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Jefferson, Thomas (1743-1826) to Samuel Huntington

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Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC06036 Author/Creator: Jefferson, Thomas (1743-1826) Place Written: New York, New York Type: Letter signed Date: 15 April 1790 Pagination: 1 p. : docket ; 24.4 x 19.6 cm.

Jefferson, Secretary of State, transmits two copies (not included) of the first Patent Act of the United States to Huntington, Governor of Connecticut.

The U.S. Constitution empowered the Federal Government to issue patents by providing, in article 1, section 8, that Congress shall have the power "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."

The first act of Congress under that authority was passed April 10, 1790, giving complete power to grant patents to a board consisting of the Secretary of State, the Secretary of War and the Attorney General. The Secretary of State at that time was Thomas Jefferson, and hence all applications for patent were examined by him personally. This act was short lived, and only a few patents were issued under it, since the officials by whom it was administered had too many other pressing duties to devote adequate time to the work involved.

A new law was passed on February 11, 1793, under which the function of issuing patents was placed under the Secretary of State, but approval was still required of the President, Secretary of State, and Attorney General. Patents were granted according to compliance with the formal requirements of submitting a description, drawings, a model and the necessary fee. This system of issuing patents without any examination for novelty remained in practice until 1836, by which time they were being issued at a rate of 600 per year. Dissatisfaction with this method, resulting in countless patents for inventions which were unoriginal, led to a completely new act regarding the granting of patents, passed on July 4, 1836

New York. April 15th 1790-
Sir --
I have the honor to send you herein inclosed [sic], two copies duly aithenticated of the Act to promote the progress of useful Acts. And of being with sentiments of the most perfect respect,

Your excellency,
Most obedient
& most humble servant

Th: Jefferson
His Excellancy
The Governor
of Connecticut

Secretary Jefferson
April 15th 1790
recied April 22 - 90
answer same day
No. 20

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