Mr. President, Why not Host Your Ball at the Patent Office

By Gene Quinn
January 13, 2013

The U.S. Patent Office as it looked prior to the Civil War.

The Old Patent Office is one of the most beautiful buildings in all of Washington, DC. Presently, it hosts the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the National Portrait Gallery. For those who are not from DC or familiar with the city, allow me to explain that obtaining directions to the Old Patent Office on your electronic device of choice may be difficult because there is no street address. At least I have never been able to find a street address for the building. The Old Patent Office Building takes up an entire city block in DC, located on the corner of Eighth and F Streets, roughly between the White House and Capitol.

Yes, the Patent Office was once upon a time thought to be so important to our new nation that this ornate building was located between the White House and the Capitol. Yet today there are forces throughout academia and elsewhere that would rather see the entire U.S. patent system dismantled. Oh how we have departed from the views of Madison, Jefferson and the other founders who thought a strong patent system would be central to the success of the new nation. That, however, is a story for another day.

The Old Patent Office Building has had a storied history, which is commensurate with what our early leaders, such as Presidents Jefferson, Madison and Lincoln thought of the patent system. In addition to housing the Patent Office from 1842 to 1932, in 1865 the Old Patent Office hosted President Lincoln’s second inaugural ball in the model room. This marked the first time that a government building was used for the inaugural ball. See Inaugural Ball, from the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies.

Depiction of President Lincoln’s Inaugural Ball at the Patent Office in 1865.

So, Mr. President, why not host an inaugural ball either at the Old Patent Office Building or at the current Patent Office in Alexandria, Virginia? Or even better, why not host one event at the Old Patent Office Building just blocks from the White House and also host another event in the Madison Building at the current Patent Office in Alexandria? After all, President Madison (whom the building is named after) was one of the primary champions of including patents in the U.S. Constitution. What better way to show the American people commitment to innovation and the high-tech economy than celebrating this special day the way that President Lincoln did some 148 years ago in a building named after the Father of the Constitution?

Those who know anything about politics know that it is first and foremost about optics, at least in the age of the Internet; the age of 24/7 cable TV news. Can you imagine the photographs of great historical significance? I realize this is short notice but what inventor could resist the temptation to be a part of such an event? There are numerous Hall of Fame inventors still living, who routinely assemble several times a year for inductions into the Hall of Fame or an IPO event in DC. I’m sure many of the most notable inventors of our time could be convinced on short notice to attend a Presidential event at the Patent Office to celebrate a second inauguration.

Mr. President, you have already decided to use the Lincoln bible at his swearing in ceremony, so why not go the distance and do something truly unexpected, remarkable and historically significant? Celebrate patents and the American innovative spirit the way President Lincoln did by starting your second term at the Patent Office. Perhaps even come up with your own memorable, sure to be quoted for ever line about innovation, patents and incentive. Lincoln famously said: “the patent system added the fuel of interest to the fire of genius.”  Mr. President, you could have a “Lincoln moment” in a very high profile, bipartisan way.

I realize that there are only two official inaugural balls scheduled, both of which will take place at the Washington Convention Center. I suppose it is too late to schedule a third, but what about at least making a cameo appearance at either the Old Patent Office Building or the current Patent Office in Alexandria? Traffic will be a mess in Washington, DC on inauguration day anyway. You will already be out and about in the bullet-proof limousine escorted by all kinds of security, both visible and otherwise. Why not take a few moments to make history. How often can one make history, after all? How often can a few minutes in one location with a few choice words ensure that the event will be captured and reported in perpetuity in every biography and historical text ever written about you and your Presidency?

This is your moment Mr. President. Please consider doing something special to mark the moment in a way that overtly celebrates innovation, the U.S. patent system, and which will inspire this and future generations of inventors in a manner comparable to President Lincoln.


The Author

Gene Quinn

Gene Quinn is a Patent Attorney and Editor and founder of Gene is also a principal lecturer in the PLI Patent Bar Review Course and an attorney with Widerman Malek. Gene’s specialty is in the area of strategic patent consulting, patent application drafting and patent prosecution. He consults with attorneys facing peculiar procedural issues at the Patent Office, advises investors and executives on patent law changes and pending litigation matters, and works with start-up businesses throughout the United States and around the world, primarily dealing with software and computer related innovations. is admitted to practice law in New Hampshire, is a Registered Patent Attorney and is also admitted to practice before the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. CLICK HERE to send Gene a message.

Warning & Disclaimer: The pages, articles and comments on do not constitute legal advice, nor do they create any attorney-client relationship. The articles published express the personal opinion and views of the author and should not be attributed to the author’s employer, clients or the sponsors of Read more.

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