On the 19th June 2018, the United States Patent and Trade Mark Office (USPTO) issued US. Patent No. 10,000,000. Since the USPTO was created in 1790, it has effectively taken 228 years for this milestone to have been reached. Although this patent is not the ten millionth patent to be issued in the US (the patent numbering system was reset in the early 19th century), it is still a significant milestone in the life of the USPTO, who even delayed the announcement until after 9:00am EST so that more people would be awake.
Following the numbering reset, US. Patent No. 1 was issued in 1836 to John Ruggles and relates to a wheel traction system for steam locomotives, while US 1,000,000 was issued in 1911 and relates to a vehicle tire. This means that it took 75 years for one million patents to be issued. The pace of technology development has increased significantly since those patents were issued, and the gap between US 9,000,000 (a windshield washer conditioner) and US 10,000,000 was only three years!
Just as the pace of technology development has increased in the last 182 years, the technology itself has also moved on. Steam power has given way to electronics, optics and software and US Patent No. 10,000,000 relates to “Coherent LADAR Using Intra-Pixel Quadrature Detection.” The invention was made by Joseph Marron and is owned by the Raytheon Company. Raytheon published its own article to celebrate, which can be found here: https://www.raytheon.com/news/feature/invention-engine.
LADAR (also known as LIDAR) uses light to illuminate a target of interest and measures the light reflected from that target. Differences in light travel times to the target and back, and changes in the wavelength of the reflected light, can be used to generate 3-D representations of the target. LADAR has many applications from high resolution mapping to the speed gun, but is now finding significant use in the rapidly growing field of autonomous vehicles and was recently the centre of a lawsuit in the US between Alphabet (Google’s patent company) and Uber, which was settled in February this year. Further developments in this technology, particularly those focussed on reducing costs, are likely to be crucial for the future success of autonomous cars.
To celebrate this milestone patent issue, the USPTO has created an active timeline highlighting interesting or important breakthroughs for the US. patent system. It is well worth a look and can be found at: https://10millionpatents.uspto.gov/.
If you have an invention, or would like further information about patents, or other Intellectual Property, please contact one of our attorneys.