Directors of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

Since the first U.S. patent law was enacted in 1790, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has been led by more than 52 directors and countless acting and deputy heads, listed in Table 1. The title of the chief executive officer of the Patent Office has changed over the decades, as shown in Table 2.

  • The longest serving head of the Patent Office was Dr. William Thornton, who served from late 1802 until his death on March 3, 1828.
  • The longest serving Patent Office CEO of the 20th century was Thomas E. Robertson, who served from April 6, 1921 to June 25, 1933, a total of 4,463 days.
  • The Patent Office head with the shortest term was Melvin H. Coulston, who served for a mere 34 days in 1921.
  • Benjamin Butterworth is the only Commissioner to have served two non-consecutive terms, 1883-1885 and 1897-1898.
  • Robert Holland Duell and Charles Holland Duell are the only father and son to have served as Commissioners, in 1875-1876 and 1898-1901, respectively.

Table 1. Directors of the USPTO, 1790-Present

Year Name Number Term Length (Days)
2015 Michelle K. Lee 53rd Mar. 13, 2015-
2014 Michelle K. Lee Deputy Jan. 13, 2014-Mar. 12, 2015 423
2013 Teresa Stanek Rea Acting Feb. 1, 2013-Jan. 12, 2014 345
2009 David Kappos 52nd Aug. 13, 2009-Jan. 31, 2013 1267
2008 John Doll Acting Nov. 15, 2008-Aug. 12, 2009 270
2004 Jon W. Dudas 51st Jan. 12, 2004-Nov. 14, 2008* 1769
2001 James E. Rogan 50th Dec. 1, 2001-Jan. 9, 2004 769
2001 Nicholas P. Godici Acting Jan. 21, 2001-Nov. 30, 2001 313
1999 Q. Todd Dickinson* 49th Jan. 1, 1999-Jan. 20, 2001 751
1993 Bruce Lehman 48th Aug. 11, 1993-Dec. 31, 1998 1968
1990 Harry Manbeck 47th Mar. 12, 1990-May 1, 1992 782
1985 Donald J. Quigg 46th Oct. 13, 1985-Oct. 31, 1989 1480
1981 Gerald J. Mossinghoff 45th July 8, 1981-Jan. 21, 1985 1294
1979 Sidney A. Diamond 44th Nov. 29, 1979-Jan. 17, 1981 416
1978 Donald W. Banner 43rd June 5, 1978-June 30, 1979 390
1974 C. Marshall Dann 42nd Feb.11, 1974-Aug. 31, 1977 1297
1972 Robert Gottschalk 41st Jan. 7, 1972-June 20, 1973 531
1969 William E. Schuyler, Jr. 40th May 7, 1969-Aug. 25, 1971 841
1964 Edward J. Brenner 39th Mar. 11, 1964-May 6, 1969 1822
1961 David Lowell Ladd 38th Apr. 17, 1961-Oct. 1, 1963 898
1953 Robert C. Watson 37th Feb. 18, 1953-Mar. 1, 1961 2934
1949 John A. Marzall 36th Dec. 2, 1949-Feb. 3, 1953 1159
1947 Lawrence C. Kingsland 35th Sept. 10, 1947-Dec. 1, 1949 813
1945 Casper W. Ooms 34th July 20, 1945-Sept. 9, 1947 782
1933 Conway P. Coe 33rd June 26, 1933-June 15, 1945 4373
1921 Thomas E. Robertson 32nd Apr. 6, 1921-June 25, 1933 4463
1921 Melvin H. Coulston 31st Mar. 3, 1921-Apr. 5, 1921 34
1920 Robert Frederick Whitehead 30th Aug. 10, 1920-Feb. 5, 1921 179
1917 James T. Newton 29th Aug. 27, 1917-July 19, 1920 1058
1913 Thomas Ewing 28th Aug. 15, 1913-Aug. 15, 1917 1462
1907 Edward Bruce Moore 27th June 1, 1907-Aug. 14, 1913 2267
1901 Frederick Innes Allen 26th Apr. 1, 1901-May 31, 1907 2252
1898 Charles Holland Duell 25th Feb. 5, 1898-Mar. 31, 1901 1150
1897 Benjamin Butterworth 19th (2nd term) Apr. 13, 1897-Jan. 16, 1898 278
1893 John S. Seymour 24th Apr. 16, 1893-Apr. 12, 1897 1457
1891 William Edgar Simonds 23rd Aug. 1, 1891-Apr. 15, 1893 623
1889 Charles Elliott Mitchell 22nd Apr. 1, 1889-July 31, 1891 851
1887 Benton J. Hall 21st Apr. 12, 1887-Mar. 31, 1889 719
1885 Martin V. B. Montgomery 20th Mar. 18, 1885-Apr. 11, 1887 754
1883 Benjamin Butterworth 19th Nov. 1, 1883-Mar. 3, 1885 488
1880 Edgar M. Marble 18th May 7, 1880-Oct. 31, 1883 1272
1878 Gen. Halbert Eleazer Paine 17th Nov. 1, 1878-May 6, 1880 552
1877 Ellis Spear 16th Jan. 29, 1877-Oct. 31, 1878 641
1875 Robert Holland Duell 15th Oct. 1, 1875-Dec. 31, 1876 458
1874 John Marshall Thacher 14th Nov. 1, 1874-Sept. 30, 1875 333
1871 Gen. Mortimer D. Leggett 13th Jan. 16, 1871-Oct.31, 1874 1384
1869 Samuel S. Fisher 12th Apr. 26, 1869-Nov. 10, 1870 563
1868 Elisha Foote 11th Aug. 1, 1868-Apr. 25, 1869 267
1865 Thomas C. Thaker 10th Aug. 16, 1865-Jan. 20, 1868 887
1861 David P. Holloway 9th Mar. 28, 1861-Aug. 16, 1865 1602
1860 Philip Francis Thomas 8th Feb. 16, 1860-Dec. 10, 1860 298
1859 William Darius Bishop 7th May 29, 1859-Feb. 15, 1860 263
1857 Joseph Holt 6th Sept. 10, 1857-Mar. 14, 1859 551
1853 Charles Mason 5th May 16, 1853-Aug. 4, 1857 1542
1852 Silas Henry Hodges 4th Nov. 8, 1852-Mar. 25, 1853 138
1849 Thomas Ewbank 3rd May 10, 1849-Nov. 8, 1852 1279
1845 Edmund Burke 2nd May 7, 1845-May 10, 1849 1465
1836 Henry L. Ellsworth 1st July 11, 1835-May 6, 1845 3955
1835 J.C. Pickens Feb. 1, 1835-Apr. 30, 1835 88
1829 Dr. John D. Craig June 11, 1829-Jan. 31, 1835 2061
1828 Dr. Thomas P. Jones Apr. 12, 1828-June 10, 1829 425
1802 Dr. William Thornton Oct. 1802-Mar. 3, 1828 9285
1790 Thomas Jefferson 1790-1793

*Including acting appointments.

Table 2. Titles of the Directors of the USPTO, 1790-Present

Year Title Notes
1999 Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office American Inventor’s Protection Act of November 29, 1999
1982 Assistant Secretary of Commerce and Commissioner of Patents and Trademarks Public Law 97-366 of October 25, 1982
1975 Commissioner of Patents and Trademarks Public Law 93-596 of January 2, 1975
1836 Commissioner of Patents Patent Act of July 4, 1836
1802 Superintendent of Patents

 Sources

Dobyns, Kenneth W. The Patent Office Pony: A History of the Early Patent Office. Fredericksburg, Va: Sergeant Kirkland’s Museum and Historical Society, 1994.

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