stand rebuked by the improvidence which exposed so many memorials and evidences of the superiority of American genius to the destruction which has overtaken them.
The number of models was about seven thousand. Many of them displayed great talent, ingenuity, and mechanical science. The American inventions pertaining to the spinning of cotton and wool and the manufacture of fabrics, in many respects exceed those of any other nation, and reduced so much the expense of manufacture, that the British manufacturers were reluctantly obliged, at the expense of a little national pride, to lay aside their own machinery and adopt our improvements, to prevent our underselling them even in their home market. In this department were the inventions of Browne, Thorpe, Danforth, Couilliard, Calvert, and some others. The beautiful operative model of Wilkinson's machine for manufacturing weavers' reeds by one operation, was considered one of the most ingenious mechanical combinations ever invented. Of this character was Whittemore's celebrated machine for making wool cards. There were several models of valuable improvements in shearing and napping cloth, patented to Swift, Stowell, Dewey, Parsons, Daniels, and others.
In another department were several models of machines for manufacturing cut and wrought nails. The machinery for this purpose, which has reduced so much the price of that important article, was of purely American origin, and was invented by Briggs, Perkins, Reed, Odiorne, and several others.
The models of improvements in grist mills, saw mills, water wheels, etc. were numerous.
The application of steam power to the driving of all kinds of machinery for propelling boats, locomotives, mills, and factories, has brought out a great number of American inventions and improvements, displaying a degree of talent, ingenuity, and science highly creditable to our country. Some of the models in this department very valuable. America claims the honor (contested, indeed, by England) of the first successful attempt to apply the power of steam to the propelling of vessels. The name of Fulton is associated with one of the noblest efforts of genius and science. It has often been regretted that no model was preserved of his steamboat, which was the first to demonstrate the practicability of making steam subservient to the purpose of useful navigation. There was, however, deposited in the Patent Office a volume of drawings elegantly executed by his own hand, delineating the various parts of the machinery he employed, and embracing three beautiful representations of his steamer making its first triumphant struggle against the opposing current of the Hudson. The steamer was represented passing through the Highlands, and at two or three other interesting points on the river, with a beautiful sketching of the surrounding scenery smiling as if it were at the victory which science and art had at last achieved over the power of the winds and the waters, and at the opening era of steam navigation, the benefits of which have since been so widely diffused. It contained also an account of his experiments on the resistance of fluids, and various estimates of the power required to propel vessels of various tonnage and form through the water at greater or less speed. This volume, which should have been preserved among our choicest archives, shared the fate of every thing else in the office. What sum would be too great to be expended in replacing it!
The department of agriculture contained a great number of models of highly useful improvements in the implements of husbandry. The number of inventions which had for their object the advancement of the agricultural interests, was about fifteen hundred; those which pertained to navigation were a little short of a thousand. The inventions and improvements in factory machinery, and in the various manufactures, where upwards of two thousand. In the common mechanical trades, there were as many more. It were vain to attempt to enumerate or classify them within the reasonable space of a report of committee. There was no art or pursuit to which ingenuity and invention had not lent their aid.
That this great national repository should have received so little consideration heretofore as to be left so long exposed to conflagration, which has at last swept every vestige of it from existence, cannot be too deeply deplored. But the reproach does not rest at the door of the present Congress. The act passed at the first session, reorganizing the office, containing many important provisions for its management, and the appropriation for erecting a fireproof building, for the accommodation and preservation of the records, models, etc., which is now under construction, attest the interest inspired and the attention devoted to it, though, unfortunately, too late to rescue it from destruction.
That the benefit of such an institution is limited to the mechanic arts and manufactures, or that it is confined to any particular section of the Union, is an erroneous idea. Its influence is felt in every branch of national industry, and no one section of the country can justly be said to derive less advantage from it than another. The idea is equally erroneous that such institutions are established for the benefit of patentees only. The advancement of great national interests is the first object of the patent laws in all nations where they exist. The specifications, models, and drawings, are required that, after the patent term shall have expired, the public may have the benefit of a disclosure of the invention, so full and intelligible that any one can apply its principles to practical use, or make them the foundation of further improvements.
