Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to Edmund Randolph, 17 March 1793

To Edmund Randolph

Mar. 17. 93.

Th: Jefferson incloses for the examination of the Atty. Genl. the abstract form of a patent proposed under the new law, wherein will be inserted the title only of the discovery, within the body of the instrument; and the description required by law, to be in a schedule annexed to and making part of the letters patent. This will admit the very words of the petitioner to be used, without the possibility of imputing to us either it’s legal defects, or grammatical improprieties. It will admit too of printing the whole of the letters patent with short blanks for the name of the inventor and title of his invention.

Th:J. sends an example of a patent to Saltonstall on this plan, and another prepared by Mr. Taylor on the former one, where the description was inserted in the body of the letters, from which the advantages of the former will be evident. He will thank the Atty. Genl. for his corrections of and opinion on the form, this being the first instance, and to serve as a precedent.

PrC (DLC); partially overwritten in a later hand. Recorded in SJPL. First enclosure printed below. Other enclosures not found.

The simplified new law regarding patents, enacted on 21 Feb. 1793, lifted the heavy administrative burden imposed on TJ as Secretary of State by the 1790 Patent Act it superseded (Annals description begins Annals of the Congress of the United States: The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States … Compiled from Authentic Materials, Washington, D.C., Gales & Seaton, 1834–56, 42 vols. All editions are undependable and pagination varies from one printing to another. The first two volumes of the set cited here have “Compiled … by Joseph Gales, Senior” on the title page and bear the caption “Gales & Seatons History” on verso and “of Debates in Congress” on recto pages. The remaining volumes bear the caption “History of Congress” on both recto and verso pages. Those using the first two volumes with the latter caption will need to employ the date of the debate or the indexes of debates and speakers. description ends , iii, 1431–5). For a discussion of TJ’s role in effecting this reform, see note to A Bill to Promote the Progress of the Useful Arts, [1 Dec. 1791]. Randolph’s reaction to TJ’s abstract form of a patent has not been found, but TJ’s draft served as the basis for the somewhat modified patent form the United States government used for the next seventy-three years (Karl B. Lutz, “Evolution of U.S. Patent Documents,” Journal of the Patent Office Society, xix [1937], 396–7; for an example of an issued patent, see the 17 Feb. 1803 patent issued by TJ as President to Elisha Bartlett and others for a nailmaking machine in NjP: Andre deCoppet Collection). On 22 Mch. 1793 the President signed a patent dated 28 Feb. 1793 for a plan by Richard Roswell Saltonstall for “improvemt. in the manufacturing the plant called Rhus or Sumach for dying” (Washington, Journal description begins Dorothy Twohig, ed., The Journal of the Proceedings of the President, 1793–1797, Charlottesville, 1981 description ends , 99–100; List of Patents description begins A List of Patents granted by the United States from April 10, 1792, to December 31, 1836, Washington, D.C., 1872 description ends , 7).

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