Robert Frederick Whitehead


The son of a successful farmer and lawyer, Mr. Whitehead was born February 28, 1869, near Lovingston, Virginia. He attended the public schools and the University of Virginia, having by the year 1893 acquired a number of degrees at the latter institution. He taught school for a time, and then specialized in mathematics for two years at Johns Hopkins University.

Mr. Whitehead first entered the Government service in 1901, at the Navy Yard at Norfolk, Virginia. On February 1, 1902, he was appointed a Fourth Assistant Examiner, and then took up the study of law, passing the bar in due course, in the District of Columbia.

In his first few weeks in the Patent Office Mr. Whitehead distinguished himself with the facility with which he learned the practice and in the short time in which he had acquired a mastery of the rules and a competent knowledge of the Commissioners' decisions. He was transferred to the Interference Division, was appointed Law Examiner, and finally, Assistant Commissioner on May 5, 1914. After that, he was First Assistant Commissioner until he became Commissioner on August 10, 1920, which office he held until he resigned on February 5, 1921, to enter a New York law firm.

On March 30, 1923, Mr. Whitehead returned to the Office as Law Examiner. He served in this position until his appointment as Solicitor on June 1, 1935, following the retirement of Mr. Hostetler, which position he now holds. Mr. Whitehead's cyclopedic knowledge of patent law and practice makes him practically indispensable to the smooth and proper functioning of the Patent Office.

[Mr. Whitehead died on August 24, 1951.]


*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.