The First US Clean Tech Patent
The US Patent & Trademark Office recently closed its Green Technology Pilot Program that provided accelerated examination of patent applications meeting certain criteria to qualify as clean technology.
What was the first US clean technology patent? It probably was issued sometime after the growing movement of ecological awareness in the early 1970s, wouldn’t you say? Or perhaps the first clean tech invention came about in response to the publishing of Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” in 1962?
Before we proceed, we should review a portion of our patentECO clean technology definition:
“Clean technologies use less material, less energy, minimize waste, or lessen negative environmental consequences.”
The patentECO Industry Index includes technologies pertaining to waste minimization, improved production processes that reduce resource (e.g., feedstocks, process chemicals, energy inputs) requirements, and reducing the use of toxic or potentially harmful chemicals when possible, to name a few.
The first US clean tech patent was issued to Edward M. Chaffee of Roxbury, MA. His invention is titled “Application of Caoutchouc to Cloths, Leather, and Other Articles.” He developed an improved process for preparing, coloring, and applying india-rubber to cloth of all kinds, leather, and other articles, without the use of a solvent. Classified in the US Patent Classification (USPC) as 156/231, the invention is found with others that pertain to adhesive bonding and other chemical manufacture, “with formation of lamina of continuous length by molding or casting on endless carrier”. This is patent-speak for processes that form a continuous layer by casting or molding on an endless belt or calendar roll carrier, contacting the layer while on the carrier with a preformed base and then removing the layer from the belt or carrier. Chaffee’s invention has the distinction of being the first one issued with that classification as the original classification; the original (or first-listed US classification on a patent) represents the central inventive subject matter of a patent.
Chaffee’s patent was the 16th issued by the Patent Office, on August 31, 1836.
The second patent in this classification was awarded 13 years later, in 1852, to a New Haven, CT inventor named Charles Goodyear.
Thus, clean tech inventions in the US have been with us for 176 years, and started in industry, with a concern for reducing solvent use in a manufacturing process.