|U.S. Patent No. 20493, held by
H. L. Kendall, Baltimore, Maryland. Patent date: June 8th,
In Article I, Section 8, Clause 8 , the Constitution empowers
Congress "To promote the progress of science and useful
arts by securing for limited times to authors and inventors
the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries."
Patent law must carefully balance the rights of the inventor
to profit from his or her invention (through the grant of a
temporary monopoly) against the needs of society at large to
benefit from new ideas.
The patent bill of 1790 enabled the government to patent "any
useful art, manufacture, engine, machine, or device, or any
instrument thereon not before known or used." The patent
act of 1793 gave the secretary of state the power to issue a
patent to anyone who presented working drawings, a written description,
a model, and paid an application fee. Over time the requirements
and procedures have changed. Today the U.S. Patent and Trademark
Office is under the auspices of the Commerce Department.
and Patent Law, The
Eli Whitney Museum