It is a still more erroneous idea that no drawings or models of new inventions are of use to the public, unless the machinery they represent is susceptible to a practical application of the use designed. Mechanical science, like all others, is matured and perfected by degrees, and by calling to its aid the investigations and ingenuity of various minds. Most inventions are but the foundation of progressive improvements. It is necessary to know what has been done, in order to know what remains to be accomplished. Every age avails itself of the experience and discoveries of that which has preceded it: were it otherwise, knowledge would be stationary, and every generation, instead of being wiser than others gone by, would be employed in learning over again what had been acquired before. The drawings and models of even those inventions which are imperfect or incapable of producing the desired effect, serve to show how far others have progressed, and either furnish hints for the full accomplishments of the design, or as beacons to enable others to avoid fruitless labor and expense. Whoever would attempt to improve the arts, must begin where others have left off: hence, the model rooms of the Patent Office were constantly visited by men of genius and science from all sections of the country, and from Europe, where they were able at once to discover how far American invention had gone, and where they frequently derived important hints from inventions and contrivances of apparently but little value.
They would seem also, to be almost indispensable, in deciding upon new applications for patents, to enable the proper officers to judge of the originality of the invention, and to prevent the issuing of interfering patents. It often requires a very close examination of the principles of a machine, and a careful comparison of models and drawings, to discover how far they interfere with previous inventions. The provision interdicting the granting of patents for what is not new and original, is the most valuable feature of the act of July last. But it will be impossible for the Commissioner to administer the law in that particular, according to its intent, without models and drawings of inventions previously patented. The consequence would be, in effect, the restoration of a great portion of the evils of the former system in multiplying conflicting rights, leading to much perplexity and expensive litigation. Much of the ground travelled over in the last forty years would have to be travelled over again before the point could be reached at which we arrived prior to the late conflagration.
The committee therefore believe that it is important to the interest of the country, as well as to the security of individual rights, that measures be immediately adopted to replace, as far as practicable, the records, drawings, and models which have been destroyed. After much inquiry and consideration, the committee are satisfied that, notwithstanding the apprehensions and anxiety so generally entertained, a restoration is practicable to a very gratifying extent. The first step must be to procure, for the purpose of being copied and recorded anew, the original patents. In most instances, descriptions and specifications of the inventions, and in perhaps a sixth or eighth part of the cases, drawings also have been annexed to the patents when granted. Drawings have been attached only when referred to in the specifications. The whole number of patents is a little upwards of ten thousand. It is believed that from six to seven thousand may be obtained for record. Many of the deficient drawings may be obtained from patentees, or may be supplied by the assistance of those whose familiar knowledge of the inventions will enable them, aided by the specifications, to delineate them with much accuracy. Many copies heretofore certified from the record to be used as evidence in the courts, will supply others.
Of the models, such as were trifling and unimportant, contained no new principle or combination of mechanism, and not useful for any of the purposes before alluded to, it will not be necessary to replace. The whole number of models was about seven thousand. It is the opinion of the Commissioner, and most others conversant with the subject, that three thousand of the most important can be replaced, which will form a very interesting and valuable collection, less numerous, indeed, but more select, and scarcely less useful than that which has been destroyed. Some of these would be replaced by voluntary contribution. But the greatest portion of them, even of those whose restoration would be most desirable, the committee are satisfied, can only be had by means in the hands of the Government. If it were in the power of the Government to compel patentees to replace the models and drawings lost by its improvidence, it would be an onerous and unjust tax upon those who, by their ingenuity, and at their own expense, built up an institution which, in its connexion with manufactures, with agriculture, and even commerce itself, has done much to advance the prosperity of the country. They have paid into the Treasury $156,907.73 more than has been required to meet the expenses of the office, including the salaries of the officers employed in it; and the committee cannot hesitate in recommending the appropriation of that balance to carry into effect the provisions of the bill which is herewith submitted.
The sentiment is not an uncommon one, that the tax upon patents is both unwise in policy and unjust in principle. Inventors are public benefactors, contributing to the promotion and improvement of all branches of national industry, and, in most instances, without any adequate remuneration. Who has done more to enrich the South, nay, indirectly, the whole country, than Whitney? And what was his reward? Let the South answer. Evans and Fulton, with genius and talents never, while they lived, appreciated to their worth, died overwhelmed by embarrassments. Whittemore, it is true, was more fortunate; but it was said that he availed himself of the mechanical genius of another who lived and died in poverty and obscurity.
It has not been the policy of our Government to draw a revenue from patentees. The duty imposed was intended only to meet the ordinary expenses of issuing patents. Many believe that even that should not be exacted. It is levying a contribution upon science and ingenuity, which cost the nation nothing, while they confer upon it important benefits.
