WE have recently been solicited by several inventors to give our opinion as to "what would be the effect on patents in the event of a dissolution of the Union ?" Although it is impossible for any person to tell what will assuredly take place in the future, we are able to state what would be the result, and what probably will follow, with respect to patents that issued prior to a separation of the States. All such patents will undoubtably be considered legal, and held in fall force in all the States until their terms have expired. Such is the conclusion at which every person must arrive who examines into the history of our legislation on patents, and into the nature of a patent itself. The nature of a patent consists of a bargain or agreement between an inventor and all the people of the United States, to the effect that, upon the condition of the inventor revealing his invention to the people, they shall protect him in the exclusive use, sale and manufacture of it for a limited term on every foot of land in all the States and Territories. The patent contains a description of the invention, and is a witness to the ful-fillmant of the inventor's part of the agreement with the people. The seal and certificate of the officer who represents the people is also attached to their bond in the fulfillment of the bargain. As the bargain between these two parties can only be consummated and fulfilled by the peoplethe whole peopleprotecting the inventor in his rights until his patent expires, all the people in every State are bound in honorand no doubt they will consider it soto carry out the terms of the agreement. Some new rules may be adopted by seceding States with respect to certifying to the legality of present pat- ents. They will probably require that all of them must have a supplementary new government seal attached to render them valid within their dominions ; but this will be all that is necessary. Each State will consider it an object of wise political action to encourage and protect all patentees and inventions. An opposite coarse would be detrimental to the material interests of any State. Although there have arisen many jealousies and strifes between different States, respecting commercial regulations and political theories affecting local interests, there has always been perfect unanimity regarding patents, because there is nothing local about them. They are of general benefit, and all reap equal advantages from them. Two of the most profitable patents of the present day have been obtained by citizens living very far removed from one anotherthe one in the most extreme Southern State, arid the other in nearly the most extreme Northeastern. We refer to the patent for the Peeler plow, by a citizen of Florida, who is reported to have made $500,000 by it ; the other the patent of E. Howe, Jr., of Massachusetts, for his sewing machine. We could instance a great number of like cases ; but it is unnecessary to do so, as it is generally acknowledged that the citizens of all the States are equally and mutually benefited by patents, and it is therefore reasonable to conclude that, upon every consideration, all patents granted by the Federal Government will remain in force and be sustained in all the States, even in the event of a dissolution of the Union. The history of patent legislation also affords us good grounds for entertaining these opinions. In colonial times, th^re were no such patent laws as we now have. It was customary for the several Assemblies to grant patents by special acts, and sometimes the King granted patents for all the colonies. No fees were required of the applicants ; they simply prayed for all issues of Letters Patent, which petitions were granted by special bills. There were constant conflicts in those days between the dividing lines of patent jurisdiction, and the only way to secure full protection to an invention was to obtain a special act or grant in each colony. When the colonies resolved themselves into sovereign States, they all felt the inconvenience and insufficiency of the old modes of granting patents ; and the consequence was that, on the adoption of the present con-sitution, each State gave up its power of granting patents to the general government with alacrity and pleasure, while it was far otherwise with most of their other sovereign privileges. Virginia took the lead in this great movement, and to Jefferson we owe our present confederate system of patents. He took a great interest in promoting the progress of science and the useful arts, and we believe that American inventors never had a warmer friend. Viewing this question in the light of history, wisdom, honor and true policy, we believe that all patents which are now in force will be sustained in aK the States until their terms expire.
This article was originally published with the title "What Will be the Effect upon Patents in Case of Secession?"