US Patent and Trademark Office Issues 10-Millionth Patent

21 June, 2018

The United States has issued its 10 millionth patent. President George Washington signed the first almost 228 years ago.

A patent is an official document that gives an individual or company the right to be the only one that makes or sells a product.

The United States Patent and Trademark Office, or USPTO, issued the newest patent Tuesday to the defense services company, Raytheon. The patent is for a system known as LADAR, which improves laser detection and ranging. The inventor, Joseph Marron, is an engineer for the Raytheon Company.

Partial view of Alexander Graham Bell's telephone patent drawing from March 7, 1876.
Partial view of Alexander Graham Bell's telephone patent drawing from March 7, 1876.

Patent officials say LADAR can be used in connection with self-driving vehicles, medical imaging devices, military defense systems and space and undersea exploration. Raytheon says the system uses a laser radar to send real-time data to a receiver.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross released a statement in honor of the issuance of the 10 millionth patent. He said the importance of the U.S. patent system "has never been greater."

He added, "We know that it will not take another 228 years to achieve the next 10-million-patent milestone."

The real deal

USPTO spokesman Paul Fucito told VOA that issuing the 10 millionth patent is a very important event in U.S. history.

He said, "It is a timely and relevant opportunity to promote the importance of innovation... as well as the history of America's patent system."

Inventor Marron compared winning the 10 millionth patent to a person who plays the lottery every month.

"Eventually, it hits," he said.

Back in March, at the South by Southwest Interactive Festival, patent officials presented a new cover design to mark the issuance of the new patent.

Among the 10 million patents are inventions by Thomas Edison, Henry Ford and Apple founder Steve Jobs. For every well-known inventor, however, there are many other, less recognizable people whose inventions have greatly influenced our world.

Fifteen of those men and women recently were honored for their important contributions, in a special ceremony at the National Inventors Hall of Fame Museum in Alexandria, Virginia.

On July 31, 1790, President Washington signed the first patent. The patent office said the document was issued for "a process of making potash, an ingredient used in fertilizer."

I'm Phil Dierking.

Candice Williams reported this story for VOANews. Phil Dierking adapted the story for VOA Learning English. Caty Weaver was the editor.

Have you ever invented anything new? Write to us in the Comments Section or on 51VOA.COM.


Words in This Story

achieve - v. to get or reach (something) by working hard

detect - v. to discover or notice the presence of something

ingredient - n. one of the things that are used to make a food, product, etc.

promote - v. to change the rank or position of (someone) to a higher or more important one

range - v. to include everything between specified limits

relevant - adj. relating to a subject in an appropriate way

opportunity - n. an amount of time or a situation in which something can be done

innovation - n. a new idea, device, or method

eventually - adv. at some later time