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February 15, 2002
#02-13

Contact:
Maria V. Hernandez
703-305-8341
maria.hernandez2@uspto.gov

Press Release, 02-13

Patent for Phonograph Issued February 19, 1878 One of Edison's first great inventions

Washington - Thomas A. Edison, one of the outstanding geniuses in the history of technology, received patent no. 200,521 for a phonograph on February 19, 1878. This patent is just one of the more than one thousand Edison was granted for his inventions.

Edison was exceptionally inquisitive, and while tinkering with the telegraph transmitter he discovered that when played back at high speeds, the tape sounded like spoken words. He figured out that the human voice, and other sounds, could cause a light material plate to vibrate. And, when properly placed, a needle could indent the plate, recording the vibrations, and found that yet another needle could play them back. He eventually rigged a tinfoil cylinder and a stylus with which he recorded, "Mary Had a Little Lamb."

Edison's inventions have been a mainstay of our economy for over 100 years. At the turn of the 20th century, Edison's New Jersey laboratory (now a national monument), was the hub around which factories employing 5,000 people produced new products, including the mimeograph, the fluoroscope, the alkaline storage battery, dictating machines, and motion picture cameras and projectors. The electric light bulb, his most famous invention, was the foundation for today's General Electric Company.

Edison's phonograph patent, as well as the more than six million patents issued since the first in 1790 and the 2.3 million trademarks registered since 1870, can be seen on the Department of Commerce's U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Web site at www.uspto.gov .

Last year USPTO issued 187,824 patents and registered 102,314 trademarks.

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