Third president of the United States, author of the first US patent law and first head of the USPTO
IP Hall of Fame inductee in 2006
In addition to serving as the third president of the United States and to numerous other accomplishments, Jefferson was an inventor and the first head of the US Patent and Trademark Office. One of the primary framers of the US Constitution, Jefferson is widely believed to have been influential in the drafting of Article 1, Section 8, Clause 8, which states: “The Congress shall have power 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.” This is seen as one of the origins of the IP system that exists today, particularly in regard to time-limited protection. He was also responsible for the phrase “any new and useful art, machine, manufacture or composition of matter and any new and useful improvement on any art, machine, manufacture or composition of matter”, which appeared in the patent law of 1793 and more or less still remains in the US patent law today. Jefferson’s writings – among them letters to James Madison – highlight his concern at maintaining a balance between incentives for creators and benefits for the public. They are still cited today by proponents on both sides of the debate over greater protection for IP versus greater access to the public domain.