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US Patent and Trademark Office Issues 10-Millionth Patent

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.

The 10 millionth patent has been issued in the United States, almost 228 years after President George Washington signed the first one.

The United States Patent and Trademark Office issued the newest patent Tuesday to the Raytheon Company, a defense contractor. Raytheon received the patent based on an invention by Joseph Marron, who works for the firm as an optical engineer.

Marron created a system, known as LADAR, which improves laser detection and ranging. Patent officials say it has applications in areas that include autonomous vehicles, medical imaging devices, military defense systems and space and undersea exploration. Raytheon says the concept involves delivering real time data from a laser radar.

"Innovation has been the lifeblood of this country since its founding," Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said in a statement issued by the patent office. "Our patent system's importance to the daily lives of every American has never been greater. Given the rapid pace of change, we know that it will not take another 228 years to achieve the next 10-million-patent milestone," he added.

The real deal

“The issuance of patent 10 million is an exceptional milestone," PTO spokesman Paul Fucito told VOA. "It is a timely and relevant opportunity to promote the importance of innovation, the ubiquity of intellectual property, and the history of America’s patent system.”

For his part, Marron said in a statement the 10 millionth patent is "equivalent to a guy who buys a lottery ticket every month." He added, "Eventually, it hits."

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

Inventors Honored in Hall of Fame Special Ceremony
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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 individuals whose innovative products have greatly affected our world.

Fifteen of those trailblazing men and women recently were honored for their unique 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."

VOA's Julie Taboh contributed to this report.