Wednesday, June 4, 2014

First Patents

What was the first patent?  Since its beginnings, the United States has issued three patents with claims to being the first patent. 

The first legal patent was issued in 1790 to Samuel Hopkins for an improvement in making potash and pearl ash.  Potash and pearl ash were early industrial alkalis that were used in making soaps, glass, bleaching fabric and the manufacture of gunpowder.  At the time potash was an impure form of potassium bicarbonate and was manufactured by burning hardwood and then mixing the ashes with water to leech out the alkali.  This water was then boiled off to generate a black corrosive tar.  Today, you can see the same process in action in old charcoal grills:  when the charcoal gets wet it creates a corrosive effect that eventually eats through the grill.  Hopkins innovation was to burn the ashes a second time in a furnace before leeching the residual in water.  This second burning increased carbonate formation which increased the yield of the process.

The original patent document, now known as X1, was signed by George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.  While Canada did not exist as a country at the time, the process is considered Canada’s first “patent” because the Quebec parliament authorized a “reward” to Hopkins for his discovery.

In 1836, Congress passed a law reorganizing the patent office.  Under the new system, patents were no longer issued by name and date but by an assigned patent number.  Patent Number 1: “Locomotive steam-engine for rail and other roads” was issued to Senator John Ruggles on July 13th, 1836.  Senator Ruggles, a Jacksonian Democrat from Maine, was Chairman of the Patents and Patent Office Committee and eventually became known as the “Father” of the Patent Office. 

Senator Ruggles’ invention was for a cog and gearing system that improved the traction of train wheels.  The patent has been cited several times since its issue, most recently in February 2013.

During the Civil War, the Confederate States of America also maintained a patent office in Richmond Virginia that issued 266 patents.  While the records and models were destroyed in the war, it is known that their first patent was issued in August 1861 for a breech loading gun.

Below is a summary of selected patents that have been recently issued in textile related classification codes:

Reinforcing element for a glove, and glove, in particular a goal keeper's glove having such a reinforcing element:  A reinforced glove, especially for a goal keeper's glove, which is designed to allow bending in one direction.  The reinforcement comprises two bending elements which extend in a longitudinal direction of a finger with  blocking elements to prevent bending in the opposite direction.  Patent #:  8646112.  Inventor:  Nix and Schwartz.  Assignee:  Puma SE.

Sports glove having improved wrist strap: A protective sports glove with adjustable dual strapping wrist tie system to secure the gloves to the contour of the hands and ensure they remain tight and fixed. The dual strapping system seeks to provide increased wrist and hand rigidity that mirrors a tightness of hand wrap bandages for maximal bone and tendon support of the hands and wrists. This system increases the transfer of force to the point of impact.  Patent:  8646113.  Inventor:  Clement,  Assignee:  Hayabusa Fightwear Inc.

System and apparatus for the prevention of the use of certain interventions on vulnerable patients:  A system and apparatus of coded gowns to alert health care workers of the status of vulnerable patients and where on the patient's body the vulnerable portions are located. The use of color-coded gowns follows the patient on his or her person and is therefore less likely to be lost or unseen information, thereby avoiding physical calamity and legal liability.  Patent #:  8646114.  Inventor:  Williams.  Not Assigned. 

Versatile glove:  A glove with zippered (or other) access to the index finger and thumb.  This allows the fingers easy access to touchscreen devices when glove is worn.  Patent #: 8646115.  Inventor:  Baunach.  Not Assigned.

Ballistic resistant groin protector:  A ballistic groin protector with a groin panel and a deployable groin wrap. The groin panel can be suspended from clothing or equipment to protect a wearer's anterior pelvic region from ballistic impact. Patent #:  8646116.  Inventor:  Crye,  Assignee:  Lineweight, Llc.

Sole assembly for article of footwear exhibiting posture-dependent characteristics:  A shoe with a sole that allows for an insert.  The insert can be used to provide posture and position feedback to the wearer during training sessions.  Patent #:8646191.  Inventor:  Amos,  Assignee:  Nike, Inc.

Tufting machine for creating a cut pile carpet with two different pile heights:  A tufting machine for creating a cut pile carpet with two different pile heights.  The arrangement insures ensures that the lower hook does not contact the knife once the cutting edge of the knife has passed the lower hook.  This allows the cut angle of the two pile heights to be the same.  Patent #:  8646396.  Inventor:  Shanley. Assignee:  Spencer Wright Industries, Inc.

Garment for providing body shaping:  A garment for providing body shaping. In one embodiment, a slip-shaped body garment uses support bands to provide support in various areas of the body while maintaining an overall smooth and desirable body shape.  Patent #:  8647168.  Inventor:  Anvirapour. Not Assigned.

Backless, strapless bra and attachable breast form enhancement system:  A bra cup or breast form including an interior surface facing toward a user's breast and having at least one thin ridge of pressure sensitive adhesive, for securing the bra cup or breast form to the user's breast, and at least one ventilation pathway on the interior surface. The bra cup or breast form may be used in a backless, strapless bra or breast form system.  Patent #: 8647169.  Inventor:  Chang.  Assignee:  Bragel International.

Jim Carson is a principal of RB Consulting, Inc. and a registered patent agent.  He has over 30 years of experience across multiple industries including the biotechnology, textile, computer, telecommunications, and energy sectors.  RB Consulting, Inc. specializes in providing management, prototyping, and regulatory services to small and start-up businesses.  He can be reached via email at or by phone at (803) 792-2183.

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