Wisdom of Our Forefathers

From: AAROFLEX (aaroflex@aaroflex.com)
Date: Fri Oct 10 1997 - 21:07:42 EEST

On occasion, I have seen postings and discussions regarding patents and
technology. This is the first of two articles I have written regarding
the effects of patent law on the American society.

Wisdom of Our Forefathers

During the colonial days, in 1762, the debate of a constitutional
government began in the Virginia House of Burgesses in Williamsburg.
This congregation of rebels declared independence in 1776; however, they
continued to struggle in their quest for the establishment of a
constitution which was adopted by our new nation in 1788 and was
effective in 1789. Shortly after the adoption of the Constitution, the
first leaders of our government established the first laws that would be
the basis for centuries to come. Among those first laws were our first
patent laws.

When I reflect upon the establishment of this nation, I continually give
thanks to God for bringing together a group of wise men with diverse
interests who formulated a formidable constitution which still stands as
a model to the world. This same group of individuals, realizing the need
for the propagation of industry and commerce, adopted the first patent
law on April 4, 1790, just a few years after the adoption of the
constitution. The bill was signed into law by President George
Washington and administered by Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson. The
new law gave the inventor the right to exclude all others from making,
using and selling his invention and stated that the appropriate subject
matter for a patent was "any useful art, manufacture, engine, machine,
or device, or any improvement thereon not before known or used."

Thomas Jefferson saw fit to include in the original law a provision that
all patents be made public for the dissemination of knowledge and
technology. He believed very strongly in the dissemination of
information for the advancement of technology and industry. His legacy
is witnessed in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's "General
Information Concerning Patents" (1994) handbook which states that
"Through the preservation, classification, and dissemination of patent
information, the Office aids and encourages innovation and the
scientific and technical advancement of the Nation."

Although the law grants a monopoly to the inventor for his particular
invention for a period of time to reward the inventor for his
contribution, the law is certainly not intended to prohibit new
developments. The law was written to encourage new inventors to use the
patent information disclosed to improve and develop their ideas, to
motivate inventors to build upon current technology, and to ensure the
dissemination of discoveries, technology, and innovative concepts. In
fact, the Patent Office publishes patents and maintains a search room
for the public to examine issued patents and records and supplies copies
of records and other papers, thereby allowing an ingenious and
industrious person to improve upon current technology for the
advancement of our Nation's industry and commerce. Many patented
technologies and inventions become outdated before the expiration of the
relevant patent with the advancement of technology, provided that
industrious entrepreneurs are not intimidated by those who wish to
maintain a monopoly outside of the means set forth by our founding

The stereolithography story reminds me of the development of the
typewriter which was so important in offices before personal computers.
In 1714, Queen Anne of England issued a royal letter patent to an
engineer for his invention of a device for impressing, progressively,
one letter after another on paper. Numerous patents were subsequently
granted to other inventors for their improvements to the original
typewriter allowing the typewriter to evolve into the state-of-the-art
typewriter known today.

Similarly, DuPont built on and developed the technology of Munz,
Herbert, Kodama and other earlier inventors, patenting its advancements
as it moved forward. AAROFLEX then purchased the right to DuPont's
stereolithography patent estate and has continued developing and
improving stereolithography technology far ahead of any existing
commercial machine, completing the development cycle by producing the
fastest, most accurate and efficient rapid prototyping machine in North
America all within the scope of both the letter and spirit of patent

Albert C. Young, Jr., P.E.


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