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Patent Information for the Inventor - Part 1

July 1962 Electronics World

July 1962 Electronics World

July 1962 Electronics World Cover - RF Cafe  Table of Contents 

Wax nostalgic about and learn from the history of early electronics. See articles from Electronics World, published May 1959 - December 1971. All copyrights hereby acknowledged.

Not having ever applied for a patent, I do not know how much of what appeared in this "Patent Information for the Inventor" article from a 1962 issue of Electronics World magazine is still valid. The fundamentals are probably about the same. One thing that has changed since this article was written is the name change in 1975 from the U.S. Patent Office to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), which occurred when ownership was passed from the Department of the Interior (1849-1925) to the Department of Commerce (1925-present). The schedule of fees has grown to a very complex table of definitions and requirements for various types of patents and services. A Basic Filing Fee runs $320 for big businesses, $160 for smaller concerns ("Small Entity"), and $80 for individuals with no more than four current patents ("Micro Entity). That compares to $25 in 1962 ($220 in 2021 money per BLS). July 31, 1790, the first U.S. patent was issued to Samuel Hopkins for an improvement "...in the making of Pot ash and Pearl ash by a new Apparatus and Process." In 1962 a total of about 3 million patents had been assigned. The 10 millionth patent was awarded on June 19, 2018, the for a "Coherent LADAR [System] Using Intra-Pixel Quadrature Detection." See Part 2 in the August 1962 issue.

Patent Information for the Inventor - Part 1

Patent Information for the Inventor Part 1, July 1962 Electronics World - RF CafeBy Joseph F. Verruso

Senior Lab Technician, Westrex Corp.

Part 1. Basic knowledge about our patent system and a step-by-step procedure on obtaining a patent.

"The Congress shall hare the power... to promote the progress al science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors authors and inventors the exclusive rights to their respective writings and discoveries." (United States Constitution: Article I, Section 8)

This clause in the Constitution gave birth to the modern-day patent system. To be more specific, it provides the inventor with exclusive rights to his discoveries and inventions and gives Congress the power to enact laws relating to patents. One of the basic purposes of the patent system is to protect the inventor. This protection helps stimulate and promote the progress of the useful arts within the United States.

To promote this progress even further, the Patent Office makes available to anyone, pertinent publications and patents that will provide others with the knowledge of the invention and, with this knowledge, may conceive of a better way of doing the job. All these factors induce the inventor to invent, and if his idea is a success, will give the public the opportunity of using it.

Over three-million patents have been granted since the first patent was signed by George Washington in 1790. The applicants have ranged from the unknown to the famous. Most of us picture the inventor as a person working alone, painstakingly, and without aid. This image goes back to the time of Bell and Edison when precision equipment and components were at a minimum. In today's world of electronics, the modern-day inventor is usually an engineer or scientist working for a large corporation. Any discoveries or inventions developed during the work-day are usually assigned to the corporation.

The purpose of this article is to provide the industrial or independent inventor with basic information concerning patents and the patent system. Many details are omitted and many complications have been ignored, for to fully cover the patent system in such limited space would be impossible. References at the end of next month's article are listed for those who want more detailed information on the subject.

What Can Be Patented

What is patentable? This is a common question asked by potential inventors. In the language of the statute, any person who "invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter or any new and useful improvements thereof, may obtain a patent," subject to the conditions and requirements of the law.

A new process or method, related to the industrial or technical field, in most cases is patentable. The term "manufacture" describes articles which are made and includes all manufactured items. The word "useful" is an important part of the statute and failure to understand its meaning has been the downfall of many possible patents. The word "useful" in the statute means that the invention has a useful purpose and that it will perform as intended. A patent is not granted for an idea or suggestion for a new machine, but for a new invention and its usefulness. A complete description of the actual machine or other subject matter is required before a patent will be issued.

Patents are not granted for methods of doing business, methods for solving mathematical problems, or alleged inventions of perpetual-motion machines. An invention must be new. If the invention has been made public either by printed publication or sale, the inventor must apply for a patent before a year has passed or, otherwise, the right to a patent will then be lost forever.

An invention that was known or used by others or patented in this or a foreign country, cannot be patented. Minor changes which would be obvious to a person having skill in the art of invention, such as the substitution of one material for another or changes in size, are not considered patentable inventions. Inventions relating to special nuclear material or atomic energy for atomic weapons are not patentable, in accordance with the Atomic Energy Act of 1954.

A careful study of the invention, its applications and/or the feasibility of other ways of doing the job, should be made by the inventor himself. Contrary to public opinion, a profit can only be made on an invention if it is salable. Therefore, the invention should have features that would attract the public (or a manufacturer if the invention involves a machine or process used in fabricating a product) before any money is spent on patenting it. The following steps should be taken by an inventor to insure maximum protection.

