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Patent Act of 1790

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Title: Patent Act of 1790  
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Subject: Patent Act of 1836, Article of manufacture, History of patent law, Machine (patent), Composition of matter
Collection: 1790 in Law, History of Patent Law, United States Federal Patent Legislation
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Patent Act of 1790

The Patent Act of 1790 was the first patent statute passed by the federal government of the

  • Patent Act of 1790, Ch. 7, 1 Stat. 109-112 (April 10, 1790) The First United States Patent Statute

External links

  • Bugbee, Bruce Willis (1967). Genesis of American Patent and Copyright Law. Washington: Public Affairs Press. 
  • Walterscheid, Edward C. (1997). "Charting a Novel Course: The Creation of the Patent Act of 1790". AIPLA Quarterly Journal 25: 445. 

Further reading

  1. ^ a b ”.The U.S. Patent System Celebrates 212 Years The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. 9 Apr. 2002
  2. ^ Patent Act of 1790, Ch. 7, 1 Stat. 109-112 (April 10, 1790) The First United States Patent Statute CHAP. VII. --An Act to promote the progress of useful Arts.(a )
  3. ^ ELDRED V. ASHCROFT (01-618) 537 U.S. 186 (2003) 239 F.3d 372, affirmed.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h Operation of the Patent Act of 1790Federico, P.J. , 2003.
  5. ^ The Environmental and Public Health Impacts of U.S. Patent Law: Making The Case For Incorporating a Precautionary PrincipleKolitch, Shawn. , 2006, p. 235.
  6. ^ ”. The New York Times, 7 Nov. 2009.Quick, Patent It!
  7. ^ a b The Written Description Requirement – An Ambiguous Yet Critical Requirement for Patent ApplicantsGoldschmidt, Mark R. , 2002.
  8. ^ Patent LawMcDermott, John T. – Fall 2006, 2006, p. 6.


See also

The 1790 Patent Act was amended for several reasons. The examination process required an unreasonable amount of time and soon became criticized by those in charge of administering it, the most vocal member being Thomas Jefferson. Investors also believed that “patents were too difficult to obtain” under the act. Congress removed the examination process three years after the 1790 Patent Act was passed, and inventions no longer needed to be deemed as “sufficiently useful and important” to be granted a patent.[7] The new act transformed the process of granting patents from initially requiring strict examination by high government officials to requiring no examination at all.[4]

Reasons for amending the act

[4] Fifty-seven patents were granted during the three years the 1790 Patent Act existed. Three of these patents were granted in 1790, thirty-three in 1791, eleven in 1792, and ten in 1793 before February, which is when the following patent act was adopted. There is little available information regarding the subject matter of these patents, because all of these records along with other documents of the Patent Office were destroyed in the

Patents passed under the act

Cases of infringement were dealt with by a jury, which assessed the damages made and appropriate punishment. The person who infringed, if found guilty, was made to hand over all of the infringing devices to the owner of the patent. Patents could be repealed by a district court within one year after it was granted if found to be infringing. However, if one was to bring his case to trial and lose, he would have to pay all costs. Several infringement suits involving the patents granted under this act occurred between 1790 and 1793, which are detailed by an act passed on June 7, 1974. In the event that a patent was found to be unjustly repealed, all suits, actions, processes and proceedings under the act of 1790 that had been set aside, suspended or abated by original reason for why it should be repealed could be given back as if the act had not been repealed.[4]


The act was intended to grant patents only to the “useful Arts,” which was usually the work of skilled workers and artisans, especially in the fields of engineering and manufacturing.[6] Obtaining a patent required first completing an examination, but this examination requirement was later dropped with the passing of the Patent Act of 1793. The inventor was required to submit “a specification...containing a description...not only distinguish[ing] the invention...but also to enable” a person knowledgeable of the art to use the invention for its intended purpose.[7] This specification was made in writing and included a drawing and model if possible. Applicants were not required to give an oath.[4]

Obtaining a patent

The authority to grant and refuse patents was handled completely by the Patent Board, which was composed of three members: the Secretary of State, the Secretary of War, and the Attorney General. The Department of State was where the act was administered because that is where the necessary books and records were kept and where filed papers were received. The three members of the Patent Board held meetings every so often and discussed the patent applications they had received. Sometimes the Patent Board would designate a day, during which a hearing would be held and the patent petitioner would have an opportunity to explain his case in person. However, these meetings were not scheduled as regularly as could have been, and the process for reviewing applications advanced slowly as each application required thorough and careful inspection.[4]

Operation of the act

The origins of the 1790 Patent Act can be found in House Resolution 41, which brought about a discussion concerning the constitutionality of authorizing patents of importation. House Resolution 41 is the reason for why the Patent Act of 1790 did not provide for patents of importation when it was finally passed.[3] Patent Board members, who also called themselves the “Commissioners for the Promotion of Useful Arts”,[4] were given the authority to grant or refuse a patent after deciding if the invention or discovery was “sufficiently useful and important.”[5] The first board members included Thomas Jefferson, Henry Knox, and Edmund Randolph. Obtaining a patent required an overall fee of about four to five dollars:filing the application cost fifty cents plus ten cents per hundred words of specification: two dollars for producing the actual patent, one dollar for affixing the Great Seal and twenty cents for endorsement and all other services.[4] The duration of each patent was assigned by the Patent Board, and could be of any length as long as it did not exceed fourteen years.[1]



  • Background 1
  • Operation of the act 2
  • Obtaining a patent 3
  • Infringement 4
  • Patents passed under the act 5
  • Reasons for amending the act 6
  • See also 7
  • References 8
  • Further reading 9
  • External links 10
United States Patent X1

[2] It granted the applicant the "sole and exclusive right and liberty of making, constructing, using and vending to others to be used" of his invention.[1]

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