Lawrence C. Kingsland was born in St. Louis on April 11, 1884. He attended Washington University in St. Louis and received a degree from Washington University School of Law in 1908.
For the next 39 years he practiced patent law in St. Louis, including as the first-named senior partner in a law firm. At the request of the Department of Commerce he served as an adviser to the Philippines government on drafting that country’s patent and trademark laws.
President Harry Truman appointed Kingsland commissioner of patents, and he took the oath of office on September 10, 1947. Secretary of Commerce W. Averell Harriman, a later governor of New York and twice-unsuccessful candidate for the Democratic nomination for president, administered the oath.
The secretary reactivated the Patent Office Advisory Committee in the fall of 1947. Operation of the committee had been suspended during World War II. Fifteen members were named to the reactivated committee. Even though two-thirds of the members were from the West Coast and Midwest, the committee held six days of meetings in the first six months.
The first trademark registration under the Trademark Act of 1946, which took effect in 1947, was issued in December 1947. Record numbers of trademark applications were filed under the new act. In 1948 the backlog of unexamined patent applications was a major concern. Many of the patent examining divisions were more than two years behind in reaching an application.
In 1948 the office engaged a management consulting firm to review the patent examining operations. After a six-month study, the firm recommended a program “to effect increased productivity of the examining operation as the primary means to solve the problem of backlog,” according to the Commissioner’s Annual Report. The office introduced the Manual of Patent Examining Procedure in 1949 for use by patent examiners and members of the public.
In 1949 the office also completed a comprehensive revision of the patent rules of practice for the first time in more than 50 years, introduced changes in procedure, and changed the arrangement and language of the rules in an effort to make them easier to understand.
Kingsland made other changes designed to improve the office’s efficiency and service to the public. They included liberalization of opportunities for patent applicants to interview examiners and a drive to act on all new applications within nine months of filing. According to the recollections of a retired patent examiner writing in the Journal of the Patent Office Society in 1957, Kingsland, “In contrast to Commissioners Coe and Ooms . . . was for a liberal standard of invention and was not opposed to the granting of so-called ‘picture claims,’ if the applicant so desires.”
In 1949 the office assisted the House Judiciary Committee in its general revision and codification of patent law. Kingsland published an article reviewing the history of patent application processing from 1790 through his tenure as commissioner.
Kingsland resigned on December 1, 1949, to return to law practice in St. Louis. His successor, John A. Marzall, took office the next day.
At a farewell ceremony held in the Commerce Department Auditorium, the assistant commissioner presiding said Kingsland had dropped his law practice of almost 40 years to help the Patent Office for 27 months at great financial sacrifice. Kingsland died in St. Louis on February 1, 1970, at age 85.
Lawrence C. Kingsland, The United States Patent Office, 13 Law and Contemporary Problems 354 (Spring 1948).
Hillel Marans, Forty Years of U.S. Patent Office 1917-1956, 39 JPOS 737 (1957).
USPTO, The Story of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (1988).
USPTO, Annual Reports of the Commissioner of Patents (1947-50).