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"Everything that can be invented, has been invented," announced Charles H. Duell, commissioner of the U.S. Patents Office, in 1899. Time Magazine, Forward Thinking, October 3, 2004
Nonsense. According to Samuel Sass:
It's easy enough to prove that Duell was not the "dim-witted official" so glibly referred to. One need only examine his 1899 report, a document of only a few pages, available in any depository library. Far from suggesting to the president that he abolish the Patent Office, Duell quotes the following from McKinley's annual message: "Our future progress and prosperity depend upon our ability to equal, if not surpass, other nations in the enlargement and advance of science, industry and commerce. To invention we must turn as one of the most powerful aids to the accomplishment of such a result." Duell then adds, "May not our inventors hopefully look to the Fifty-sixth Congress for aid and effectual encouragement in improving the American patent system?" Surely these words are not those of some kind of idiot who believes that everything has already been invented. Other information in that report also definitely refutes any such notion. Duell presents statistics showing the growth in the number of patents from 435 in 1837 to 25,527 in 1899. In the one year between 1898 and 1899 there was an increase of about 3,000. It's hardly likely that he would expect a sudden and abrupt ending to patent applications.

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