October's spark of genius article
USPTO Issues Patent Number Eight Million: A milestone for the United States Patent System
On August 16, 2011, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) issued patent number eight million to Dr. Robert J. Greenberg, Kelly H. McClure and Arup Roy for a visual prosthesis that enhances visual perception for people who have lost their sight because of retinal degeneration. On September 8, the USPTO and the Smithsonian American Art Museum co-hosted a ceremony celebrating this important milestone. The event was held at the museum, the former home of the USPTO.
Acting U.S. Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank and USPTO Director David Kappos presented the patent to its assignee, Second Sight Medical Products, Inc. of Sylmar, California. Acting Secretary Blank spoke and commented that, "It is the technological advances of companies like Second Sight...that will drive our nation's economic progress and global competitiveness." Under Secretary Kappos said, "The device we celebrate today is not only a milestone in American patent history, but also a milestone for the blind. Allowing them to interact with the world in unprecedented ways and empowering the visually impaired to achieve greater independence."
Over 100 attended the ceremony, which concluded with a demonstration of the device by its co-inventor and the president and CEO of Second Sight, Dr. Robert Greenberg. The Argus II device has been approved for use in Europe and clinical trials continue in the United States. Barbara Campbell tested the device during its development. "I felt like I had won the lottery when I was chosen for the trial," said Campbell. She lives in Manhattan and wears the Argus II every day. It allows her to see and use the crosswalks on the city's busy streets.
Under the current numbering system for patents, patent number one was issued in 1836. It took 75 years to get to patent number one million in 1911 and another 24 years to reach two million in 1935. It was not until 26 years later that the three million mark was reached in 1961. In 1976, 15 years later, patent number four million was issued. Patent number five million emerged, like clockwork, 15 years later in 1991. The pace of innovation accelerated after that and only eight years elapsed before patent number six million issued in 1999. It then took just seven years to reach patent number seven million in 2006. Finally, it took just five years to reach the most recent milestone, eight million. Visit the USPTO's Eight Million and Going for a chronology of the United States' journey to patent number 8,000,000.