U.S. Patents to the Citizens of Porto Rico from 1899-1917

By Luis Figarella
November 18, 2016

Puerto Rico idea conceptToday, on the eve of the discovery of Puerto Rico in 1493 by the Spaniards, we will take a look at U.S. patents issued to citizens of Porto Rico, as it is formerly known as and sometimes called.

Last year we spoke about the US patents issued to residents of Puerto Rico up to the transfer of ‘ownership’ from Spain to the US after the former’s miserable military performance during the all-to-brief Spanish-American war (April 25 to August 12, 1898). I find Ivan Musicant’s “Empire by Default” to provide fascinating insight about the conflict, particularly the bravery of the Spanish sailors at Santiago, despite ‘world-class’ incompetence in leadership.

For someone like me, whose ultimate birth citizenship came from the expansion of this ‘adventure’ to PR (invaded on July 25th), it is an important era, not unlike knowing which side your family was on during the US Civil War. The era selected here goes from the cease fire, August 12th, 1898 to to March 2, 1917 (when those born in PR became US Citizens at birth due to the Jones-Shafroth act).

By the way, since Spain ‘surrendered’ but was not ‘defeated’ (go figure that one with a glass of Mascaró Catalonian Brandy), they were entitled to their weapons. So they removed all the guns they could carry from San Juan’s forts, and hence why they seem ‘bare’ of guns when you visit).

In the interim, ‘Boricuas’ were indeed a strange fish, in effect citizens of the colony of Porto Rico, but not of any independent nation (unless citizenship was separately obtained). In fact, they were not even allowed free entry into the US. One of the ‘Insular Cases’ ‘Gonzalez v. Williams 192 U.S. 1 (1904)’ came from that status. Not all chose ‘Porto Rico citizenship’, many who were in PR during the ‘change’ remained as ‘Subjects of the King of Spain’ (to each his own).

In the period in question, there were 38 patents issued to residents of ‘Porto Rico’, although they were not all ‘Citizens’ of PR. For example, the first issued ‘after the change’ was Patent No. 689,671 to Felix Perez Hermida, who was a Citizen of Cuba residing in PR. Patent No. 763,269 was issued to US Navy Lt. Mark St. Clair Ellis, who listed his address as the USS Bancroft, then stationed in San Juana. Patent No. 903,587 went to Luis León, identified as a subject of the King of Spain, and the first PR Design patent, D49,992, was issued to Mr. Giusti, a citizen of France.

But let’s focus on the ones listed as awarded to at least one inventor who claimed to be a ‘Citizen of Porto Rico’:


Cane Planter
U.S. Patent No. 798,612
Issued Sept. 5, 1905

Antonio Mariani appears to be the first ‘Citizen of Porto Rico’ to receive a US Patent during this period. Not surprisingly, related to sugar-cane planting.

Lacking seeds, sugar-cane is planted by inserting ‘shoots’ directly onto the ground. PR had a large number of Corsican immigrants in the 1870s (Spain was looking for white immigrants, preferably Catholics), which is how we Figarella’s ended up in PR. Yauco had a large number of them, perhaps Don Antonio was one? Ten months from filing to issuance, take that Track1!



From U.S. Patent No. 809,079.

U.S. Patent No. 809,079
Issued January 2 1906

Ponce returns! With this patent issued to Carlos Vives. (Recall that Ponce, PR’s 2nd City dominated as residence to most inventors from PR in the XIXth Century.

Those who are not ME’s or towing aficionados will be glad to now a ‘thill’ is the ‘tongue’ coupling of a trailer.


Centrifugal Separator
U.S. Patent No. 926,859
Issued July 6, 1909

José Bruno, residing in the southern sugar-cane town of Guayama, invented a ‘no-surprise’ centrifugal separator for the separation of sugar (destined for your coffee/cake) from the molasses (mainly destined for your Rum/Cows).


U.S. Patent No. 1,051,841
Jan. 28, 1913

Co-inventors were Juan Llobet (Citizen of Porto Rico) and Juan Gimenez (Subject of Spain), who received a patent for their Yoke. Unlike up north, Oxen were the preferred (over mules) for sugar-cane plowing/hauling pre-tractors. I remember seeing them ‘arando’ (plowing) hills in PR as a child in the ‘60s, and witnessed their daily use in sugar-cane harvesting in the Dominican Republic in 1972. Both Juan’s were listed as residents of Havana, Cuba, a common destination for ‘Boricuas’ pre-Castro. My dad worked in Cuba in the early 50’s fresh off his all-expenses paid trip courtesy of the US Army to a ‘police action’ in Korea in 1952.


