76 J. Pat. & Trademark Off. Soc'y 697 (1994)
The Early Evolution of the United States Patent Law: Antecedents (Part 1)

handle is hein.journals/jpatos76 and id is 711 raw text is: The Early Evolution of the United
States Patent Law: Antecedents
(Part 1)
Edward C. Walterscheid'
T he United States patent law derives from a constitutional grant of
authority to the Congress to promote the progress of science and
useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the
exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.'2 Prior to
the ratification of the Constitution by the requisite nine states in 1788,3
there was no federal patent law because under the Articles of Confed-
eration each state retained every power, jurisdiction and right, which
is not by the confederation expressly delegated to the United States, in
Congress assembled.' '4 Among the powers retained by the states were
the right to issue patents or otherwise grant rights with respect to in-
ventions and discoveries.
The new federal government defined by the Constitution went into
effect on March 4, 1789 and the first session of the first Congress
extended from that date to September 29, 1789. During that first ses-
sion, the Congress received various petitions praying for exclusive
rights in both literary works and inventions, as well as a bill to promote
the progress of science and useful arts by securing to authors and in-
ventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.
It failed to act on either the petitions or the bill.5
1 Deputy Laboratory Counsel, University of California Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los
Alamos, NM 87545.
2 U.S. Const., Art. 1, § 8, cl. 8.
3 The Constitution was established as the supreme law of the land on June 21, 1788.
4 Articles of Confederation, Art. II.
5 See, e.g., R. A. Klitzke, History of Patents-U.S., in R. Calvert, ed., The Encyclopedia of
Patent Practice and Invention Management 394 (New York 1962); A. H. Seidel, The Constitution
and a Standard of Patentability, 58 J.P.O.S. 5, 23, 24 (1966); Anon., Proceedings in Congress
During the Years 1789 and 1790 Relating to the First Patent and Copyright Laws, 22 J.P.O.S.
243 (1940); and P. J. Federico, The First Patent Act, 14 J.P.O.S. 237 (1932). Klitzke states that
[d]uring the session about eighteen individual petitions were received, most of them for patents.
. .. Op cit. at 397.

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