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In the United States, property in Copyright and in Patents for Inventions is created by, and held solely under laws passed by the General Government. Previous to the adoption of the Federal Constitution, in 1789, the several States had granted exclusive rights to authors and inventors; but that instrument gave to Congress power 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 ;” and the States can now perform no act in respect thereto, or none not in harmony with, and subordinate to, the superior power of Congress.
In 1790, at the first session of Congress, and among its earliest acts, laws were passed “to promote the i progress of useful arts,” and “for encouragement of | learning, by securing the copies of maps, charts, and
books to the authors and proprietors of such copies, during the times therein mentioned.”
The Copyright act of 1790 remained unchanged until 1802, when a supplementary act. was passed, extending also its provisions, in which form it continued in force until 1831, when it was repealed, and a new and more complete act substituted in place of it. The act of 1831 is still in force, and is the basis of the existing copyright system of the country;
but has been amended and enlarged by acts passed in 1834, 1846, 1856, 1859, 1861, and 1865.
The Patent act of 1790 was superseded by an act passed in 1793, and this latter act; amended and enlarged by acts passed in 1794, 1800, 1819, and 1832, continued in force until 1836, when the entire legislation in respect to patents for inventions was revised, and a new and more carefully drawn law enacted. The act of 1836 still remains in force, and is the basis of the existing patent system of the country; but has been enlarged and amended by acts passed in 1837, 1839, 1842, 1848, 1849, 1851, 1852, 1853, 1855, 1856, 1859, 1860, 1861, 1862, 1863, 1864, and 1865.
The duration of the term of a copyright was fixed, by the act of 1790, at fourteen years, with a right of renewal for fourteen years longer. By the act of 1831, the first term of a copyright was enlarged to twenty-eight years, with a right of renewal, as before,
for fourteen years; thus making the whole term fortytwo years.
The duration of the term of patents for inventions was fixed, by the first act of 1790, at fourteen years. The act of 1836 fixed the same duration, but made provision for an extension, under certain circumstances, for seven years longer. By the act of 1861, the term of a patent was fixed at seventeen years— except as to patents for designs, which may be three and a half, or seven, or fourteen years, as desired; and the extension of all patents granted subsequent to the date of that act, March 2d, 1861, was prohibited-except as to patents for designs, which may be extended for seven years.
Congress, however, can grant such exclusive rights for any period, or extend existing terms, as it may see fit; and it has frequently exercised such power, by special acts, even after the expiration of terms secured under the general law.
The laws of this country, in respect to copyrights, except as to the duration of the term, and the formalities by which secured, are substantially like those of England and other countries; in respect, however, to patents for inventions, the differences between our laws and those of other countries are marked and distinct.
The great distinguishing feature of the patent sys
tem of this country is that which requires all applications for patents to be subjected to a preliminary examination, as to originality and novelty of invention, before a patent can issue, and which forbids the issue of a patent to any one who is not the first as well as an original inventor of the thing sought to be patented. Though the practical operation of such a system is necessarily attended with difficulties, and the exercise of such power of rejection may sometimes work injustice to the deserving inventor, it can scarcely be questioned that it is highly useful, as well to the inventor, in bringing to his notice what is already known in the art to which his invention appertains, as to the public in interposing a salutary check to the issue of trifling or worthless patents.
In England, and in most other countries, patents, originally, were grants proceeding directly from the sovereign, and were considered by the courts as monopolies, odious in the eye of the law, and to be construed strictly. In this country, however, it has been uniformly held that the design of our patent laws was to encourage genius in advancing the arts, by protecting its productions, and that such laws were to be construed favorably and beneficially for patentees; and that patents granted thereunder were to be considered not as monopolies, but liberally, and as
highly beneficial to the community, as well as rewards ío ingenious men for the advantages derived by the public from their exertions.
The copyright and patent systems of this country, as established by the legislature, and interpreted by the courts, may justly, be considered as liberal and highly favorable to such interests; and in no country, probably, are the rights of authors and inventors more generally recognized, or their rewards and remuneration more ample and munificent.
In this compilation, the several laws, as to copyright and patents for inventions, which are obsolete, are inserted in full, as well as those laws which are now in force; this has been done for convenience of reference and comparison, and to help to a more perfect understanding and interpretation of those in force.
Notes of decisions, which have a more particular reference to the obsolete acts, are inserted under such acts; decisions of a general nature, though made under such acts, are inserted under the acts now in force. It has not been intended, however, to insert under the several acts all the decisions explanatory of them, but only those of a more general character i adding also suitable references to the appropriate titles of the “Digest of Patent Cases," a work published by the author of the present volume, and