June 19, 2018
Fitch Even was formed as a partnership back in 1859, around the time that the Patent Office issued Patent No. 25,000. Today Fitch Even celebrates the issuance of U.S. Patent No. 10,000,000, granted to Raytheon Co. and inventor Joseph Marron for “Coherent Ladar Using Intra-Pixel Quadrature Detection.” We congratulate the USPTO on this remarkable accomplishment.
Patent No. 10,000,000 does not, in fact, signify that the USPTO has issued exactly 10 million patents. The Patent Office (as it was then known) began issuing patent numbers sequentially on July 11, 1836, when Patent No. 1 was issued to U.S. Senator John Ruggles for “Traction Wheels.” But the actual first U.S. Patent was granted by the first Patent Board on July 31, 1790, to inventor Samuel Hopkins for a process of making ”pot ash and pearl ash.”
Between 1790 and 1836, the Patent Office issued approximately 10,000 patents, identifying them by date. Official records of many of the earliest patents were lost in a fire at the Patent Office in December 1836. The Patent Office recovered many of these early patents, and subsequently assigned these patents retroactive “X” numbers. At times the Patent Office used fractional numbers as new patents were recovered, to avoid disruption in the sequence of subsequently numbered patents. For example, there exists a U.S. Patent No. X8736¾. There are also a few patents issued after 1836 that have fractional patent numbers, such as U.S. Patent Nos. 2,712,152½ and 3,262,124½.
Additionally, the numbering scheme for utility patents does not count design patents, plant patents, or reissue patents. The USPTO and predecessor agencies have granted over 820,000 design patents, 29,000 plant patents, and 46,000 reissue patents. Reissue patent No. 1 was granted in 1838, while design patent No. 1 issued in 1842 and plant patent No. 1 in 1930. These figures do not include statutory invention registrations. Some fractional numbers exist in these ranges as well, such as U.S. Patent Nos. D90,793½ and Re1400½.
Conversely, some patent numbers in the sequence between 1 and 10,000,000 are unused, typically because they represent patents that were withdrawn just prior to issuance. The earliest withdrawn patent number is 100, and the most recent withdrawn patent number is 9,999,135. In addition, it seems the USPTO no longer acknowledges certain patents. For example, the USPTO has removed from its website U.S. Patent 3,060,165, titled “Preparation of Toxic Ricin,” issued in 1962 to the U.S. Army.
However patent numbers are counted, U.S. Patent No. 10,000,000 represents a milestone in innovation and an extraordinary achievement for the USPTO. We at Fitch Even look forward to partnering with our clients as we continue the journey to the next 10 million patents.
--Written by Fitch Even partner Allen E. Hoover
Fitch Even IP Alert®