The National Academy of Inventors and the Intellectual Property Owners Association have published a list of the top 100 worldwide universities granted U.S. utility patents in 2015. Topping the list are the University of California, MIT, Stanford, University of Texas and Tsinghua University (China).
Leonard Lee, founder of Lee Valley Tools, a woodworking and gardening tool supply company, has died at the age of 77. Lee started selling woodworking tools by mail order in the late 1970s and then branched out into gardening tools, kitchen equipment, home hardware, clothes and books. LVT has 850 employees, $150 million annually in revenue and 19 retail locations. Lee was also an inventor who held more than forty patents for improvements in woodworking tools, jigs and devices.
Today is the Fourth of July, the 240 birthday of the United States of America. It also marks the 180th anniversary of the modern U.S. patent system. On this date in 1836, a new patent statute went into effect. A week or so later, on July 13, the first patent issued under the new act was granted to John Ruggles of Thomaston, Maine. In addition to being an inventor, Ruggles was a senator and one of the principal authors of the new law.
The Patent Act of 1836 was a watershed in U.S. patent history. It introduced (or re-introduced) the concept of examination: Patent examiners were required to search the prior art in order to validate the inventor’s claims that their inventions were new and non-obvious. The term of a patent was 14 years with the possibility of a seven year extension. The term was changed to 17 years in 1861.
Ruggles’ patent was called “Traction Wheels” for a “Locomotive Steam-engine for Rail and Other Roads.” The main idea of the invention was a system of cogs attached to a locomotive’s wheels for improved traction during icy or snowy conditions. Ruggles’ patent probably expired in 1850; there’s no evidence that he requested a seven year extension. He received at least one other patent, no. 202, in 1837 for a “rail for railways.”
Since 1836, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has issued more than 9.3 million patents.
The USPTO issued 298,446 patents in 2015, a decrease of 0.17 percent over 2014, and published approximately 380,000 utility and plant patent applications. Table 1 shows the number of documents by type.
Table 1. US Patents by Type Issued in 2015*
*Based on preliminary data from the USPTO website. Totals may change after the fact due to withdrawn patents and published applications.
The USPTO reached another patent milestone on April 7 by issuing patent no. 9,000,000.
Table 2. US Patent Number Ranges, Jan. 1 through Dec. 31, 2015
A few weeks ago Michelle K. Lee was officially appointed Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) director. She is the first woman to hold the position and the 53rd head in the agency’s two-hundred year history. Ms. Lee served as deputy director since January 13, 2014. The USPTO has been led by acting and deputy heads since the departure on January 31, 2013 of David Kappos, who served about 3.5 years.
The USPTO reached another patent milestone on April 7 by issuing patent no. 9,000,000 to inventor Matthew Carroll of Florida. Mr. Carroll’s invention is a system for collecting and conditioning rainwater from a car’s windshield and channeling it to the vehicle’s windshield washer reservoir.
Patent no. 8,000,000 was issued on August 17, 2011, slightly less than four years ago. See the Patent Milestones page for other milestones in U.S. patent history.
The EPO reports that patent filings were up 3.1 percent in 2014, to a record of nearly 275,000 applications. Approximately 65 percent of the filings originated from outside Europe with the U.S. accounting for 26 percent.