The measures to be adopted in selecting and obtaining the models and many of the drawings, are matters of detail involving such a variety of circumstances and considerations, that it is impossible to make provision for them by law. That properly belongs, and should be intrusted to a temporary board of commissioners. The sum required to replace the three thousand models, which would include all whose preservation would be most desirable, is estimated by the Commissioner at $100,000. The expense of transcribing and recording descriptions, specifications, drawings, and assignments, is estimated at $53,000. A judicious and economical expenditure of these sums, it is believed, will restore the records and models to the full extent contemplated by the provisions of the bill submitted. By the statement from the Treasury Department, (marked E) it appears that the balance of the patent fund on the 31st December last was $156,907.73, including moneys received for patents and copies prior to the act of July 1836, which, though not expressly embraced by the terms of that act, properly belong to that fund. This balance will cover the expenditures above proposed of $153,000, together with $3,100 for record books, desks, and other office furniture, as per estimate D, and leave a balance of $807.73.
With such a restoration, and the addition of the specimens of fabrics and manufactures of various kinds which are in preparation in a number of the manufactories and workshops of the country, to be deposited in rooms in the new building, pursuant to the act of July last, we shall soon have less reason than is now apprehended throughout the country, to deplore the destruction of this great national repository. In two or three years the number of models will be scarcely less, and their character and value in the aggregate greatly improved.
It appears by the Commissioner that an additional examining clerk and also another copying clerk are necessary to keep up the increasing business of the office. The new duties assigned to the examining clerk make it a very responsible and laborious office. It is his business to make himself fully acquainted with the principles of the invention for which a patent is sought, and to make a thorough investigation of all that has been before known or invented either in Europe or America, on the particular subject presented for his examination. He must ascertain how far the invention interferes in any of its parts with other previous inventions or things previously in use. He must point out and describe the extent of such collision and interference, that the applicant may have the benefit of the information in so shaping or restricting his claim of originality as not to trespass upon the rights of others. The applicant should also be referred to the sources of this information, that he may be able to satisfy himself on the particular points of interference. This frequently leads to a lengthy correspondence, before the applicant can be persuaded that his invention or some rejected part of it, is not new. He often employs skilful and persevering council [sic] to urge and enforce by argument new views of the principles of his invention, who sometimes brings to his aid much mechanical astuteness. The examiner must also see that the specification accords with the drawing, and that the model is in conformity with both.
An efficient and just discharge of these duties, it is obvious, requires extensive scientific attainments, and a general knowledge of the arts, manufactures, and the mechanism used in every branch of business in which improvements are sought to be patented, and the principles embraced in the ten thousand inventions patented in the United States, and of the thirty thousand patented in Europe. He must moreover possess a familiar knowledge of the statute and common law on the subject, and the judicial decisions both in England and our own country, in patent cases. This service is important, as it is often difficult and laborious. Here is the first check upon attempts to palm off old inventions for new, or to interfere with the rights of others previously acquired. This is also the source whence the honest and meritorious inventor may look for aid and direction in framing his specifications as that he may be able to sustain his patent when issued, and find security and protection against expensive and fruitless litigation.
Suitable qualifications for these duties are rare, and cannot be obtained without such compensation as they readily command in other employment. It will, undoubtedly, be wise in the Government to affix such salary to this office as will secure the best talent and qualifications. Although an appeal is allowed by law, yet, if a high character is given to it, this will be the best, as it is the most appropriate tribunal for judging of these subjects, and its decisions commanding respect and confidence, there will be but little inclination to take exceptions to its judgment. Thus will be cut off a fruitful source of law suits, and our court calendars will cease to be crowded with cases arising out of the interfering rights of patentees. Meritorious inventors will secure in their rights, and the public relieved from imposition and embarrassment. These are among the first of the objects and merits of the act of last session. It appears that about one third of all the specifications are found, on examination, to contain no new principle, and that three fourths of the residue are either too broad in their claims of originality, or are otherwise irregular or defective, and are required to be set right at the office or sent back by the Commissioner for correction.
Under existing circumstances, without written, pictorial, or model record of any kind, it is apparent that the business of the office must either stand still, or proceed under very great embarrassment, which can be relieved only by the early action of Congress on the subject.
A bill is herewith submitted.
A BILL in addition to the act to promote the progress of science and useful arts.
