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Even though the US Patent and Trademark Office has been delegated the job of issuing patents to new inventors and inventions, the idea of patenting was not a uniquely American one. The idea actually goes back to 1449 when King Henry VI awarded a patent for a unique way to manufacture stained glass. Without patents, countries would have little control over their economic destinies so, later in history, many of the US's 13 colonies has some form of patent law.
The principals were written directly into the US Constitution in Article I, Section 8, Clause 8. Still, at that time, no entity titled the US Patent and Trademark Office existed to manage the filing and granting of patents to new inventors. Additional patent acts were passed in 1790, 1793 and 1836, which provided the foundation for such a US patent office down the road.
During Reconstruction after the Civil War, there was a significant increase in the number of patents being filed and the need for efficiency was clear. It was the Patent Act of 1836 that established a patent office under the Department of State, which would ultimately lead to what is now known known as the US Patent and Trademark Office. This act also called for copies of patents to be distributed libraries around the country offering the general public easy access to them. In 1975, the US government patent office became the Patent and Trademark Office and is now one of about a dozen bureaus of the Department of Commerce.
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|