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Patent Quotes (33 quotes)


... semantics ... is a sober and modest discipline which has no pretensions of being a universal patent-medicine for all the ills and diseases of mankind, whether imaginary or real. You will not find in semantics any remedy for decayed teeth or illusions of grandeur or class conflict. Nor is semantics a device for establishing that everyone except the speaker and his friends is speaking nonsense
In 'The Semantic Conception of Truth and the Foundations of Semantics', collected in Leonard Linsky (ed.), Semantics and the Philosophy of Language: A Collection of Readings (1952), 17.
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A man has a very insecure tenure of a property which another can carry away with his eyes. A few months reduced me to the cruel necessity either of destroying my machine, or of giving it to the public. To destroy it, I could not think of; to give up that for which I had laboured so long, was cruel. I had no patent, nor the means of purchasing one. In preference to destroying, I gave it to the public.
[On his inability to keep for himself a profitable income from his invention of the Spinning Mule.]
As quoted in James Mason, The Great Triumphs of Great Men (1875), 579.
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A patent is property carried to the highest degree of abstraction—a right in rem to exclude, without a physical object or content.
Homes-Pollock Letters (1946), edited by Mark DeWolfe Howe, Vol. 1, 53. In Eugene C. Gerhart, Quote it Completely! (1998), 802.
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August 29, 1662. The council and fellows of the Royal Society went in a body to Whitehall to acknowledge his Majesty’s royal grace to granting our charter and vouchsafing to be himself our founder; then the president gave an eloquent speech, to which his Majesty gave a gracious reply and we all kissed his hand. Next day, we went in like manner with our address to my Lord Chancellor, who had much prompted our patent.
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Einstein, twenty-six years old, only three years away from crude privation, still a patent examiner, published in the Annalen der Physik in 1905 five papers on entirely different subjects. Three of them were among the greatest in the history of physics. One, very simple, gave the quantum explanation of the photoelectric effect—it was this work for which, sixteen years later, he was awarded the Nobel prize. Another dealt with the phenomenon of Brownian motion, the apparently erratic movement of tiny particles suspended in a liquid: Einstein showed that these movements satisfied a clear statistical law. This was like a conjuring trick, easy when explained: before it, decent scientists could still doubt the concrete existence of atoms and molecules: this paper was as near to a direct proof of their concreteness as a theoretician could give. The third paper was the special eory of relativity, which quietly amalgamated space, time, and matter into one fundamental unity. This last paper contains no references and quotes no authority. All of them are written in a style unlike any other theoretical physicist's. They contain very little mathematics. There is a good deal of verbal commentary. The conclusions, the bizarre conclusions, emerge as though with the greatest of ease: the reasoning is unbreakable. It looks as though he had reached the conclusions by pure thought, unaided, without listening to the opinions of others. To a surprisingly large extent, that is precisely what he had done.
Variety of Men (1966), 100-1.
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Everything that can be invented, has been invented. [A myth, attributed - almost certainly falsely - to Duell.]
A classic example of a zombie-type quote. It should be long dead, but keeps living on as a myth, impossible to extirpate. For example, it is glibly recited and attributed (as always, without a valid primary source), to a Commissioner ("Director") of U.S. Patent Office, urging President McKinley to abolish his office, in Chris Morgan and David Langford, Facts and Fallacies (1981). (Duell held the office 1898-1901.) It has a long history of being debunked, for example, see Eber Jeffery, Journal of the Patent Office Society (July 1940), and Samuel Sass, 'A Patently False Patent Myth', Skeptical Inquirer (Spring 1989), 13, 310-313.
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Everywhere in science the talk is of winners, patents, pressures, money, no money, the rat race, the lot; things that are so completely alien ... that I no longer know whether I can be classified as a modern scientist or as an example of a beast on the way to extinction.
An Imagined World: A Story of Scientific Discovery (1981), 213. Quoted in Evelyn Fox Keller, A Feeling for the Organism: The Life and Work of Barbara McClintock (1984), 207.
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GEOLOGY, n. The science of the earth's crust —to which, doubtless, will be added that of its interior whenever a man shall come up garrulous out of a well. The geological formations of the globe already noted are catalogued thus: The Primary, or lower one, consists of rocks, bones of mired mules, gas-pipes, miners' tools, antique statues minus the nose, Spanish doubloons and ancestors. The Secondary is largely made up of red worms and moles. The Tertiary comprises railway tracks, patent pavements, grass, snakes, mouldy boots, beer bottles, tomato cans, intoxicated citizens, garbage, anarchists, snap-dogs and fools.
The Collected Works of Ambrose Bierce (1911), Vol. 7, The Devil's Dictionary,  115.
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Great minds don't think alike. If they did, the Patent Office would only have about fifty inventions.
From Dilbert comic strip (10 Mar 2005).
