Milestones in U.S. patenting

Graph of the rate of issuance of every millionth patent from 1836 through 2021.
Chart showing the exponential advancement of technology through the issuance of patents between the 1700s to present. Notable patents including the telegraph, lightbulb, personal computer, and Bluetooth are listed on the timeline. The chart has exponential growth, showing a sharp increase in number of issued patents over the past 50 years.
Click to expand this infographic highlighting notable patents and IP laws across the years.

The United States issues patents by the millions, and the growth is exponential. Our patent system was created to support intellectual property, which is recognized in our Constitution: "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries." We invite you to take a look at some of these "millions milestones " from over the years.


Million milestones

The first U.S. patent

July 31, 1790
Issued to Samuel Hopkins for a process of making potash, an ingredient used in fertilizer. President George Washington signed the first patent. 

Patent no. 1

July 13, 1836
The U.S. government had issued 9,957 patents before starting a numbering system. On that occasion, U.S. patent no. 1 was issued to John Ruggles for a traction wheel for steam locomotives.

Patent no. 1 million

August 8, 1911
Issued to Francis H. Holton, for a tubeless vehicle tire. 

Patent no. 2 million

April 30, 1935
Issued to Joseph Ledwinka for a vehicle wheel to increase the safety and longevity of pneumatic tires.

Patent no. 3 million

September 12, 1961
Issued to Kenneth Eldredge for an automated system that translated letters, numbers and symbols to data processing code.

Patent no. 4 million

December 28, 1976
Issued to Robert Mendenhall for a process for recycling asphalt aggregate compositions. 

Patent no. 5 million

March 19, 1991
Issued to the University of Florida. Lonnie O. Ingram and others invented an innovative way to produce fuel ethanol. 

Patent no. 6 million

December 7, 1999
Issued to 3Com Corporation’s Palm Computing. Jeffery Hawkins and others invented an extendible method and apparatus for synchronizing multiple files on two different computer systems.

Patent no. 7 million

February 14, 2006
Issued to E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company. John O’Brien invented a process for producing polysaccharide fibers.

Patent no. 8 million

August 16, 2011
Issued to Second Sight Medical Products, Inc. Robert Greenberg and others invented a visual prosthesis apparatus.

Patent no. 9 million

April 7, 2015
Issued to WiperFill Holdings LLC. Matthew Carroll invented a system of collecting rainwater to replenish a windshield wiper reservoir and windshield washer conditioner.

Patent no. 10 million

June 19, 2018
Issued to Raytheon Company. Joseph Marron invented a coherent ladar using intra-pixel quadrature detection, with applications in such varied fields as autonomous vehicles, medical imaging devices, military defense systems, and space and undersea exploration. 

Patent no. 11 million

May 11, 2021
Issued to 4C Medical Technologies, Inc. Co-inventors Saravana B. Kumar and Jason S. Diedering provide a new method for delivering, positioning, and/or repositioning a collapsible and expandable stent frame within a patient’s heart chamber.