And the Award Goes To…

 · Carolyn Crabb

Our Glare Testing System was recently patented by the US Patent Office, #8,550,631!

Kevin Butler, our Director of Technology, is now in the company of other patented inventors like Christopher Sholes (Typewriter), Henry Phillips (Phillips screw), and William Seward Burroughs (Calculator). But just who was granted Patent #0,000,0001?

The word patent comes from the Latin ‘litterae patentes’, meaning an open letter. Such letters were used by medieval monarchs to confer rights and privileges. It is generally acknowledged that the first informal system was developed in Renaissance Italy. This system was introduced into the rest of Europe by émigré Venetian glass-blowers to protect their skills against those of local workers.

The first recorded patent of invention was granted to John of Utynam. In 1449, he was awarded a 20-year monopoly for a glass-making process previously unknown in England. In return for his monopoly, he was required to teach his process to native Englishmen. That same function of passing on information is now fulfilled by the publication of a patent specification.

On April 10, 1790, President Washington signed the bill which laid the foundations of the modern American patent system. It allowed the intrinsic right of an inventor to profit from his invention, recognized by law. Previously, privileges granted to an inventor were dependent upon the prerogative of a monarch or upon a special act of a legislature. Later that year, Samuel Hopkins of Pittsford, VT, was granted the first U.S. patent, for an improvement in the making of potash. Then, it was essential for making soap and glass, dyeing fabrics, baking, and making saltpeter for gunpowder. Today its principal use is in fertilizers. The patent reviewer was Thomas Jefferson, the Secretary of State and himself an inventor. Jefferson next passed the document to the Secretary of War for his review and then obtained signatures from the Attorney General and, finally, from President Washington.

As more and more patent applications began pouring in, Jefferson realized that patent examining was too much for busy Cabinet members. So, in 1802, the U.S. Patent Office was formed. At that time, patents were issued by name and date rather than number. The Patent Office had already issued nearly 10,000 patents, when a fire destroyed many of the original records in December of 1836. Using private files, the office was able to restore 2,845 patents. The restored records were issued a number beginning with an “X” and called the “X-Patents.” Thus Samuel Hopkins patent was actually designated patent X1. Unfortunately, the patents that could not be restored were cancelled.

The Patent Act of July 4, 1836, established the current numbering system, starting at #1. Patent #1 was awarded to John Ruggles for his invention of traction wheels. Today, more than eight million patents have been issued to Americans and other nationals. M&S also holds Patents 7,354,155; 7,926,948; 8,167,429; 8,419,184 and 8,425,040.


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