The vacancy created by the decease of the late Commissioner of Patents imposes upon the executive the duty of selecting a properly qualified successor to this important office. In the whole range of offices which are filled by government appointment there is none that calls for so many special qualifications as this, and the selection should be made primarily with regard to the administrative and professional ability of the candidate--the question of mere political services and the recommendations of political friends beingmade strictly subordinate. The Patent Office has suffered too severely in the past from the incompetence of political appointees. Men have been placed in charge who, whatever may have been their political qualifications, were altogether unfitted to fill a position which calls for a thorough knowledge of the patent system and an unusual amount of judicial and administrative ability for the conduct of its affairs. We do not deny that there are political office seekers possessed of a certain versatility which enables them to fill acceptably a wide variety of positions ; but we do say that there are certain offices, the duties of which can, in the very nature of things, be filled only by specially qualified men. Among these, and perhaps chief among them, is that of Commissioner of Patents ; and that its duties can only be properly performed by a professional man, one who has had a thorough acquaintance with patent practice, is proved by the record of the various gentlemen who have filled the position in the past. When a novice has been placed in charge, the results have been far from satisfactory. The attempted improvements and so-called reforms in the laws and working of the office have been fruitless or positively harmful, and have had to be reversed or repealed by a later commissioner. Abuses have crept into the system of patent practice, which the political appointee, controlled it may be by political motives, has failed to eradicate. When the new commissioner enters upon the duties of his office, he should do so feeling that he is absolutely free from all external controlling influences of a political nature. He should realize that he is given the office because he understands its duties, and is justified by his past training and experience to perform them intelligently. It was this fitness coupled with his undoubted integrity and independence that rendered the appointment of the late commissioner so acceptable, and his administration so successful. One of his very first acts was to rid the patent practice of an abuse which had grown to extraordinary dimensions because of the laxity which in this respect marked the previous administration of the affairs of the office. A patent lawyer himself of long experience, he understood thoroughly the working of the system, and he conducted the affairs of the department with sole reference to its best interests. It can safely be said that there is no department which, as a rule, has been purer, more free from political intrigue, than this; and it is earnestly to be hoped that, in selecting a successor to Mr. Eutterworth, a man will be chosen who, like him, is thoroughly conversant with the workings of the patent system and possesses the necessary judicial qualities for this difficult and responsible position. It has never been the practice of the Scientific American to advocate the claims of particular individuals in matters of this kind; but in the present case we feel compelled to state that our past experience of the acting incumbent of the office convinces us that no better man could possibly be selected for the position, Judge A. P. Greeley has been the practical head of the department during the protracted illness of the late Commissioner, and his management has been characterized by excellent judgment and unusual administrative capacity. His appointment would be received with great satisfaction not only by thedepartment but by the inventors and manufacturers of the country, to whom his name is already well and honorably known.
This article was originally published with the title "Patents" in SA Supplements 45, 1152supp, 66 (January 1898)