Thomas Ewing


The name Ewing has been connected with public life and governmental functions over a considerable period of years. Thomas Ewing, Commissioner Ewing's grandfather, was the first Secretary of the Interior Department, having been appointed by President Zachary Taylor in 1849 when the Department was formed. Secretary Ewing was an eminent lawyer and was twice in the Senate from Ohio, having been in that body at the time the Patent Act of 1836 was under consideration and when it was passed, and there is a family tradition that he was active in the preparation of the bill. Secretary Ewing was also Secretary of the Treasury during the administration of President William Henry Harrison.

Commissioner Ewing's father, General Thomas Ewing, served with distinction in the Northern Army during the Civil War. He was elected Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Kansas in 1860 at the age of thirty-one, and it was while he was on the bench that Commissioner Ewing was born, on May 21, 1862.

Commissioner Ewing has received degrees from the University of Wooster in Ohio, Columbia University in New York, and Georgetown University in Washington, D. C. He has taught in the School of Mines of Columbia University and in the law department of Georgetown University.

Mr. Ewing came to the Office of Commissioner of Patents well equipped for the service, having been an Assistant Examiner in the Patent Office from 1888 to 1890, and actively engaged in the practice of patent law since then. His administration as Commissioner was noted for the disregard of precedents, when he thought they were wrong. Though probably no Commissioner ever held the precedents and traditions of the Office in greater reverence than Mr. Ewing, he did not hesitate to disregard them when he believed substantial justice and right so demanded.

The keynote of Commissioner Ewing's administration was his admiration for the American Patent System, and his steadfast efforts to elevate its standards and impress upon Congress and the Officials of the Office its importance to our commercial and economic system in encouraging progress in the arts by a righteous system of rewards to those inventors who had really contributed something to that progress. He changed the system of granting promotions, and encouraged discussions of Patent Office problems, reserving an hour each week for the reading of papers before the assembled corps. Similarly, he invited distinguished inventors, patent attorneys, and federal judges to address the examining corps on such subjects as they thought the Patent Office needed to get the views of its patrons and the courts.

He endeavored to further reduce the delays in the prosecution of cases before the Office, and modified the current practice in regard to interferences and divisional requirements in the interests of greater fairness and uniformity in the treatment of applicants.

On his retirement from the Office of Commissioner, Mr. Ewing was made Chairman of the Munitions Patent Board of the War and Navy Departments and then resumed the practice of his profession in New York City. He has an office at the present time in the Chrysler Building.

At the various times Mr. Ewing has held civic positions of community interest as well as other positions in the Federal Government. He is a keen student of ancient and modern literature, and is himself distinguished by the authorship of plays and poems.

Mr. Ewing continues to display an active interest in perfecting the patent system, and is an indefatigable worker toward that end. In 1931 he was President of the American Patent Law Association, and in 1934 he was one of the American delegates at the Conference held in London for the amendment of the International Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property.

[Mr. Ewing died on December 7, 1942, in New York.]


*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.