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Federal Eye
Posted at 09:00 AM ET, 09/08/2011

Federal government issues its 8 millionth patent

The federal government will mark an interesting milestone Thursday by officially awarding its 8 millionth patent to a company helping people with poor eyesight.

(Christopher Powers - BLOOMBERG)
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office officially issued patent number 8,000,000 last month to Second Sight Medical Products, granting the company permission to develop a device called a “visual prosthesis apparatus” that would help improve visual perception for people who have gone blind due to outer retinal degeneration.

The device “uses electrical stimulation of the retina to produce the visual perception of patterns of light,” according to the Patent Office. (Considering our name, we here at The Federal Eye couldn’t be happier that the patent may one day soon help people with poor eyesight.)

Though the Patent Office crossed the 8 million mark last month, the Commerce Department — which operates the Patent Office — will hold an event this morning in Washington to mark the milestone.

It’ll also be an excuse for the Obama administration officials to push for passage of the America Invents Act, a patent reform law expected to get a vote in the Senate later this week.

The bill would attempt to curb patent litigation, which is on the rise, and the White House claims it could help create 200,000 jobs. Detractors believe it would create new layers of red tape and make life difficult for entrepreneurs whose inventions rely on patents.

Under the Patent Office’s current numbering system, Patent number 1 was issued in 1836. Though there were patents issued prior to 1836, the government’s official count system wasn’t in place at the time.

The 1 millionth patent, issued in 1911, went to an Ohio inventor for improvements to vehicle tires that made them more durable and puncture resistant. The 7 millionth patent — issued in February 2006 — was issued for strong, biodegradable, low-cost, polysaccharide fibers invented to be used in textile applications.

And the first American patent ever issued? It went to Samuel Hopkins on July 31, 1790 for his process of making potash, an ingredient used in fertilizer. The patent was signed by George Washington.

Follow Ed O’Keefe on Twitter: @edatpost

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By  |  09:00 AM ET, 09/08/2011

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