By Donald Zuhn --
Last month, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel published two articles documenting the current state of the U.S. patent system (see "The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Gets It Right about Patents"). The authors of those pieces, John Schmid and Ben Poston, have now compiled an interactive graphic that shows how the U.S. patent system has shaped American history and innovation. The graphic contains a number of elements, including a timeline of key patents and significant events in American history, a comparison of domestic and foreign patents issued between 1790 and 2009, and charts showing the top countries and states in which U.S. patents originated, the number of pending applications between 1981 and 2009 and average application pendency between 1983 and 2008, fee diversion between 1992 and 2004, and rapid growth of the Chinese patent system between 1999 and 2008.
Among the patents making the Journal Sentinel's timeline are the issuance in 1928 of U.S. Patent No. 1,680,818 to Harry Steenbock, the issuance in 1948 of U.S. Patent No. 2,442,141 to Andrew Moyer, and the issuance in 1998 of U.S. Patent No. 5,843,780 to James Thomson. The '818 patent, which is directed to an antirachitic product and process (i.e., a process for enhancing Vitamin D in "organic substances of dietary value"). Dr. Steenbock secured a Nobel nomination in 1929 for the work leading to the '818 patent, and the success of the patent helped launch the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF). The '141 patent is directed to a method a producing penicillin, and the '780 patent is the first embryonic stem cells patent. The timeline also includes the Diamond v. Chakrabarty decision, which the authors state spurred an "unprecedented growth in biotechnology," among its significant events.