The U.S. Patent System Part 1: Overview of Inventors in America

An overview of the U.S. Patent system and the number of people inventing in American each year.

The U.S. Patent System Today

"Every man, woman, and child is a potential inventor," says Isaac Fleischman, longtime public information officer for the U.S. Patent Office, "and 90% of them have tried to invent something. Most think about it a week or so and then let go, but a surprisingly large number take the idea to a patent lawyer or engineer and, if not discouraged, start on the path to a patent."

The majority run out of internal steam and their fires of genius flicker out. A goodly number talk it over with their friends, or with a lawyer, engineer, or teacher, and then give up: "You know, I might have done something with my idea for an automatic toast freshener, but . . ." However, over 100,000 patent applications are filed each year, and in 1973 54,960 U.S. citizens were granted patents, which is one patent per 3,790 persons. Oddly enough, Delaware led on a per capita basis with one patent per 1,052 persons. California had the most: 7,603, which comes to one patent for every 2,668 residents of the State. Foreigners obtained 23,344 U.S. patents. The grand total for 1973 was 78,304 patents granted.

You are probably reading this because: (1) you are interested in getting a patent--or trademark; (2) you wonder how good the U.S. patent system is; or (3) you want a general understanding suitable to an educated citizen. We'll focus on how to get a patent and answer the other questions in passing.

Is it a patent you want? First, are you talking about a patent, a trademark, or a copyright? Since 1870 (and 1939 for prints and labels) all copyright matters go to the Library of Congress. For patents, design patents, plant patents, and trademarks you go to the U.S. Patent Office.

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