Archive for February, 2010

THE PATENT SYSTEM

February 26, 2010

Thomas Jefferson was the first United States patent examiner, and this is what he must have thought about the creation of our patent system:  His was an agrarian country that might gain commercial advantage with superior farming techniques and implements.  He undoubtedly looked at the British intellectual property system and decided that it would be wise to adopt something like it for the United States.  His new country had been an agricultural crown colony but as a new republic it was free from the domination of a distant power.  It was now able to control its destiny; and especially important, its commercial destiny which at that time was envisioned to be primarily agricultural — Jefferson and many of the founding fathers were farmers.  At that time most devices were made of brass, iron, steel, copper and wood.  Such machines had gears, wheels and levers, and to our modern eyes these devices may seem quaint, but to Jefferson’s eyes they were the essence of technology.  In his time they were the work of individual inventors, not of industrial corporations, which would not exist for many years.  The inventors, maybe they could be thought of as clever tinkerers for the most part, were furthering the American economy by making it easier to farm and engage in 18th-century industrial activities that could lead to more productivity and wealth for the American states.  (more…)