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I have been so constantly under the necessity of watching the movements of the most unprincipled set of pirates I have ever known, that all my time has been occupied in defense, in putting evidence into something like legal shape that I am the inventor of the Electro-Magnetic Telegraph.
From a letter to his brother describing the challenge of defending his patents (19 Apr 1848).
Samuel F. B. Morse, His Letters and Journals (1914), vol.2, 283.
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I was sitting in a chair in the patent office at Bern when all of a sudden a thought occurred to me: “If a person falls freely he will not feel his own weight.” I was startled. This simple thought made a deep impression on me. It impelled me toward a theory of gravitation.
Lecture in Japan (1922). The quote is footnoted in Michael White, John Gribbin, Einstein: a Life in Science (1995), 128, saying the talk is known as the 'Kyoto address', reported in J. Ishiwara, Einstein Koen-Roku (1977).
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In the world’s history certain inventions and discoveries occurred of peculiar value, on account of their great efficiency in facilitating all other inventions and discoveries. Of these were the art of writing and of printing, the discovery of America, and the introduction of patent laws. The date of the first … is unknown; but it certainly was as much as fifteen hundred years before the Christian era; the second—printing—came in 1436, or nearly three thousand years after the first. The others followed more rapidly—the discovery of America in 1492, and the first patent laws in 1624.
Lecture 'Discoveries, Inventions and Improvements' (22 Feb 1860) in John George Nicolay and John Hay (eds.), Complete Works of Abraham Lincoln (1894), Vol. 5, 109-10.
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James Watt patented his steam engine on the eve of the American Revolution, consummating a relationship between coal and the new Promethean spirit of the age, and humanity made its first tentative steps into an industrial way of life that would, over the next two centuries, forever change the world.
In The Hydrogen Economy: The Creation of the Worldwide Energy Web and the Redistribution of Power on Earth (2002), 2.
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Next came the patent laws. These began in England in 1624, and in this country with the adoption of our Constitution. Before then any man [might] instantly use what another man had invented, so that the inventor had no special advantage from his own invention. The patent system changed this, secured to the inventor for a limited time exclusive use of his inventions, and thereby added the fuel of interest to the fire of genius in the discovery and production of new and useful things.
Lecture 'Discoveries, Inventions and Improvements' (22 Feb 1860) in John George Nicolay and John Hay (eds.), Complete Works of Abraham Lincoln (1894), Vol. 5, 113. In Eugene C. Gerhart, Quote it Completely! (1998), 802.
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Say I have lost all faith in patents, judges, and everything relating to patents.
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Shall an invention be patented or donated to the public freely? I have known some well-meaning scientific men to look askance at the patenting of inventions, as if it were a rather selfish and ungracious act, essentially unworthy. The answer is very simple. Publish an invention freely, and it will almost surely die from lack of interest in its development. It will not be developed and the world will not be benefited. Patent it, and if valuable, it will be taken up and developed into a business.
Address as M.I.T. acting president, to the graduating class (11 Jun 1920). Published in Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Technology Review (Jul 1920), 22, 420.
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Someone poring over the old files in the United States Patent Office at Washington the other day found a letter written in 1833 that illustrates the limitations of the human imagination. It was from an old employee of the Patent Office, offering his resignation to the head of the department His reason was that as everything inventable had been invented the Patent Office would soon be discontinued and there would be no further need of his services or the services of any of his fellow clerks. He, therefore, decided to leave before the blow fell.
Magazine
Written jokingly, to contrast with the burgeoning of American inventions in the new century. In 'Nothing More to Invent?', Scientific American (16 Oct 1915), 334. Compare that idea, expressed in 1915, with the classic myth still in endless recirculation today, “Everything that can be invented, has been invented,” for example, in Chris Morgan and David Langford, Facts and Fallacies (1981), on the Charles Duell Quotations page on this website, which includes references debunking the myth.
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Tell Selden to take his patent and go to hell with it.
(1903). Ford fought the monopoly caused by George Baldwin Selden’s internal combustion engine patent (which was based on George Brayton’s engine). Ford won in 1911, after eight years in court. In American Science and Invention: A Pictorial History (1954), 325.
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That reminds me to remark, in passing, that the very first official thing I did, in my administration—and it was on the first day of it, too—was to start a patent office; for I knew that a country without a patent office and good patent laws was just a crab, and couldn't travel any way but sideways or backways.
A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (1889), Chap. 9. In David Pressman. Patent it Yourself (2008), 9.
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The advancement of agriculture, commerce and manufactures, by all proper means, will not, I trust, need recommendation. But I cannot forbear intimating to you the expediency of giving effectual encouragement as well to the introduction of new and useful inventions from abroad, as to the exertions of skill and genius in producing them at home.
Early suggestion for awarding patent protection. In First Annual Message to Congress on the State of the Union (8 Jan 1790).
