Patent Models

Photo of a Patent Model

The nineteenth century was a time of amazing growth in America. Within a relatively short span of time, the country was transformed from a rural society to an industrial giant. Patriotism, ambition, and optimism ran through the land like currents of electricity. The number of patents issued during this time was incredible, and the search for self-sufficiency and greater comfort made inventing a sort of national pastime.

On July 4, 1836, President Andrew Jackson signed a bill into law that established a new and improved patent system in the United States. All applicants needed to present three items prior to reviewal for a patent: a written description, a schematic drawing, and a model of the invention.

At the time the bill was signed, models were already in popular use. An inventor found a model of his invention very useful, as did the Patent Examiners, especially if the former hadn't accurately or clearly described all aspects of his contraption. If it sounded like something already in existence, an Examiner could have a look at the model to help clarify or illustrate what the invention was intended to be.

As the decades passed, though, models were taken advantage of and seen as an easy out to writing good descriptions. Inventors began slacking in their written accounts of inventions because they just figured that the model would substitute for anything they had carelessly left out. But the Patent office caught on quickly and no longer permitted the model to serve in lieu of information that was lacking in the drawing or description. The model collection, originally used to help patentees establish the true nature of their inventions, grew to be a resource that helped the Patent Office convince applicants whose inventions were not new that what they had simply was not patentable.