April 10, 1790 — The US Patent system formed today when President George Washington signed the bill that gave inventors rights to their creations. The absolute power to grant a patent went to the first board members — Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson, Secretary of War Henry Knox, and Attorney General Edmund Randolph.
The bill defined the subject matter of a US patent as “any useful art, manufacture, engine, machine, or device, or any improvement thereon not before known or used.”
Fees were $4-$5 per patent, with the board deciding on the duration of each patent, not to exceed 14 years.
On July 31, 1790, Samuel Hopkins of Philadelphia, received the first US patent for an improvement in “the making of Pot ash and Pearl ash by a new Apparatus and Process.” In 2013, 302,948 patents were granted in the United States.
Words of Wisdom
Fifty-seven patents were granted during the three years the 1790 Patent Act existed. Three of these patents were granted in 1790, thirty-three in 1791, eleven in 1792, and ten in 1793 before February, which is when the following patent act was adopted. There is little available information regarding the subject matter of these patents, because all of these records along with other documents of the Patent Office were destroyed in the Patent Office Fire of 1836. The first patent was granted on July 31, 1790, to Samuel Hopkins for his invention of Making Pot and Pearl Ashes.