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Millions and Millions of Patents: Oh, the Humanity!

2mIn a nausea-inducing post, the US Patent and Trademark Office is trumpeting on its website the millions of patents it has issued. As the short version states: “The USPTO has issued millions of patents over the years. Number 1,000,000 was issued 100 years ago this month. Number 2,000,000 was issued in 1935. Take a closer look at these “million milestones” from patent history.” This disgusting puff-piece, of course, ignores the horrible cost of the patent system, and naturally, conflates innovation and invention, with patenting.

Incidentally, the PTO issues new patents every Tuesday–5,120 little state grants of anti-competitive monopoly privilege were issued this week, two days ago, with the latest being 7,996,916 for Process verification, claim 1 of which grants some Reno, NV company, IGT, a monopoly on this process:

1. A method of verifying the authenticity of gaming software stored in RAM of a gaming device, said gaming device having a gaming controller for executing gaming software programs at the gaming device, the method comprising: identifying a first gaming software program currently stored in the gaming device RAM, wherein the first gaming software includes a first portion of executable code stored in the gaming device RAM; determining a first identifier associated with the first portion of executable code; identifying, using the first identifier, a second gaming software program stored on a file storage device, wherein the second gaming software program has associated therewith an identifier which matches the first identifier, and wherein the second gaming software program includes a second portion of executable code; verifying an authenticity of the first gaming software program, wherein verification of the authenticity of the first gaming software program includes comparing bits of the first portion of executable code to bits of the second portion of executable code, and determining whether any portion of the second portion of executable code matches the first portion of executable code; and generating an error event if it is determined that no compared portion of the second portion of executable code matches the first portion of executable code.

With the PTO granting about 5000 patents a week, and given that we are only 3,084 patents away from 8,000,000, expect that number to be hit next Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2011.

Incidentally, in case you are wondering, here are the other million-patent milestones since the first two the PTO highlights:

Notice the time to issue another million patents is decreasing: about 110 years for the first million, 24 years for the second million, then 26, 15, 8, 7, and 5. So you can see that, just the flood of legislation and regulations (including a mountain of IP law and treaties), we can expect to be increasingly inundated with a flood of patents (especially with economically confused patent shills arguing for a “Patent Stimulus Plan” to get the economy roaring–calling for President Obama to “issue an Executive Order directing the Patent Office to start allowing patents”. Who knows. Maybe we are headed for an IP singularity instead of the technological one.

Anyway, here is the full puff piece–if you can stand it:

Millions of Patents

The United States issues patents by the millions. Our patent system was created to support intellectual property, which is recognized in our Constitution: “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.”

Under the current numbering system for patents, number 1 was issued in 1836. A million patents later, number 1,000,000 was issued by the United States in 1911. The U.S. Patent and Trademark office will issue patent number 8,000,000 in 2011. In the coming weeks we’ll take a look at some of these “milestone millions” from over the years.

Patent no. 1,000,000 – August 8, 1911

Patent number 1,000,000 was issued to Francis H. Holton of Akron, Ohio for his improvement in vehicle tires to make them more durable and puncture resistant. Click on the patent drawing below to see a larger version. Or to read the complete patent, click on the description to open a pdf file.

Drawing of Patent no. 1,000,000 First page of patent no. 1,000,000

On August 20, 1911, the New York Times noted the arrival of patent 1,000,000 and printed this fascinating story about Holton’s “up-to-the-minute contraption” that was “one of the crying necessities of this modern world.”

Patent no. 2,000,000 – April 30, 1935

Like patent number 1,000,000, patent number 2,000,000 was related to tires and it was granted to Joseph Ledwinka of Philadelphia for the Edward G. Budd Manufacturing Company. The focus for Ledwinka’s patent was for rail cars and consisted of a pneumatic tire, used in combination with a rail wheel provided with a retaining flange. Light in weight, Ledwinka claimed that a rail car provided with wheels and tires of this type could attain exceptional high rates of speed, be braked as severely as desired, and do so safely. Click on the patent drawing to see a larger version. Or to read the complete patent, click on the description to open a pdf file.

Drawing of patent no. 2,000,000First page of patent no. 2,000,000

What did the media have to say about the milestone? The Ellensburgh (WA) Capital Newspaper published a photo of Patents Commissioner Conway P. Coe presenting Ledwinka with his patent. Meanwhile, the Tuscaloosa (AL) News also looked at patent number 1,999,999. What a difference a digit makes!

Update: United States Patent and Trademark Office Issues 8 Millionth Patent, for a “visual prosthesis.” Without the Constitution this would never have been invented! Thanks be to the gods Founders!


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To the extent possible under law, Stephan Kinsella has waived all copyright and related or neighboring rights to C4SIF. This work is published from: United States. In the event the CC0 license is unenforceable a  Creative Commons License Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License is hereby granted.