Martin V. B. Montgomery


Martin Van Buren Montgomery—lawyer, legislator, jurist—was the 20th Commissioner of Patents.

He was born in the township of Eaton Rapids, Michigan, October 20, 1840. The early part of his life was spent on his father's farm, attendance at the district schools taking place only in the winter months, as was the case with other farm boys who later became Commissioners. He studied law, was admitted to the bar in 1865, and immediately began to practice. His talents were at once recognized, and he filled, successively, different public offices of increasing importance.

On March 18, 1885, Mr. Montgomery relinquished his then extensive practice to accept the office of Commissioner of Patents. His advent into the new field of activity was with the return to power of the political party of his faith, and, party feeling being tense, and some of the appointees coming into the Office as his subordinates being not wisely chosen, considerable criticism was heaped upon his administration. In addition, he had not previously specialized in the patent branch of jurisprudence, which led to the charge that his appointment was a political favor.

But Mr. Montgomery brought to the Office the personality of a great man; a man of learning and legal ability. Being a trained lawyer, he knew the value of precedents and followed closely the established practice of the Office. He also knew the value of orderly procedure and labored diligently to secure uniformity of practice in the several divisions of the Office. He prescribed the "forms" used in taking appeals, petitions, etc., and the procedure now followed in amending allowed applications. He also prescribed the present practice of requiring all papers submitted in connection with interference cases, appeals, petitions and issue cases to be filed with the Docket Clerk.

So distinguished were the services of Mr. Montgomery and so marked was his legal ability, that in 1887 he was commissioned Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia, resigning his office as Commissioner of Patents, April 11, 1887.

In 1892, wishing to return to his home in Michigan and resume the practice of the law, he left the bench and continued the practice of his profession until his death in 1898.


*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.