July 1962 Electronics World
Table of Contents
Wax nostalgic about and learn from the history of early electronics. See articles
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
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
By 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
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
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.
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
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
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