SEC. 1. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That any person who may be in possession of, or in any way interested in, any patent for an invention, discovery, or improvement, issued prior to the fifteenth day of December, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and thirty-six, or in an assignment of any patent or interest therein, executed and recorded prior to the said fifteenth day of December, may, without charge, on presentation or transmission thereof to the Commissioner of Patents, have the same recorded anew in the Patent Office, together with the descriptions, specifications of claim, and drawings annexed or belonging to the same; and it shall be the duty of the Commissioner to cause the same, or any authenticated copy of the original record, specification, or drawing which he may obtain, to be transcribed and copied into books of record, to be kept for that purpose. And wherever a drawing was not originally annexed to the patent and referred to in the specification, any drawing produced as a delineation of the invention, being verified by oath in such manner as the Commissioner shall require, may be transmitted or copied as aforesaid, together with the certificate of the oath; or such drawings may be made in the office, under the direction of the Commissioner, in conformity with the specification. And it shall be the duty of the Commissioner to take such measures as may be advised and determined by the board of commissioners provided for in the fourth section of this act, to obtain the patents, specifications, and copies aforesaid, for the purpose of being so transcribed and recorded.
SEC. 2. And be it further enacted, That copies of such record and drawings, certified by the Commissioner, or, in his absence, by the chief clerk, shall be prima facie evidence of the particulars of the invention and of the patent granted therefor, in any judicial court of the United States, in all cases where copies of the original record or specification and drawings would be evidence, without proof of the loss of such originals. And no patent issued prior to the aforesaid fifteenth day of December, shall, after the first day of June next, be received in evidence in any of the said courts in behalf of the patentee or other person who shall be in possession of the same, unless it shall have been so recorded anew, and a drawing of the invention, if separate from the patent, verified as aforesaid, deposited in the Patent Office; nor shall any written assignment of any such patent, executed and recorded prior to the said fifteenth day of December, be received in evidence in any of the said courts in behalf of the assignee or other person in possession thereof, until it shall have been recorded anew.
SEC. 3. And be it further resolved, That, whenever it shall appear to the Commissioner that any patent was destroyed by the burning of the Patent Office building on the aforesaid fifteenth day of December, it shall be his duty, on application therefor by the patentee or other person interested therein, to issue a new patent for the same invention or discovery, bearing the date of the original patent, with his certificate thereon that it was made and issued pursuant to the provisions of the third section of this act, and shall enter the same of record: Provided however, That before such patent shall be issued, the applicant therfor shall deposit in the Patent Office a duplicate, as near as may be, of the original model, drawing, and description, with specification of the invention or discovery,verified by oath, as shall be required by the Commissioner. And such patent, and copies of such drawings and descriptions, duly certified, shall be admissible as evidence in any judicial court of the United States, and shall protect the rights of the patentee, his administrators, heirs, and assigns, to the extent only in which they would have been protected by the original patent and specification.
SEC. 4. And be it further enacted, That it shall be the duty of the Commissioner to procure a duplicate of such of the models destroyed by fire on the aforesaid fifteenth day of December, as were most valuable and interesting, and whose preservation would be important to the public; and such as would be necessary to facilitate the just discharge of the duties imposed by law on the Commissioner in issuing patents, and protect the rights of the public and of patentees in patented inventions and improvements: Provided, That a duplicate of such models may be obtained at reasonable expense: And provided, also, That the whole amount of expenditure for this purpose shall not exceed the sum of one hundred thousand dollars. And there shall be a temporary board of commissioners, to be composed of the Commissioner of the Patent Office and two other person to be appointed by the President, whose duty it shall be to consider and determine upon the best and most judicious mode of obtaining models of suitable construction; and, also, to consider and determine what models may be procured in pursuance of, and in accordance with, the provisions and limitations in this section contained. And said commissioners may make and establish all such regulations, terms, and conditions, not inconsistent with law, as in their opinion may be proper and necessary to carry the provisions of this section into effect according to its true intent.
SEC. 5. And be it further enacted, That whenever a patent shall be returned for correction and re-issue under the thirteenth section of the act to which this is additional, and the patentee shall desire several patents to be issued for distinct and separate parts of the thing patented, he shall first pay, in manner and in addition to the sum provided by that act, the sum of thirty dollars for each additional patent so to be issued: Provided, however, That no patent made prior to the aforesaid fifteenth day of December shall be corrected and re-issued, until a duplicate of the model and drawing of the thing as originally invented, verified by oath, as shall be required by the Commissioner, shall be deposited in the Patent Office.
SEC. 6. And be it further enacted, That any patent hereafter to be issued, may be made and issued to the assignee or assignees of the inventor or discoverer, the assignment thereof being first entered of record, and the application therefor being duly made, and the specification duly sworn to by the inventor. And in all cases hereafter, the applicant for a patent shall be held to furnish duplicate drawings, one of which to be deposited in the office, and the other to be annexed to the patent, and considered a part of the specification.
