US Constitution Patent Clause

The US Constitution Patent Clause was the first federal copyright law. Previously each state had their own laws regarding copyrights, as per the Articles of Confederation, the Continental Convention did not have the authority to pass national laws.

It was during the Continental Congress of 1787 that James Madison of Virginia and Pinckney of South Carolina each submitted proposals regarding the inclusion of intellectual property laws into the United States Constitution. Ultimately, these proposals resulted in the Copyright Clause, which is sometimes referred to as the Copyright and Patent Clause, and it was this that provided Congress the rights to issue patents and copyrights.

Thomas Jefferson’s Involvement

At the time of the Continental Convention of 1787, Thomas Jefferson was serving in France as the United States Ambassador and was unable to attend the convention, despite being considered a member of the Continental Congress. However, Thomas Jefferson would go on to become Secretary of State of the United States, under President George Washington. As such, he was also a member of the very first Patent Board, along with Henry Knox and Edmund Randolph, who were the Secretary of War and the Attorney General, respectively. It is worth noting that then-President Washington was quite an advocate of the patent system, as he urged the Continental Congress of 1787 to pass legislation pertaining to patents and copyrights.

During this time, however, Jefferson was not keen on granting copyrights and patents, as he saw them as a means of certain individuals or businesses to create monopolies. This is despite him being an inventor and writer, himself. In fact, neither Jefferson nor his fellow founding fatherBenjamin Franklin, also a renowned inventor and writer, never themselves, sought patents or copyrights. In fact, Franklin stated in his autobiography, “as we enjoy great advantages from the inventions of others, we should be glad of an opportunity to serve others by any invention of ours; and this we should do freely and generously.”

A few years later in 1789, Jefferson seemed to have changed his tune a bit on the subject of copyrights and patents. It was at this time that Jefferson wrote to James Madison, suggesting that an article be added to the Bill of Rights, providing terms limits on intellectual property. In his letter, he stated, “monopolies may be allowed to persons for their own productions in literature, and their own inventions in the arts, for a term of not exceeding ___ years, but for no longer term and for no other purpose…”

Secretary Jefferson is largely considered to have been the first patent administrator and patent examiner of the United States.

Patent Act of 1790

It would not take long for the newly formed United States of America to create laws regarding patents and copyrights. In fact, the Patent Act of 1790 was signed into law on April 10, 1790, with the Copyright Act of 1790 being signed into law shortly thereafter, on May 31, 1790. Samuel Hopkins was the very first beneficiary of these new laws only a couple of months later, with Washington having signed his patent on July 31, 1790.

It was now been well over 200 years since the Patent Act and the Copyright Act were signed into law, and while certainly many changes have been made, to keep up with the times, to keep up with technology, the basic concepts of those original acts have remained the same.

How Are Patents Issued

Have a great new idea for which you are looking to obtain a patent? Well, doing so would be a good move, as obtaining a patent will ensure that your idea and products are protected, as being yours. The basics of how a patent is issued include:

  • If you have an invention, Congress may authorize you being issued a patent, either by general or by special law.
  • Don’t assume that your brilliant idea will necessarily be granted a patent, as the Patent Office is responsible for determining which ideas are to be unpatentable.
  • Should the above occur, however, you will have the ability to make an appeal, preventing new evidence to the Patent Office.

If you need help with the US patent clause, you can post your legal needon UpCounsel’s marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Menlo Ventures, and Airbnb.