Friday, April 10, 2015

April 10: American Patent System

On this date in History .... April 10, 1790:

President George Washington signed the bill which began the American patent system. For the first time in history, the law recognized the right of an inventor to profit from his inventions. 

Early patents were reviewed by Cabinet members until Jefferson realized it was too much to handle. The official patent office was formed in 1802 to take care of the unpredicted volume. 

The first patent was issued in 1790 to Samuel Hopkins for an improvement in the making of potash (used for lye soap). Hopkins also received the first Canadian patent for his invention.

The first woman to receive a patent is a little muddled. In 1715, Sybilla Masters invented a new corn mill to make hominy from Indian corn.  She took the patent application to England but the patent had to be issued in her husband’s name because she was a woman.  This makes her the first American woman inventor.  

However the 1st actual patent held by a woman was issued to Hannah Slater in 1793 for a new way to spin cotton thread.  Hannah was the wife of Samuel Slater, a prominent businessman and owner of multiple of mills and cloth spinning factories.  Samuel Slater was trained in England and by the time he was 21, he was well versed in the machinery and their operation.  He heard of America's growing interest in the machinery but England had laws that prevent the designs from being exported.  He memorized as much about the machinery as possible and brought the information, all in his head, to America.

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