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Intellectual Property Insights from Fishman Stewart PLLC
Newsletter – Volume 24, Issue 13

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Change The World Through Innovation

By Anthony Gartrelle

First-time inventions have led inventors to great successes throughout history, sometimes immediately, sometimes after several more attempts at more useful inventions. In the U.S., two very famous inventors with contrasting first-time experiences are Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell. 

Known as one of the greatest inventors of all time, Edison was granted more than 1,000 patents, however, he had to start somewhere. Thomas Edison’s first patent, U.S. Patent No. 90,646, was for improvements in electrographic vote-recorders, issued on June 1, 1869. This first application was not successful, not because it wasn’t new or innovative, but because politicians did not want to move to an electronic voting system in the 19th century.

While we continue to spread electronic voting machines today, 150 years later, Edison moved on to more useful inventions, including his claim to fame still today: the first commercially available incandescent lightbulb. Edison was issued the incandescent lamp, U.S. Patent No. 223,898, on January 27, 1880. The Edison Illuminating Company soon followed on December 17, 1880. 

Alexander Graham Bell’s first foray into patented inventions was much more successful. Bell’s U.S. Patent No. 174,465, issued on March 7, 1876, for the telephone. This invention led Bell to start the Bell Telephone Company in 1877. 

While Bell had only around 30 U.S. patents, his ideas changed the world and led Bell to many successes. Both Edison and Bell left lasting legacies that continue to inspire modern minds through their inventions. 

Edison and Bell both became quite famous despite different first-time patenting experiences. These great inventors had to start somewhere. 

The next Edison or Bell may be filing right now through incentive programs offered by the USPTO. The USPTO addresses current and future problems by offering “Pilot Programs” for patent applications. These programs provide benefits by streamlining the patenting process for certain applications which meet predetermined requirements, e.g., advances in a specific technology such as climate change and semiconductor chips

The USPTO currently is running a “First-Time Filer Expedited Examination Pilot Program” to promote innovation for first-time inventors. The Program began on March 9, 2023, and runs until either March 11, 2025, or when 1,000 petitions by first time filers to expedite examination are granted. 

Qualified applications must name a first-time inventor, qualify for the micro entity status per the USPTO Fee Schedule, among other requirements. There have been 196 granted petitions under this Pilot Program as of June 4, 2024. 

A lot has changed since the issuance of Edison and Bell’s first inventions, the USPTO issued patent no. 12 million this week, on June 4. But the importance of inventors getting started is as important today as in Edison’s and Bell’s day. 

You could have instant success like Bell, or a widely ignored first application like Edison and still be a successful inventor if you pursue your inventions. Share your great ideas with the world and take advantage of the first-time filer program before it ends!

Anthony M. Gartrelle is an associate at Fishman Stewart, PLLC. Anthony possesses a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from Kettering University and has experienced a wide range of technological fields while working for various Intellectual Property law firms as well as a Patent Examiner at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

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