The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) issued US patent number 8,000,000 on August 16, 2011. I’ve been considering writing a blog post for the last month or so about who will receive United States patent number 8,000,000 and as it turns out on Friday, August 19th my law office received a patent that we wrote numbered 7,999,701 that was issued the same day number 8 million was issued.
It was then that I realized how close we were to a truly milestone patent. It would have been pretty cool if we could have written the patent having the number 8,000,000.
But it was not to be because on August 16, 2011 the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) issued patent number 8,000,000 to Second Sight Medical Products, Inc., for a visual prosthesis apparatus that enhances visual perception for people who have gone blind due to outer retinal degeneration.
The invention uses electrical stimulation of the retina to produce the visual perception of patterns of light. The product – the Argus® II – is currently in U.S. clinical trials and has received marketing approval in Europe.
In his press release Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO David Kappos said
“The USPTO plays a major role in serving America’s innovators by granting the intellectual property rights they need to secure investment capital, build companies and bring their products and services to the global marketplace.”
But even though it was number 8,000,000 it wasn’t really the 8 millionth patent. The first United States patent was issued, signed by George Washington himself, in 1790 to Samuel Hopkins for his invention of potash. But based on the current patent numbering system, US Patent No. 1 was granted to John Ruggles in 1836 for a type of train wheel.
So why is there a discrepancy between the first patent issued and patent number one? It is because when patents first began being issued in the United States, they did not receive a number. Now, they are referred to as the “X patents,” because they have since been assigned numbers, preceded by an ‘X,’ based on the order in which they were issued. In 1836, the system for patent applications was overhauled, and resulted in a new numbering system that started with the number 1.
Here are a couple of milestone patents of interest posted by the USPTO:
It took 75 years after Patent No. 1 was issued, for US Patent No. 1,000,000 to issue to Francis Holton. It took less than six years to get from patent 7 million to patent 8 million.
Holton received his 1911 patent for an improved, more durable and puncture-resistant tire. Described as a pneumatic tire with solid material in its core, Holton’s tire was acclaimed by the New York Times as one of the “crying necessities of this modern world.”
On April 30th, 1935, the United States Patent Office celebrated another milestone: its 2,000,000th patent issued. On behalf of the Edward G. Budd Manufacturing Company, Joseph Ledwinka developed an improvement of the railway car in which a combination of a pneumatic tire and a rail wheel were used to enable the cars to safely travel at high speeds.
Ledwinka was not new to the world of patents; since 1899, he had been granted 247 others. The Edward G. Budd Manufacturing Company, which was a major player in the railway industry in the early and mid twentieth century, still exists today as ThyssenKrupp Budd.