Anticipate This!™ | Patent and Trademark Law Blog

The Truth is Out There: X-Patents.

Posted in General Commentary by Jake Ward on February 26, 2007

 X1 seal

X-Patents are all the patents issued by the United States Patent and Trademark Office from July 1790 to July 1836.  The X-patents were burned in a fire in December 1836.  Ironically, the X-patents were in temporary storage at the time while a more modern and fireproof headquarters was under construction. There was also a fire station right next door, but it was in the winter and in the frigid early morning hours the volunteer firefighters discovered their leather hoses were cracked and a pump did not work.  

No copies or rosters of the X-patents were maintained by the government at the time, leaving only the inventors’ copies to reconstruct the collection.  Roughly 10,000 X-patents are believed to have issued, but only about 2,800 have been recovered.   Following the 1836 fire, the present serial numbering system was instituted, with U.S. Pat. No. 1 issuing on July 13, 1836 (to a J. Ruggles for “Traction Wheels”).

X-1, the first U.S. patent, was issued to Samuel Hopkins on July 31, 1790.  The patent was drawn to a process of making potash.  Potash is an impure form of potassium carbonate, mixed with other postassium salts, and is an ingredient used in fertilizer.  The patent was signed by President George Washington, Attorney General Edmund Randolph, and Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson.

A digital image of an existing copy of the X-1 patent may be viewed at the USPTO database here.  The original copy is in the collections of the Chicago Historical Society.

JW Note:  A little historical food-for-thought to start off the week.  Enjoy.

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