Method of Making Coffee-extraction tablets.
U.S. Patent No. 1,058,279
April 8, 1913

Guillermo Völckers declares himself a ‘Citizen of Porto Rico’, and invented a pill/cake capable of being dissolved in water for coffee. Of course instant coffee is credited to Allais of France in 1881.


U.S. Patent No. 1,084,593
Issued January 13, 1914

Co-inventor Hilario de Escobales was a ‘Citizen of Porto Rico’ this time residing in New York. (Gonzalez having been resolved in 1904, one hopes Don Hilario was able to be in NYC legally!). They also received 1,115,407 in October of the same year, and Mr. Escobales received 1,203,592 that Nov.



From U.S. Patent No. 1,185,389.

Flush Tank
U.S. Patent No. 1,185,389
Issued May 20, 1916

Miguel Ferrer contributes a new type of Flush tank, and if you think this sort of thing is not important, I invite you to visit any friend’s camp with no flushing toilet, you will come back a changed person and much more appreciative of Don Miguel and his fellow flush inventors!


U.S. Patent No. 1,195,752
Issued August 22, 1916

Co-inventor Ramon Abarca, besides being from PR, is listed as from Bayamón, my hometown! (I’ll remember to raise a drink in the centenary of his patent this coming August). A condenser for sugar-cane processing. In 1917, they received 1,270,681 for a cane crusher roller.

BTW, Don Ramon is also the first inventor from PR to receive a patent as a US Citizen, receiving 1,300,091 which issued on April 8, 1919, but when filed on October 11, 1917 listed him as a freshly minted US Citizen.


Coffee peeling and classifying machine
U.S. Patent No. 1,219,079
Issued March 13, 1917

Luis Gandia focuses on another agri-business, that of coffee, with his coffee berry processing machine. Note it was filed pre-US citizenship, but issued just after ‘US Citizenship’ for Don Luis (assuming he accepted it).


From U.S. Patent No. 1,232,206.

From U.S. Patent No. 1,232,206.

Dental Model-Mounter
U.S. Patent No. 1,232,206
Issued July 3, 1917

Ernesto Miró patented the model-mounter, showing that marketing is always important.

Well that closes the 20 yrs of Porto Rico citizenship in IP, maybe if we write the next one, we can find some female inventors (roughly 8 of my 60+ issued/allowed patents for clients have at least one female co-inventor).

While my practice is based in Nashua, I have a number of clients in my native PR, whom I try to visit regularly, although no, not as much in the winter as you might think. You don’t get brownie points at home when you’re in PR and a foot of snow falls on Nashua!

The Author

Luis Figarella

Luis Figarella is a USPTO registered Patent Agent, an inventor with 10 U.S. patents and Professional Engineer with a solo patent prosecution practice at the Matrix Patent Agency in Nashua, NH. Over the last decade, Luis has prosecuted over 60 patents for clients in New England, NJ, NM, CO, FL and Puerto Rico, as well as the Dominican Republic and Colombia, in the areas of Electrical, Mechanical, Optical, Medical, Internet/Computers and similar arts. Besides Patent prosecution, Luis loves Aviation and History.

Warning & Disclaimer: The pages, articles and comments on IPWatchdog.com 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 as of the time of publication and should not be attributed to the author’s employer, clients or the sponsors of IPWatchdog.com. Read more.

Discuss this

There are currently 6 Comments comments.

  1. Anon November 18, 2016 7:13 am

    Please fix the title…

  2. xtian November 18, 2016 9:14 am

    When was Puerto Rico spelled “Porto” Rico? Title and throughout.

  3. mike November 18, 2016 12:26 pm

    Explained in the first paragraph – “…of Porto Rico, as it is formerly known as and sometimes called.”

    A quick Wikipedia search gives plenty of support. I have no objections to politely calling out spelling errors, but if you are going to be so curt about it, please at least read enough of the article to see if there is an explanation.

  4. Anon November 18, 2016 2:48 pm

    I saw the “sometimes called” comment, but doubt that even in those “sometimes” that both spellings are used in a single article.

    Nothing “curt” about asking for the current (mainstream) correct form of the country (nor in pointing out that the explanation does not suffice).

  5. Bob November 18, 2016 5:18 pm

    From a historical context it is appropriate to continue to use the older spelling particularly if you are quoting or paraphrasing from the original. A direct quote would of course require it even if it was misspelled, with a ‘sic’ signifying the error was in the original.

  6. Luis Figarella November 25, 2016 4:58 am

    Thanks to all of you for reading, particularly to those who read enough to hit any of the links and ‘get’, that back in 1899-1917, ‘PORTO RICO’ was the name used, even in the patent!!!

    So, NO, the tittle is not going to be ‘corrected’, it IS correct. (Thanks Mike and Bob, for ‘getting it’), and as always thanks Gene for publishing it.