Monday, January 28, 2013

Own Pieces of History: Patent Models for Sale on Ebay

I met with Martin Wallace, the Patents and Trademarks librarian for the state of Maine, this week to get some help with an article I'm working on and he told me that some of the old patent models are being sold on Ebay.

I had to check these out, and found a bear trap:

Back in the early days, inventors submitted models with their patent applications. I love this idea. Unfortunately, a fire in 1877 wiped out more than 80,000 patent models.  In terms of communication, though, these models helped make tacit knowledge explicit when inventors had difficulty explaining in writing how their invention works or what makes it novel.

The Ebay Seller Walnutts, an antiques dealer from Massachusetts, describes the item as a "handmade Model of an Improved Humane Animal Trap...the original Patent Model - submitted to the US Patent Office by the inventor William Biddle of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania." The invention was issued Patent Number 1238 on July 12th, 1839.

A button gaiter was patented in 1875 and promised to be more comfortable:

 This and other items are being sold on Ebay by the U.S. Patent Model Foundation.


The USPTO has released its annual report, which it calls the Fiscal Year 2012 Performance and Accountability Report (PAR).

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