The period is now rapidly approaching when Congress—which has been in session since December last—will adjourn, and its membQrs will disperse to the respective localities of their constituents. This will probably occur on the 7th of June, and many months will elapse before they meet again. In reviewing the business which has been transacted during the sittings of this Congress, we note, with regret, that although some measures of public and private utility have been passed, there has been transacted a large amount of business of little practical importance to the community, in comparison with many measures which, though of vital interest to the American people in every walk of life, have yet been very cursprily, if not contemptuonsly, treated, and some have been even altogether overlooked. If these measures are nut acted upon during the short time intervening between this and the day of adjournment, the neglect will reflect discredit and even shame upon the character of Members of Congress as men of zeal for measures of great public interest. One of the chief of these neglected measures is that bill for amending our patent laws which was reported by the late Senator Evans and by Judge Stewart, Chairman of thQ House Committee on Patents, a condensed abstract of which was given on page 222, this volume, SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN, and which bill is universally conceded to be the most sensible, honest, and praiseworthy movement, made with a view to legal reformation, that has ever been attempted since the enactments of 1836-7. It is not our purpose to go into any discussion of the character and importance of this proposed amendment. Our opinions were fally given in a previous number (29) of this journal. Our object, now, is simply to urge the claims of this bill upon the attention of Congress, and to call upon the Members to act upon it without delay. The proposed bill does not embrace radical and sweeping reforms—this is not necessary, and in our jndgment such a course would work serious consequences to those interests that claim its guardianship; but it simply knocks off the rough corners of the present system, and meets the pressing necessities of the Patent Office, and will enable that department of Government to transact its business with increased economy and efficiency. This is not a mere question of local importance, like the dredging of some foul river, or the running of somc out-of-the-way boundary, or the opening of a post-road into a region where civilization has scarcely obtained a foothold; but it is a question of deep interest to all our people. Farmers, mechanics, manufacturers, citizens—men, women and children—all are concerned in this matter. The roots of inventive genius lie beneath all the stepping-stones of social progress, from pegs and pins to steamships and Atlantic cables. We seriously fear that Members of Congress are not aware of the very general interest which their constituents feel in regard to the advancement of inventive skill and ingcnuity. We know that this interest is wide-spread and general; and it is astonishing, in view of the magnitude and importance of the subject, that so few Members uf Congress ever lift up their voices in behalf of mea$ures intended to fo!ter and sustain inventive genius. It may be very convenient for the candidate from the stump to speak, and very pleasant for the susceptible ear of the constituent to hear, eloquent words about steamships, railroads, electric telegraphs, c.; but the almost total indifference of members to the interests of the f inventors of the above and kindred works is k best shown by the practical forgetfulness and X the almost criminal neglect which is exhibited of towards the Patent Office—the noblest and now one of the best conducted bureaux under Government. An honest reformation in the patent laws should become a primary question for the earnest consideration of Congress, It is not sectional, and has no political party bearing ; and in this seme it is a question that stands far above many others upon which much earnest and diligent attention has been bestowed. It has been said—and with how much truth we must leave others to decide— that, " if it were a mere party squabble, embracing nothing to benefit the people, or if it were a measure from which parties or cliques could derive personal benefit, it would more readily meet with prompt and decisive attention." We hope that the members of the present CONgress, will so act as to put an effectual extinguisher upon such an imputation ; but to do so they must be prompt and decisive in action. It often happens that, just prior to the adjournment of Congress, the business becomes so confused and crowded that some good and necessary measures get the go-bye; while others concocted for private interest, and designed to be pressed upon the attention of members in such moments, are rushed through with indecent haste. We trust that the patent bill to which we allude will not meet with the fate of any of those good, neglected measures ; although the time for acting upon it is now very limited, It is not a hastily concocted measure, nor is it one in respect to which members can honorably plead ignorance. It has been before them a sufficent length of time for the closest scrutiny, and can be now acted upon intelligently and speedily ; and it appears to us that it only needs to be taken up for definite action, to meet with a speedy and favorable termination. If the present Congress should adopt this bill, the act will redound to its honor; as it will show that, amid bitter personal and party struggles and strife, its members did not neglect the pressing claims of our ingenions and talented inventors and mechanicians.
This article was originally published with the title "Reform of Our Patent Laws" in Scientific American 13, 38, 301 (May 1858)