History, History Column

Parker & the PTO

I am not just a kibble-eating poodle.  I am a trademarked™—notice my byline—kibble-eating poodle.  Pure blooded, I am a mix.  I am both personal and intellectual property.


My mistress and I went to Alexandria’s Patent and Trademark Office, the National Inventors Hall of Fame and Museum to learn more.  Intellectual property is protected in one of four ways: patents, trademarks, trade secrets and copyrights.  My stories; this story is copyrighted ©.


Simply stated, I am a canine combo.  Parker the dog is personal property, chattel.  Like the slaves of yore, I sleep on the floor.  I am owned by someone who leashes me.  Parker A. Poodle™ the writer is an idea, an expression of my mistress’ emotion.  I have a dog’s heart and a writer’s soul.  More than a pet, I am my mistress’ imagination made real.


Admittedly Parker the dog has a certain je ne sais quoi.  I walk with a pedigreed prance, play with Potomac River fishermen, and enjoy cottage cheese with breakfast.  I cuddle effortlessly, like a daring dog should.


Nathan Poodle, now deceased, was the first dog in our family to publish.  His sunglasses, my sunglasses, are distinctive if not trademark.  In 2000 Nathan Poodle’s popularity was such that Southern Living magazine profiled his work.  Work, in his case, implied original written compositions.  Nathan’s Duck Walk to the River remains a regional classic.


It was James Madison who, in 1787, asked the Constitutional Convention “to encourage…the advancement of useful knowledge and discoveries.”  Article 1, Section 8:8 of the US Constitution states that “The Congress shall have the power to promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive rights to their respective writings and discoveries.”  Copyright protects the written work, also music and works of art from unauthorized use.


Books such as Lassie Come-Home; films and television like Benji and Rin Tin Tin; Elvis Presley’s Hound Dog and Snoop Dogg’s music all are protected by copyright.  When protected, the work cannot be stolen.  Just as people should not steal dogs or cars, neither should they steal writings, songs, images, ideas or inventions.  The US Chamber of Commerce estimates that $250 billion is lost yearly because of copyright piracy.


Kellogg’s Tony the Tiger [Frosted Flakes] and Morris, the 9-Lives cat [pet food] are trademarks.  Their feline images are product linked.  The Coca-Cola formula is deemed a trade secret.  Given the volume of Coca-Cola my mistress consumes, Coke’s formula is liquid gold.


When I think of a patent, I think of the 1975 retractable dog leash and the 1939 twist (or treat bag) tie.  Both are simple inventions, useful and reusable.  Patents can protect inventions for as long as 20 years.


In 1854 Alexandria druggists and “joint inventors” John and Edward S. Leadbeater submitted a handwritten patent application, including drawings, “for a new improved method of measuring liquids.”  The US Patent Office denied their application, claiming it “contained nothing essentially new or patentable.”  Leadbeater’s patent medicines, however, were common drugstore stock.  Leadbeater’s Lubricating Liniment was labeled “for man and beast.”


Philadelphia’s Samuel Hopkins was the first inventor to benefit from the patent process.  Hopkins’ interest was potash production.  He used potash, or crude potassium carbonate, to make soap.  Well groomed poodles understand the value of soap.


Did you know that Thomas Jefferson processed the first patent applications from a shoebox under his bed?  Patents related to candle-making, distilling, pile driving, grain threshing and flour manufacturing were also granted.


Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson was the first Commissioner of the US Patent Office.  The moldboard plow and the wheel cipher are but two of his inventions.  Jefferson had a penchant for science.

Born of the Enlightened tradition, Thomas Jefferson admired scientists especially Isaac Newton.  The Slinky toy relies on Isaac Newton’s theory of inertia.  Enlightened believers discount dog-ma.  They support science instead.


It was President Jefferson who championed Lewis and Clark’s 1804 western Expedition.  Merriwether Lewis, Jefferson’s former secretary, asked the Harper’s Ferry arsenal to design a collapsible boat.  The boat tested well, then failed to launch when unpacked.  The team discovered that Rocky Mountain tree sap did not have Virginia’s same, sticky, glue-like fluid.  Animal skins would not attach to the boat’s frame.


Despite the Civil War both the Union and the Confederacy remained loyal to the patent system.  On May 21, 1861—three days before Alexandria seceded from the union—the Confederacy passed a patent law.  President Jefferson Davis received as many as 70 patent requests monthly and, unlike the Union, the Confederacy granted patents to slaves.  No dogs, I am told.


Thomas Edison holds the record for the number of individual patents granted, 1093.  Born February 11, 1847 Edison’s patents include the electrographic vote-recorder, incandescent electric lamp, phonograph; motion picture projector and rubber extraction from plants.  He received his first patent for the electrographic vote-recorder at the age of 22.


Edison did not invent the first light bulb, he improved it.  Its workings held his attention for years.  In 1879, using lower current, a small carbonized filament and an improved vacuum inside the globe, Edison was able to produce an incandescent electric lamp.


“There was no lack of enthusiasm or of confidence as Mr. Edison greeted [those] who entered his laboratory,” The New York Times reported October 21, 1879.  “The inventor, a short, thick-set man, with grimy hands, led the way through his workshop, and willingly explained the distinctive features of what he and many others look upon as an apparatus which will soon cause gas-light to be a thing of the past.  The lamp which Mr. Edison regards as a crowning triumph is a model of simplicity and economy….”


“[Mr. Edison] certainly demonstrated that in his own Menlo Park laboratory, the electric light is as obedient to his will as the gas light is to the general public,” The New York Times continued.  “The light from each lamp is about the power of an ordinary gas jet, but Mr. Edison claims that by increasing electricity, he can raise the power to 15 gas-jets….”


“No electricians have been here yet,” Edison told The New York Times in conclusion.  “Electricians are a very scarce article in this country.  Practical men, with experience, and what I call ‘horse sense,’ are the best judges of this light, and they are the men whom I like to welcome to my laboratory.”  I, an obedient canine, yield to equine sensibility.


“Almost two hundred years ago, President George Washington recognized that invention and innovation were fundamental to the welfare and strength of the United States,” President Ronald Reagan proclaimed in 1983.  “He successfully urged the First Congress to enact a patent statute [and] wisely advised that “there is nothing which can better deserve your patronage than the promotion of science.’”  Washington bred the first American foxhound; the first mule.


“Public credit established—Justice promptly and impartially administered—Industry encouraged and protected—Science progressing—Liberty, civil and religious, secured on the liberal basis of reason and virtue, are the rich rewards of the past exertions of our citizens,” President Washington wrote Edward Newenham in 1791, “and the strong incentives to future patriotism.”


National Inventors Day was created to celebrate America’s greatest technological advances.  Edison’s mother was “determined that no formalism would cramp…the full sweep of [her son’s and my mistress’] imagination.”  Discovery, like writing is a creative process all Americans should enjoy.


For more information, visit http://www.invent.org.


Written by: Parker A. Poodle™
Email: abitofhistory53@gmail.com


[Ed. Note:  Parker A. Poodle ™ is the significant companion of Alexandria writer Sarah Becker).

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