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HR 41, A Bill to Promote the Progress of the Useful Arts (the Patent Act), March 10, 1790

Congress passed the first patent act in 1790 to encourage innovation and industrial progress. It empowered the attorney general and secretaries of war and state to grant patents of up to 14 years for inventions that were “. . . sufficiently useful and important.” The patent holder had exclusive rights to the invention or discovery during that period.

Records of the U.S. Senate, National Archives and Records Administration

HR 41, A Bill to Promote the Progress of the Useful Arts (the Patent Act), March 10, 1790

Promoting Progress

The First Congress recognized the importance of progress in science, technology and the arts for the nation’s development. To give incentive for creativity in “the useful arts,” Congress enacted laws in 1790 protecting new inventions and works by giving their creators exclusive rights to profit from them for a limited time. These laws would benefit society as a whole by encouraging the creation of new technologies and ideas.