SEC. 7. And be it further enacted, That the Commissioner is hereby authorized and empowered to appoint agents in not exceeding twenty of the principal cities or towns in the United States, as may best accommodate the different sections of the country, for the purpose of receiving and forwarding to the Patent Office, all such models, specimens of ingredients, and manufactures, as shall be intended to be patented or deposited therein; the transportation of the same to be chargeable to the patent fund.
SEC. 8. And be it further enacted, That, instead of one examining clerk, as provided by the second section of the act to which this is additional, there shall be appointed, in manner therein provided, two examining clerks, each to receive an annual salary of __________dollars; and also an additional copying clerk at an annual salary of ____________ dollars; and also an additional copying clerk at an annual salary of ___________ dollars. And the Commissioner is also authorized to employ, from time to time, as many temporary clerks as may be necessary to execute the copying and draughting required by the first section of this act, who shall receive not exceeding ____________ cents for every page of one hundred words, and for drawings such reasonable compensation as shall be agreed upon or prescribed by the Commissioner.
SEC. 9. And be it further enacted, That, whenever the application of any foreigner for a patent shall be rejected and withdrawn for want of novelty in the invention, pursuant to the seventh section of the act to which this is additional, the certificate thereof of the Commissioner shall be a sufficient warrant to the Treasurer to pay back to such applicant two-thirds of the duty he shall have paid into the Treasury on account of such application.
SEC. 10. And be it further enacted, That all moneys paid into the Treasury of the United States for patents, and for fees for copies furnished by the Superintendent of the Patent Office, prior to the act to which this is additional, shall be carried to the credit of the patent fund created by said act; and the moneys constituting said fund shall be, and the same are hereby, appropriated for the payment of the salaries of the officers and clerks provided for by said act, and all other expenses of the Patent Office, including all the expenditures provided for by this act, and also for such other purposes as are or may be hereby specially provided for by law. And the Commissioner is hereby authorized to draw upon said fund from time to time for such sums as shall be necessary to carry into effect the provisions of this act, governed, however, by the several limitations herein contained. And it shall be his duty to lay before Congress, in the month of January, annually, a detailed statement of the expenditures and payments by him made from said fund.
January 7, 1837
In compliance with your request, I have the honor, herewith, to transmit to you a statement of the receipts from patents, and expenditures for that branch of the public business, brought down to the 31st ultimo.
I am, very respectfully,
Your obedient servant,
Secretary of the Treasury
Hon. John Ruggles
Chairman Committee on Patents
Senate of the United States
Statement of the Patent Funds. To the 3d July, 1836, inclusive
Receipts from patents $304,200.00BR> Receipts from fees 3,071.06
Expenditures Salaries $115,714.35 Fixtures and contingencies 40,726.56 ____________ $156,440.91 ___________ $150,830.15 From 4th July to 31 December, 1836, inclusive Receipts from patents $14,328.00 Fees 189.58 ____________ 14,517.58 Expenditure* 8,440.00 ____________ 6,077.58 ___________ $156,907.73 ============ TREASURY DEPARTMENT Register's Office, January 7, 1837 T.L. SMITH, Register * Salaries.....................$5,300 Books for library............ 1,000 Contingencies................ 1,600 Withdrawing applications..... 540 _______ $8,440
PATENT OFFICE, December 28, 1836
I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 20th instant, containing several inquiries, and hasten to reply.
Question 1. "Did any of the records of the office, or original specifications, drawings, or models belonging thereto, survive the recent conflagration?"
Answer. The rapidity of the conflagration prevented all access to the office, and, consequently, there is a total loss of models, drawings, records, and, indeed, papers of every kind.
2. "How many volumes of records and other official documents and papers, and how many portfolios of drawings were destroyed? Please state the number of each description or class of records, documents, and papers."
Answer. There were 168 volumes of records; these are particularly described in schedule A, annexed; and there were 26 portfolios containing 9,000 drawings.
3. "What number of volumes were there belonging to the library of the office, and what their cost or value? Please furnish a schedule of them. Can they be replaced?"
Answer. The number of volumes in the library were about 230, and cost $1,000. These can all be replaced. For inventory, see schedule B, annexed.
4. "What was the whole number of models destroyed, and what was the probable expense of their construction; that of the most expensive and valuable, and the average of all?"
