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The Edison National Historical Park (ENHP) holds a wide variety of patent-related documents. In addition to a complete set of the United States patents of Thomas A. Edison, there is also an extensive series of patent applications filed by Edison and his associates, and a smaller collection of patent caveats (descriptions of proposed inventions that were often filed prior to the formal patent application). Other patent-related materials at ENHP include correspondence, bills, and receipts from Edison's patent attorneys; correspondence from the U.S. Patent Office and from Edison's business associates; patents assignments; and records of patent interferences (similar in many respects to civil court litigation).
The Patent Series, 1871-1878, consists primarily of patent applications and caveats. There are only a few such documents at ENHP for the 1870s. These include certified copies of seven abandoned applications relating to improvements in duplex telegraphy, two notebooks containing copies of Edison caveats, and a small number of tracings and other patent drawings.
Patent-related materials for the 1870s can also be found in most of the other series. Telegraph- and telephone-related applications and caveats frequently appear as exhibits in the civil court records and the patent interference cases in the Litigation Series. Several of the volumes in the Notebook Series and the Letterbook Series contain drafts of applications and caveats, while notes that were made preparatory to the filing of patent applications can frequently be found among the unbound notes and drawings in the Notebook Series.
The various "Patents" folders in the Document File contain patent-related correspondence, as well as a few unbound applications and caveats. Preliminary statements, correspondence, and memoranda regarding patent interference cases, along with patent assignments, agreements, and a few issued patents from foreign countries, can also be found in these folders.
A set of seven bound volumes containing testimony, exhibits, and arguments involving patent rights to the telephone (the "Telephone Interferences") has been selected as part of the Litigation Series. A complete set of the 1,093 patents issued to Thomas A. Edison can be found in the online edition at http://edison.rutgers.edu/patents.htm. A nearly complete set of application files for Edison's issued patents, along with an extensive collection of his caveats, can be found at the National Archives in Record Group 241, Records of the Patent Office.
The documents and finding aids in the Patent Series, 1871-1878, appear in the following order:
The Edison National Historical Park holds an extensive set of successful and unsuccessful American and foreign patent applications. Most of these applications, and related materials, are from the files of Edison's patent attorneys and date from the 1880s and later. For the earlier period, there are certified copies of seven abandoned patent applications, originally filed in 1873, as well as a collection of tracings and other patent application drawings.
Until 1910 the Patent Office permitted an inventor to file an official notice, or caveat, that he was working on a particular invention. If another individual subsequently filed a patent application for a similar invention, the first inventor was so notified. He was then given the opportunity to file his own patent application, which would be put in interference with the earlier application to establish priority. A caveat was valid for one year and could be renewed from year to year upon payment of a fee ($10 in 1875).
There are few caveat materials at the Edison National Historical Park for the 1870s. In addition to the documents in this series, there are also copies of caveats in the Document File and in other series in the digital edition. Fourteen caveats relating to electric lighting and the telephone can be found in Experimental Researches, Vol 5. An extensive collection of caveats for this period can be found at the National Archives in Record Group 241, Records of the Patent and Trademark Office. Courtesy of Thomas Edison National Historical Park.