Yesterday the United States Patent and Trademark Office profiled U.S. Patent No. 1,000,000, which was issued on August 8, 1911 to Francis H. Holton of Akron, Ohio for his improvement in vehicle tires, which made them more durable and puncture resistant.
Under the current numbering system for patents, U.S. Patent No. 1 was issued on July 13, 1836 to John Ruggles of Thomaston, Maine for his invention related to the locomotive steam engine. Therefore, it took just over 75 years to issue 1,000,000 United States patents. Today the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is poised to soon issue patent number 8,000,000, perhaps as soon as next week.
Every Tuesday the USPTO issues another batch of patents, and the highest numbered utility patent issued today, August 9, 2011, was U.S. Patent No. 7,996,916, issued to Warner Cockerville et al, and assigned to IGT. The invention relates to a method of verifying the authenticity of gaming software stored in RAM of a gaming device.
With the issuance of U.S. Patent No. 7,996,916, the USPTO is now just 3,048 patents away from 8 million U.S. patents being issued since 1836, when U.S. Patent No. 1 was issued. This week the USPTO issued 4,699 utility patents. This suggests that the 8,000,000 milestone will likely be reached on August 16, 2011, or at the very latest August 23, 2011.
Typically when the USPTO has an important milestone there is some kind of ceremony to commemorate the event. For example, back in 2005 when the Patent Office issued Design Patent No. D500,000, Secretary of Commerce Carlos M. Gutierrez and Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property Jon Dudas together ceremonially awarded the 500,000th design patent for DaimlerChrysler Corporation’s Crossfire convertible design.
Below is a table showing the milestone U.S. utility patents and how long it took to reach that milestone from the previous milestone.
||Years to Milestone
|U.S. Patent No. 1||July 13, 1836||NA|
|U.S. Patent No. 1,000,000||August 8, 1911||75 years and 26 days|
|U.S. Patent No. 2,000,000||May 12, 1932||20 years, 10 months and 4 days|
|U.S. Patent No. 3,000,000||May 6, 1955||22 yeas, 11 months and 25 days|
|U.S. Patent No. 4,000,000||December 28, 1976||21 years, 7 months and 22 days|
|U.S. Patent No. 5,000,000||March 19, 1991||14 years, 2 months and 9 days|
|U.S. Patent No. 6,000,000||December 7, 1999||8 years, 8 months and 19 days|
|U.S. Patent No. 7,000,000||February 14, 2006||6 years, 2 months and 7 days|
|U.S. Patent No. 8,000,000||Likely August 16, 2011||5 years, 6 months and 2 days|
As you can see, after taking over 75 years to go from 1 to 1,000,000, the U.S. patent system averaged about 21 years per million U.S. patents, which lasted from 1911 to 1976. Then the rate of patenting in the U.S. dramatically increased, which is confirmed by the “years to milestone” column above and the chart below, which shows the tremendous increase in demand of U.S. patents beginning in the 1980s.
This dramatic increase coincides with the forming of the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in 1981. Up until then the overwhelming majority of the Regional Circuit Court of Appeals had never met a patent with valid claims, making obtaining a patent of questionable value. The Federal Circuit was formed for the express purpose of settling patent laws, creating a single national set of patent laws enforced by a single Court of Appeals. With this settling of patent laws obtaining a patent became quite valuable because if the innovation were truly new and unique in comparison with the prior art patentees could enforce their rights in court without fear of losing all right, title and interest to the underlying innovations.
So who will be awarded U.S. Patent No. 8,000,000? It is virtually certain that the Patent Office already knows and is gearing up for some kind of celebration. Not that it matters particularly who receives U.S. Patent No. 8,000,000, the rights attached will be identical to U.S. Patent No. 7,999,999 and U.S. Patent No. 8,000,001, and every other patent for that matter. But the entity that receives U.S. Patent 8,000,000 will receive some extra publicity to be sure!