John Seymour [was born on September 28, 1848, and] came from Colonial stock, his earliest ancestors in this country being found among the first settlers of Hartford, Connecticut. The first years of his life were spent at Whitney's Point, New York, his schooling being in the common schools and the Whitney's Point Academy. After graduating from Yale College and then studying law at the same institution, he returned to the place of his ancestors in Connecticut and there took up the practice of law in Norwalk. He held a number of prominent positions in that state before he was appointed Commissioner of Patents by President Cleveland during the latter's second administration.
The chief characteristic of his administration of the Patent Office was his sweeping change in the Rules of Practice. Mr. Seymour was a man of strong conviction and, believing a reform of procedure necessary, did not hesitate to eliminate bodily almost two thirds of the rules formerly in use. In place of the conventional book containing about 229 rules, at that time well known to the Office force and patent profession, he introduced near the close of his term a manual containing only 88 rules. Many pages contained only a recitation of the statutes. This practice apparently led to less exactness in the standards followed in the prosecution of cases within the Office and permitted a more liberal range to inventors in the preparation of their applications.
After completing his term as Commissioner of Patents in Washington, Mr. Seymour returned to New York, the state of his birth, to resume the practice of law in New York City where he formed a partnership.
In 1926 he was incapacitated by a stroke, and after a long illness he died on June 16, 1931, at the age of 83.
*Republished with permission of the Patent and Trademark Office Society from the article Biographical Sketches of the Commissioners of Patents, 18 J.P.O.S. 145 (1936). The United States Patent and Trademark Office is grateful for the Society’s assistance.