Basic Steps for Inventors

The inventor should keep a careful record of all data, purchases, correspondence, and drawings covering his invention. The data and the drawings should be signed by the inventor and witnessed and dated by one or more trustworthy friends. If an interference should ever occur, the only thing that will satisfy the Patent Office or a United States court is the testimony of one or more persons having knowledge of the facts. In this way, one person other than the inventor can testify that the facts presented are true. Many people believe that mailing a registered letter to themselves, describing the invention, will protect them from infringement litigation. This is not true. An inventor's priority right can only be supported by a witness other than the inventor.

Once it has been determined that the invention is useful and practical and the decision has been made to seek a patent, a preliminary search should be made. A search is important, because it will show if the invention has patentable features by comparing it with other related patents in the same field. A search can be made either by the inventor or a patent practitioner. A patent practitioner is a person registered to practice in the Patent Office and to prepare and prosecute patent applications. These persons are either patent attorneys (most of whom are lawyers) or patent agents (non-lawyers). The Patent Office has a roster listing registered practitioners qualified to prepare and prosecute patent applications. This roster may be consulted at any of the field offices of the Department of Commerce or the Small Business Administration. A copy of the roster "Patent Attorneys and Agents Available to Represent Inventors Before the Patent Office" can be purchased from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington 25, D.C. The Patent Office will forward, without charge, at the request of the inventor, a list of patent practitioners in his region.

A search involves a trip to the search room of the Patent Office in Washington. A proper search requires both time and skill and for this reason most inventors choose to employ persons who have had experience in this type of work. However, if the inventor decides to make the search himself, the staff at the search room will assist him in deciding which patent classes and subclasses should be searched. The search room and scientific library are open from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on work days and Saturdays, 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

If the inventor cannot make the trip to Washington, he may order from the patent office copies of lists of cross-referenced patents in the sub-classes which are being searched. However, there are certain libraries and institutions, such as the New York Public Library and New York University, which have on hand a set of numerically arranged patents which can be inspected by the inventor. Once the inventor finds the patents which come close to his invention, copies may be ordered from the Patent Office for 25 cents each. Some libraries have the Manual of Classification (list of classes and subclasses of patents) and copies of the Official Gazette (a weekly publication announcing new patents), so that the inventor does not have to communicate with the Patent Office until he finds the patents that will help him.

A comparison of the patents found in the search and the advice of the practitioner should govern the inventor's decision on whether or not to seek a patent. If a search has revealed that the new invention includes valuable features not already covered by patents, an application should be drawn up by the practitioner.

Patent Application

If the inventor wishes, he may prosecute the patent application himself, but this requires professional knowledge and skill which only comes from years of training and experience. Most inventors choose a patent practitioner to make the search and prosecute the patent application because in this way the attorney or agent, being in on the ground floor, is aware of all the facts and can provide the greatest possible protection. It should be understood at this point that if an interference arises only a patent attorney can represent the inventor in a court of law.

The application consists of three parts: the Formal Papers, the Specifications, the Claims, and also a drawing illustrating the invention. There is no official form for patent applications, but the general format can be found in the publication "General Information Concerning Patents," which can be purchased from the U.S. Government Printing Office.

The Formal Papers include a petition which is basically a request for a patent; the power of attorney, which July, 1962 gives the attorney the right to prosecute the patent application; and the oath that the inventor takes in which he states that he believes himself to be the first and original inventor of the invention described in the application. The oath must be taken in the presence of a notary public or other official authorized to administer oaths. The inventor must place his full name on the oath, including his middle name or initial. The full post office address of the inventor must also appear on the oath. This represents the subject matter covered by the Formal Papers of the patent application.

The Specification portion of the application is a complete description of the invention, written in such a manner that one skilled in the art of invention would have no difficulty in making or using the invention from the description. The specifications must include all features which make the invention different from other inventions and from what is already in widespread use. If the invention is an improvement on another invention, the Specification must point out the part or parts involved in the improvement. When drawings are included in the Specifications, there should be a brief verbal description of the drawings while the description of the invention in the text should relate to the drawings by means of reference numbers or letters. All drawings must be signed by the inventor and must meet the standards for drawings, as prescribed by the patent office.

At the end of the Specifications, there is a section which is called "Claims." It is the "Claims" that fix the boundaries and the amount of protection provided by the patent. The Claims must be written in such a way as to provide the inventor with the greatest amount of protection. For this reason, "Claims" are written in broad language so as to provide the inventor with protection while still including one or two features which distinguish the invention from earlier inventions. The claims cannot be too broad to the point where they infringe on the claims of earlier inventions, therefore the writing of claims requires a high degree of skill and professional experience.

Once the application is completed and carefully checked by both the practitioner and the inventor, a filing fee of $30.00 and a fee of $1.00 for each claim in excess of twenty should be enclosed with the application. The application should then be mailed to the Commissioner of Patents, Washington 25, D.C. Models were once required with the patent applications, but this is no longer necessary unless requested by the Patent Office. Models were deemed to be unnecessary since the required specifications and drawings are to be full, clear, concise, and exact terms so that a person skilled in the art of invention can understand the invention without the aid of a model.

In the concluding installment next month, the author will discuss the procedures followed by the Patent Office leading up to the granting of a patent



Posted May 26, 2021
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