Constitution Day, September 17th. This day commemorates the signing of one of the most important and influential documents in American history, the Constitution. We celebrate this day as a reminder of how this country was founded.

Originally called “I Am an American Day” the tradition started in 1940 on the third Sunday in May. In 1952, Congress moved it to September 17th and it was termed “Citizenship Day”. However, in 2004, Congress again changed the name to “Constitution Day and Citizenship Day”.

The concept of intellectual property protection had become part of the states’ laws; however, they became nationalized when intellectual property rights were included in the Constitution. By 1787, a majority of the states had copyright laws already in effect but those laws differed from state to state. James Madison and Charles Pinckney both provided proposals concerning intellectual property rights for inclusion into the Constitution. The patent and copyright clause can be found under Article I, Section 8, Clause 8 of the Constitution and states:

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 Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.

This clause allows inventors to protect their intellectual property along with the prospective earnings from their invention for a specified period of time. Many of the Founding Fathers were adamant about protecting intellectual property. In George Washington’s first Annual Message he urged Congress to pass legislation to protect patents and copyrights. Washington furthered this request by passing the patent act.

On April 10, 1790, President George Washington passed the first United States Patent Act, which provided inventors’ patent rights to their creations and paved the way for the modern American patent system. Under this act, the Department of State formed the Patent Board consisting of Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson, Secretary of War Henry Knox, and Attorney General Edmund Randolph.

On December 5, 1791, the Bill of Rights was published. In Article 9, James Madison suggested term limits be put on intellectual property. “Monopolies may be allowed to persons for their own productions in literature, and their own inventions in the arts, for a term not exceeding –years, but for no longer term, and no other purpose.”

The Constitution was signed 231 years ago. While a lot has changed since then, one thing remains the same, “the patent system added the fuel of interest to the fire of genius” – Abe Lincoln.

Suiter Swantz IP is a full-service intellectual property law firm, based in Omaha, NE, serving all of Nebraska, Iowa, and South Dakota. If you have any intellectual property questions or need assistance with any patenttrademark, or copyright matters and would like to speak with one of our patent attorneys, please contact us.