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Patent Agents


The first patent law was introduced in Venice in the 15th century, providing inventors with property rights to their inventions, preventing others from using those inventions without authority, and enforcing the patent law when it was violated. Several centuries later, the First Congress of the United States modeled the Patent Act of 1790 on the patent law of Venice. On July 31, 1790, the first U.S. patent was granted to Samuel Hopkins for his improvement to the method of making potash, which was a combination of potassium salts and mild alkalis used in mixtures to produce soap, glass, alum, and saltpeter (an ingredient in gunpowder). Patent No. 1 was signed by President George Washington, Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson, and Attorney General Edmund Randolph.

Patent law was unified on an international level through the Paris Convention for the Protection of Intellectual Property, an act that was signed in 1883. The Paris Convention recognized patent right on an international scale and established a union that issued common codes and laws for the protection of intellectual property in other countries. The Paris Convention has been amended at times throughout the years, with the last amendment occurring in 1979.

In 1802, the first Patent Office was established in the United States, when an official in the Department of State was given the title Superintendent of Patents. The Patent Office was transferred to the Department of Interior in 1849, and since 1925, it has been part of the Department of Commerce. The name was changed to Patent and Trademark Office in 1975, and U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in 2000. The Leahy-Smith America Invents Act, signed by President Barack Obama in 2011, is the most significant reform to patent law since the 1950s, with some reforms being:  "first to invent" was changed to "first to file," and the USPTO was given the power to set its own fees.

The United States Patent and Trademark Office issues patents for inventions that grant the inventors with property rights. The general term that a patent provides protection for is 20 years from the date of the patent application filed in the United States; in some instances the patent term may be from the date of an application that has been filed at an earlier time. U.S. patent grants are only applicable in the United States, U.S. territories, and U.S. possessions. As stated in the patent, the patent grant confers to the inventor "the right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling" the invention in the United States; it also grants the right to exclude importing the invention into the United States. It should be clarified that the patent is granted to inventions that the inventor has already created, and it does not grant the right to make, use, offer for sale, sell, or import the invention. Also, it is up to the patent holder to enforce the patent without the USPTO's aid. They may do this with the help of patent agents and other patent practitioners.

Since the Patent Act of 1790, the United States Patent and Trademark Office has issued more than 8 million patents. In 2018, it received a total of 643,303 patent applications (counting applications in all categories and from foreign and U.S. origin), and granted a little more than half (339,992) with patents.