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Although there is some evidence suggesting that something like patents were used among some ancient Greek cities, most historians agree that patents in the modern sense originated in Italy in 1474. The Republic of Venice issued a decree by which new and inventive devices had to be communicated to the Republic in order to obtain legal protection.

In the United States, during the colonial period and Articles of Confederation years (1778-1789), several states adopted patent systems of their own. The first Congress adopted a Patent Act, in 1790. Since its founding in 1790 the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has issued over 7 million patents, of that number approximately 70 thousand have become legitimate products. Although most patents are obscure and long forgotten, in the 1% that did become successful are some very significant inventions that have changed the way we live our lives. We have grouped these historic patents into three distinct time periods to ease your review of these inventions.

Historic Patents 1790 -1836
Historic Patents 1836 - 1975
Historic Patents 1976 - Present


Book Resources on the subject of Patents.  from The Great Idea Finder
First Patent Issued   from The Great Idea Finder
Patent Information including history and purpose. 
from The Great Idea Finder

Prolific Inventors based upon the number of Patents issued   from The Great Idea Finder
Rumor Has It everything has been invented.  from The Great Idea Finder
Web Resources dedicated to Patents.  from The Great Idea Finder

Significant Patents
Prepared  by Jim Bieberich, Patent Historian for Mall USA, Inc. .
Weird and Wonderful Patents
Over the years, inventors have tried to solve many of the problems of daily life. Prepared by Brown & Michaels, PC.
Delphion's Patent Gallery
You can visit both the Gallery of Historic Patents and the Gallery of Obscure Patents. Presented by The Thomson Corporation.
Cincinnati Library Patent Collection
Government Resources · Patents, Trademark, and Copyright, Online Resource List and more.
Patent Statistics Reports Available For Viewing
Reports prepared by the USPTO Patent Technology Monitoring Division
The X Files
Contains an extensive list of patents issued prior to 1836. The author of this home page is not identified.
Google Patent Search (beta version)
As part of Google’s mission to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful, we’re constantly working to expand the diversity of content we make available to our users. With Google Patent Search, you can now search the full text of the U.S. patent corpus and find patents that interest you. Over 7 million U.S. patents issued from 1790 to the present are available in Google's database.

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