Guide to Federal Records

Records of the Patent and Trademark Office


(Record Group 241)
1836-1973
23,879 cu. ft.

Table of Contents

  • 241.1 ADMINISTRATIVE HISTORY
  • 241.2 RECORDS OF THE PATENT OFFICE (RECONSTRUCTED RECORDS) RELATING TO "NAME AND DATE" PATENTS 1837-87 12 lin. ft.
  • 241.3 RECORDS OF THE PATENT OFFICE RELATING TO NUMBERED PATENTS 1836-1973 24,863 lin. ft.
  • 241.4 CARTOGRAPHIC RECORDS (GENERAL)

241.1 ADMINISTRATIVE HISTORY

Established: In the Department of Commerce by the Patent Office Name Change Act (88 Stat. 1949), January 2, 1975.

Predecessor Agencies:

Patent Board, consisting of Secretary of State, Secretary of War, and Attorney General (1790-93)

In the Department of State:

  • Secretary of State (1793-1802)
  • Superintendent of Patents (1802-36)
  • Patent Office (1836-49)
  • Patent Office, Department of the Interior (1849-1925)
  • Patent Office, Department of Commerce (1925-75)
Functions: Administers the laws and regulations governing the issuance of patents and trademarks, adjudicates resulting questions, and processes international applications for patents.

Finding Aids: Forrest R. Holdcamper, comp., "Preliminary Inventory of the Records of the Patent Office," NC 147 (1966); supplement in National Archives microfiche edition of preliminary inventories.

Related Records: Record copies of publications of the Patent Office and the Patent and Trademark Office in RG 287, Publications of the U.S. Government.

RECORDS
RECORD TYPES RECORD LOCATIONS QUANTITIES
Textual Records Washington Area 23,518 cu. ft.
Arch/engr Plans College Park 126,600 items

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241.2 RECORDS OF THE PATENT OFFICE (RECONSTRUCTED RECORDS)
RELATING TO "NAME AND DATE" PATENTS
1837-87
12 lin. ft.

History: Granting of patents for inventions made a function of the Federal Government by Article I, section 8, of the Constitution. Patent Board, consisting of Secretary of State, Secretary of War, and Attorney General, established by the Patent Act of 1790 (1 Stat. 109), April 10, 1790. Abolished by the Patent Act of 1793 (1 Stat. 318), February 21, 1793, with responsibility for issuing patents given to Secretary of State. Superintendent of Patents appointed by Secretary of State, 1802. Superintendent of Patents and staff, collectively called the Patent Office, functioned in immediate office of the Secretary of State, 1802-36. By the Patent Act of 1836 (5 Stat. 117), July 4, 1836, Patent Office established as a separate organization within the Department of State, with a Commissioner of Patents at its head. SEE 241.3.

Note: Patent records predating 1836 were unnumbered and could be accessed only by name of patentee and date of patent. After 1836, unique numbers assigned by the Patent Office distinguished each new patent.

Most original patent records were destroyed by fire, December 15, 1836. Reconstruction of the records was authorized by the Patent Act of 1837 (5 Stat. 191), March 3, 1837, which permitted inventors who had letters patent either to submit the originals, or certified copies of the originals, to the Patent Office; or, in the absence of documentation, to create a new patent document furnished under oath as conforming to original drawings and specifications. Arbitrary numbers suffixed with "X" were assigned by the Patent Office to the restored drawings and specifications.

Textual Records: Copies, made 1839-87, of certificates describing patents ("Patent Heads") granted between 1794 and 1835. Specifications, copied 1837-83, relating to original and reissued patents granted before 1837. Copies, made 1837-47, relating to patents granted before 1837.

Engineering Plans (3,000 items): Drawings, made 1837-47, of patents granted between 1791 and 1836, with accompanying name and date list. SEE ALSO 241.4.

Microfilm Publications: T1235.

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241.3 RECORDS OF THE PATENT OFFICE RELATING TO NUMBERED PATENTS
1836-1973
24,863 lin. ft.

History: Patent Office transferred to newly established Department of the Interior by an act of March 3, 1849 (9 Stat. 395). Transferred, effective April 1, 1925, to Department of Commerce, by EO 4175, March 17, 1925. Renamed the Patent and Trademark Office, 1975. SEE 241.1.

Textual Records: General correspondence, 1836-68. Copies of specifications relating to claims for additional improvements, 1837-61. Case files for patent rights extensions, 1836-75. Copies of extensions of patent certificates, 1839-77. Registers of patent extension applications, 1866-77. Digests relating to assignments of patent property rights, 1837-1905, with indexes, 1837-1923. Patent assignment digests and indexes, 1922-57. Miscellaneous correspondence and rejected petitions, 1837-54. Letters received, 1872-82. Abandoned patent applications, 1894- 1937. Patent application files, 1837-1918 (19,874 ft.). Index of inventors filing applications for patents (series of 1935), ca. 1935-47. Serial registers of patent applications received (series of 1880, 1900, 1915, 1925, 1935, 1948, 1956, 1961, and 1970), 1880-1973. Index of inventors filing applications for design patents, 1922-48. Serial register, and examiner's serial register, of design applications received, 1924-48. Index of corporation patent assignments, 1938-46. Index of corporate trademark applications, 1924-61. Index of foreign firm patent assignments, 1938-46. Patent transfer books ("Liber Patent Transfer Volumes"), 1836. Patent assignment digest books, 1919. Interference case files, 1836-1919. Registers of interferences, 1839-1905. Copies of specifications relating to numbered patents, 1837-40, and to reissued patents, 1838-48. Letters sent by the Commissioner of Patents relating to patent models to be displayed at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition (Chicago, IL), 1892-94. Caveat case files relating to inventions of Thomas A. Edison, 1872-82. Organization charts, 1929-39.

Engineering Plans (123,600 items): Original patent drawings of inventions ("Utility Patents"), 1837-71 (112,000 items). Design patent drawings, 1842-77 (9,500 items). Drawings of additional improvements of patents, 1838-61 (300 items). Drawings to justify reissue of patents invalidated by unintentional inaccuracies in the original applications, 1838-70 (1,800 items). SEE ALSO 241.4.

Finding Aids: James E. Primas, comp., "Lists of Names of Inventors in the Case Files Relating to the Extension of Patent Rights, 1836-75," NC 20 (1963); James A. Paulauskas, comp., Additional Improvement Patents, 1837-1861, SL 39 (1977). John P. Butler, comp., Patent Interference Case Files: 1838-1900, SL 59 (1993).

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241.4 CARTOGRAPHIC RECORDS (GENERAL)

SEE Engineering Plans UNDER 241.2 and 241.3.3.


Bibliographic note: Web version based on Guide to Federal Records in the National Archives of the United States. Compiled by Robert B. Matchette et al. Washington, DC: National Archives and Records Administration, 1995.
3 volumes, 2428 pages.

Ordering information

This Web version is updated from time to time to include records processed since 1995.


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