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The cigar-box which the European calls a 'lift' needs but to be compared with our elevators to be appreciated. The lift stops to reflect between floors. That is all right in a hearse, but not in elevators. The American elevator acts like a man's patent purge—it works.
Speech to the St. Nicholas Society, New York, 'Municipal Government' (6 Dec 1900). In Mark Twain's Speeches (1910). In Mark Twain and Brian Collins (ed.), When in Doubt, Tell the Truth: and Other Quotations from Mark Twain (1996), 44.
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The Commissioner of Patents may be likened to a wine merchant. He has in his office the wine of human progress of every kind and quality—wine, one may say, produced from the fermentation of the facts of the world through the yeast of human effort. Sometimes the yeast is “wild” and sometimes the “must” is poor, and while it all lies there shining with its due measure of the sparkle of divine effort, it is but occasionally that one finds a wine whose bouquet is the result of a pure culture on the true fruit of knowledge. But it is this true, pure wine of discovery that is alone of lasting significance.
In Some Chemical Problems of Today (1911), 108.
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The Congress shall have 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.
Founding U.S. Patents.
Constitution of the United States, Art. 1, Sec.8, Par. 8. In George Sewall Boutwell, The Constitution of the United States at the End of the First Century (1895), 219.
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The Constitution never sanctioned the patenting of gadgets. Patents serve a higher end—the advance of science.
Concurring in Great A. & P. Teas Co.. V. Supermarket Equip. Corp. 340 U.S. 147, 155 (1950). In Eugene C. Gerhart, Quote it Completely! (1998), 802.
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The Patent Office is the mother-in-law of invention.
Anonymous
In Evan Esar, 20,000 Quips and Quotes, 583.
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The patent system was established, I believe, to protect the lone inventor. In this it has not succeeded. … The patent system protects the institutions which favor invention
'Inventors I Have Known', in Philip Alger, The Human Side of Engineering (1972), 137). Cited in David F. Noble, America By Design (1979), 84.
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The Patent-Office Commissioner knows that all machines in use have been invented and re-invented over and over; that the mariner’s compass, the boat, the pendulum, glass, movable types, the kaleidoscope, the railway, the power-loom, etc., have been many times found and lost, from Egypt, China and Pompeii down; and if we have arts which Rome wanted, so also Rome had arts which we have lost; that the invention of yesterday of making wood indestructible by means of vapor of coal-oil or paraffine was suggested by the Egyptian method which has preserved its mummy-cases four thousand years.
In Lecture, second in a series given at Freeman Place Chapel, Boston (Mar 1859), 'Quotation and Originality', Letters and Social Aims (1875, 1917), 178-179.
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This is the patent-age of new inventions
For killing bodies, and for saving souls,
All propagated with the best intentions;
Sir Humphrey Davy's lantern, by which coals
Are safely mined for in the mode he mentions,
Tombuctoo travels, voyages to the Poles,
Are ways to benefit mankind, as true,
Perhaps, as shooting them at Waterloo.
Don Juan (1819, 1858), Canto I, CXXXII, 36. Although aware of scientific inventions, the poet seemed to view them with suspicion. Davy invented his safety lamp in 1803. Sir W.E. Parry made a voyage to the Arctic Regions (4 Apr to 18 Nov 1818).
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Well, the people, I would say. There is no patent. Could you patent the sun?
[On being asked who owned the patent on his polio vaccine by journalist, Edward R. Murrow in 1954.]
Quoted in The Economist (14 Aug 1999), 11. In Howard Gardner, et al., Good Work (2002), 111.
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With a few honorable exceptions the press of the United States is at the beck and call of the patent medicines. Not only do the newspapers modify news possibly affecting these interests, but they sometimes become their agents.
'The Nostrum Evil,' Collier’s Weekly (7 Oct 1905). Reprinted in The Great American Fraud (1907), 5.
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Workers must root out the idea that by keeping the results of their labors to themselves a fortune will be assured to them. Patent fees are so much wasted money. The flying machine of the future will not be born fully fledged and capable of a flight for 1,000 miles or so. Like everything else it must be evolved gradually. The first difficulty is to get a thing that will fly at all. When this is made, a full description should be published as an aid to others. Excellence of design and workmanship will always defy competition.
As quoted in Octave Chanute, Progress in Flying Machines (1894), 218.
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Working on the final formulation of technological patents was a veritable blessing for me. It enforced many-sided thinking and also provided important stimuli to physical thought. Academia places a young person under a kind of compulsion to produce impressive quantities of scientific publications–a temptation to superficiality.
…...
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[No one will be able to] deter the scientific mind from probing into the unknown any more than Canute could command the tides.
Comment upon the U.S. Supreme Court's 1980 decision permitting the patenting of life forms.
'Shaping Life in the Lab'. In Time (9 Mar 1981).
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Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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- 90 -
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