Answer. The whole number is about 6,000 patented and 1,000 unpatented. It is impossible to make an approximate estimate of the original cost of these models, on account of the great expense patentees have, in most instances, incurred in constructing and re-constructing, and making various experiments and alterations.
5. "Were there any and how many new unpatented models in the office, with applications for patents, on which patents had not been issued?"
Answer. There were 250 which had been received under the new law, of which about 100 would have been patented and 150 rejected for want of novelty.
6. "Were there any and how many patents in the office returned for reissue, under the 13th section of the patent law, on which reissues had not been made?"
Answer. Five patents.
7. "What other effects belonging to the office were lost by the fire?"
Answer. All the furniture, model cases, stationary, and fuel, per schedule C.
8. "What is your opinion of the practicability of obtaining faithful duplicates of the more valuable and interesting models destroyed, and what portion of those lost would be necessary or desirable to exhibit the progress and rising gradations of mechanical science in this country, or be important and useful in facilitating the discharge of the duties imposed by law upon the officer and other tribunals appointed to decide the various questions of novelty in inventions?"
Answer. A faithful duplicate of most of the important models that were destroyed can, it is believed, be obtained. Three thousand models of select and valuable inventions would go far to restore that department of the office to a condition that would be both gratifying and useful.
The great importance of a set of models that exhibit the gradual progress and state of the useful arts is self-evident. It is due to the inventor and to science. Among the old models destroyed many were not, and never would be, practically useful, but, notwithstanding this, it is important that some of them should be restored. They exhibited the progress of inventions; they often furnished the ground work of important improvements. Fulton's improvements on the steamboat is a strong illustration. His improvements were based upon inventions that had been abandoned as utterly useless. Models are also useful as beacons to subsequent inventors. Many individuals have been saved years of labor and great expense by a few minutes' examination in the Patent Office. But another great benefit of these models is to enable the office to decide upon the novelty or originality of inventions.
Inventors are exceedingly tenacious, and will not yield to corrections unless furnished with substantial testimony. The models are important to applicants when examining the probability of success before filing their papers for a patent. Without models no information can be had except by a correspondence extremely onerous and expensive to Government. I may add that, such is the importance of models that, without a sufficient number to exhibit a connected series of inventions, it seems utterly impossible to execute the duties of Commissioner as the law requires.
9. "What would be the average expense of their construction?"
Answer. The average expense of 3,000 models may be estimated at from 30 to 40 dollars each.
10. "Generally, what are the evils apprehended from the loss of the models and records, and what remedy does your experience in the office and knowledge of its concerns suggest as practicable and appropriate?"
Answer. This calamity, so sudden and extensive, seems almost to justify despair. The Patent Office had been reorganized, the papers and models classified anew, and a library partly collected; all is gone, and not a vestige remains. My anxiety to save the records and drawings induced me to make several efforts to force my way through the fire to reach the door of the Patent Office, but in vain.
For a short time I doubted what could be done to repair the loss. I am happy to say that I believe personal effort, aided by the fostering hand of Government, can do much, and that the remedy will be co-extensive with the means used. Permit me to remark that few persons can realize the anxiety, the suffering, and litigation that may arise from this calamity. The hopes of thousands who have spent their all in advancing the arts of our country, depend on the continued protection of the patent law.
The claims of the patentees are great, and not less imperious than just. Already have they paid into the Treasury $160,000 over and above all expenses attending the Patent Office since its first organization; and hence it cannot be doubted that the means will be granted to restore, as far as possible, the losses now sustained. What then can be done? The evidence that is lost should be immediately supplied. The number of patents granted are about ten thousand; most of these can be obtained and recorded again. In all cases where duplicate drawings were furnished, one will accompany the patent, and can be copied. The deficiency of important drawings (if lost by the patentee) will be remedied in part by procuring some of the numerous copies furnished by the office during the last forty years for examination or litigation. Besides, the valuable inventions here have been, some of them, patented in Europe, and are found in foreign journals. The journals of our own country contain also many patents. A complete list of all patents issued can be procured. Interest will compel patentees and assignees to send in their patents for record in cases where the patent has not expired, and as those who have unexpired patents possess many expired ones, upon which improvements are made, it is believed 6,000 patents can be procured without much delay. If a law was passed requiring patents and assignments hereafter introduced as evidence, to be recorded subsequent to 15th December, 1836, this would secure a ready record of unexpired patents. To induce patentees to send in their original papers the Government must give assurance that the same shall be safely kept and transcribed and returned without delay. To inspire this confidence in patentees, I have, through the kindness of the city authorities, obtained accommodations in the City Hall, where fireproof rooms are furnished both for the office and models. I rejoice to say no danger can be apprehended here from fire. One inconvenience complained of by patentees, is the trouble and expense of transporting their models from distant parts of the country to Washington. To obviate this, I would respectfully suggest the expediency of receiving the models at certain depots in each State, to be forwarded at the expense of the Government. If Government would defray this expense of transportation, and provide the means of constructing such as are deemed absolutely necessary, I feel confident a more complete, if not so extensive a collection can, within a few years, be had again.
