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Pat′ent, the privilege granted by a government to an inventor, of the exclusive right to his invention for a term of years. The royal grant in England was made by letters-patent or open letters, called so because they were not sealed. The system of giving patents is common in Europe and the United States, though Switzerland and Holland have no patent laws and Prussia does not favor them. The United States Patent-Office is a branch of the Department of the Interior, and has its records, models and drawings at Washington. The first American law of patents was passed in 1790; the present law in 1870. Any invention, both new and useful, can receive a patent. It is necessary only that it should be new in the United States, its previous use in foreign countries not preventing a patent. Any person who is the first inventor of anything that admits of a patent can obtain one, whether a resident of the country or a foreigner. The patents are given for seventeen years and cannot be renewed. About 30,000 patents are applied for yearly in America.


A decision by the U. S. Supreme Court in 1913 declared it unlawful for a manufacturer to fix the retail price of his product by refusing to sell to retailers who fail to adhere to this price. The case was one in which a manufacturer of a patented article claimed that his patent gave him the absolute control of the sale of the article, including the price.