Many manufacturers were, prior to the late fire, preparing to send to the new Patent Office fabrics and manufactures receivable under the new law, and for which room is to be provided in the new building. I may safely add that such is the gratification of manufacturers and inventors at the facilities afforded by the new patent law for a display of their ingenuity,that the new building, with what may be replaced, will not only be filled immediately, but will surpass any thing of the kind in Europe. This calamity, I have remarked, can be chiefly repaired by exertion; and I ardently hope that the Government will appropriate the balance due the patent fund, and more, if necessary, to accomplish this object. The number of recording clerks will require the appointment of a few temporary clerks to compare the records, when made, with the original. An appropriation will be immediately needed to restore the loss. If this appropriation is made, patentees will be stimulated to high effort, and those in the office will be cheered in their struggle with surrounding difficulties. An appeal, if necessary, might be made to the pride of the nation. American inventors have proved to the world that the arts and sciences can flourish in free governments. The names of Fulton, Whitney, Whittemore, and many others, will be held in grateful remembrance; and since the greatest inventions, however useful to the world, have been of little benefit to the inventors themselves, it is due to their memory as citizen, to exhibit the efforts they made to advance the arts. Many of the most valuable improvements in labor saving machinery have been copied in Europe from the United States. No foreigner withholds his surprise at the improvements and progress of the arts as exhibited in the Patent Office.
Had not the patentees equitably a surplus of $160,000? If our country was oppressed with debt, even then a small grant of land, or its equivalent in scrip, would repair the loss. Can there be an American citizen to object to an adequate appropriation for this high purpose?
11. "What alterations, if any, has your experience as commissioner suggested in the provisions of the act of July, 1836, regulating and reorganizing the Patent Office?"
Answer. So far as my experience extends, I hesitate not to say, that the patent law is generally approved, and highly beneficial. It is equally advantageous to the public and the patentee. The former are defended from imposition, while the latter enjoy higher protection. Before the late law there was security for neither. The Patent Office only examined names and dates, and granted all applications presented in the proper form. Of course duplicates and triplicates were issued for the same inventions. The rights of parties were referred to the legal tribunals, and in the mean time spurious claims were selling throughout the United States.
The traffic in spurious patents will, it is hoped, be greatly lessened, and litigation, with her attending evils, be also diminished. Since the reorganization of the Patent Office in July, there have been presented about four hundred applications; ninety-five patents only have been issued; one hundred of the cases had not been examined. Some cases were rejected, others were returned for correction and alteration.
From past examinations I think about one-third of the applications will be rejected, and three-fourths of those finally granted will be materially altered, in consequence of being found, on examination, to claim more than is original, and thus come in collision with the rights of others. Sixty caveats have been entered, and the number will increase as soon as the law is more generally understood.
A doubt was entertained by the Commissioner of Patents whether, on the surrender of an old patent, more than one new patent could be reissued. The Attorney General has decided that several patents may be granted on a single patent surrendered. To guard against any inducement to defraud the revenue, each patent granted, (if more than one,) on a surrender, might be taxed thirty dollars.
It is respectfully suggested whether it would not be well to authorize the repayment to foreigners of two-thirds of the patent fee required of them when a patent is desired, for want of originality, as in the case of citizen.
The number of foreign applications is increasing. The new law was passed the last day of the session, and no other appropriation has been made to meet the expenses of the office, except the general provision of the law making the patent fund chargeable with all the salaries and other expenses. The appropriation under the old law could not be drawn, since all expenses accruing were chargeable to the new fund. The force in the office has been found insufficient to keep up the current business. I apprehend it was the design of the committee who reported the bill to increase the force in the office, but this was not done; and while the duties of the office have been greatly enlarged, no additional help has been allowed. Permit me to say that the current business of the office was, with some extra assistance, all brought up at the time of the fire, with the exception of the files on the examiner's desk, and that the receipts of the Patent Office since July have exceeded, by 7,000 dollars, all expenses since that period.
I would respectfully recommend the appointment of one additional clerk, and, also, another examiner. This office of examiner is a responsible station. No one can perform these duties without skill and experience. The duties of examiner must be great. Each application must be compared with caveats on file; with pending applications; with patents, models, and drawings, expired and unexpired; and, also, with foreign works on the matter of inquiry. All this must be done to ascertain the novelty of the application. After this, the specifications, drawings, and models must be examined., and made conformable to the law. Some specifications area very intricate and lengthy. A specification was nearly completed, when the fire broke out, which contained sixty pages of parchment. In a late patent for a rotary engine, three caveats were found interferences; and each caveat, in its general principle, interfered with patents granted in this country, and also in Europe. A tedious examination was necessary to determine the novelty and priority. In this examination many volumes (some in foreign languages) were referred to, and, although each applicant will be compelled to narrow his claims, yet each may have sufficient merit for a patent.
It is certainly desirable that the examinations should be so carefully made as to give satisfaction to the applicants and to the public. An appeal is allowed from the decision of the Commissioner; but this has never yet been claimed. Another examiner will give additional satisfaction, and greater dispatch. One hundred cases remained on the files of the examiner at the time of the fire, and were of course consumed. It may be remarked that, if the duties of examiner are confined to a single individual, his sickness or absence must suspend the operations of the office.
I will only add, this is certainly the favorable moment to make an effort to repair the loss. Interest, sympathy, and patriotism will unite. Justice demands all the reparation that can be made. Government has received from industry and ingenuity their choicest tribute. She confided the valuable repository to a place of little security. I have mourned, in common with others, at the ruins; but candor compels me to say that, without much help, I can do nothing to repair the loss. I leave, therefore, with the National Legislature, the importunities of those I am compelled to hear, but which I have not the power to relieve.
With the greatest respect,
I have the honor to be,etc.
HENRY L. ELLSWORTH
Hon. John Ruggles
Chairman, etc. Senate
Schedule of records and papers burnt in the Patent Office
Sixty volumes of records of specifications, large folio books, from 500 to 600 pages
Seven volumes of records of assignments
Six volumes entry books for patents issued
Thirty-three volumes of letters filed
Thirty-nine volumes of letters copied
All pending applications for patents, as near as can be ascertained 500
About 9,000 original specifications in files
One caveat book
One book of pending applications
One note book of examinations
Five classification books
One fee book
One day book
One check book
Three volumes heads of patents
Four volumes list of models
One volume entries under new law
Twenty-six portfolios for drawings
List of books in the Patent Office library which have been destroyed
Dobson's Encyclopedia ....................... 12 volumes Repertory of Arts ........................... 70 volumes Journal of the Franklin Institute ........... 26 volumes Silliman's Journal .......................... 25 volumes Transactions of the Society of Arts ......... 30 volumes Bourynee's Mechanics ........................ 12 volumes Baine's History of the Cotton Manufacture ... 1 volume Bell's Surgery .............................. 4 volumes Cooper's do ................................. 2 volumes United States Dispensatory .................. 1 volume Chaptal's Chemistry ......................... 4 volumes Berthotti on Dyeing ......................... 2 volumes Magazine of Popular Science from commencement 7 volumes Railroad Magazine ........................... 12 volumes Dufief's Dictionary ......................... 3 volumes Webster's Dictionary ........................ 1 volume Johnson's Dictionary ........................ 1 volume Mason's Reports ............................. 4 volume Nicholson's Dictionary of Architecture ...... 2 volumes Encyclopedia Metropolitan, Nos. 41 and 42 ... 2 volumes Nicholson's Encyclopedia, complete set ...... 8 volumes The Cultivator Some odd volumes of Gill's Technology Ten volumes of State Papers Estimated value $1,000.00 ========= --------------- C An estimate of the loss sustained by the Patent Office 7,000 models, cost not estimated 9,000 drawings, do do Library ......................................... $1,000.00 Model cases ..................................... 2,000.00 Furniture, including cases for papers, stationery, and parchment ......... 2,000.00 Fuel ............................................ 150.00 Office seals and press .......................... 150.00 Cost of record books and portfolios ............. 1,300.00 ----------------- D Estimate to restore the loss in the Patent Office 3,000 models, at $33.33 average .............. $100,000.00 From 5,000 to 6,000 drawings .................. 38,000.00 Record books ................................... 950.00 Recording patents and assignments .............. 15,000.00 Press and seal ................................. 150.00 Desks, book cases, and other office furniture 2,000.00 ___________ Total estimate $156,100.00