Patents and the Oval Office

United States presidents have been involved with patents since the beginning of the nation. The US Patent system was established by the Patent Act of 1790. This act, signed into law by President George Washington, emphasized the importance of intellectual property rights from the country’s inception.


Abraham Lincoln was directly involved with patents. He’s the only president to have been issued a patent, Patent No. 6,469 for, “A device for buoying vessels over shoals.” It was granted in 1849. Lincoln was a ferry man on the Mississippi river, and it was common for boats to run aground. His invention included buoyant air chambers attached to the side of the boat. These could be lowered into the water and inflated to lift the boat over sand bars, or through shallow water without having to unload the cargo. Lincoln’s famous quote about patents was that, “The US patent system added the fuel of interest to the fire of genius in the discovery of new and useful things.”


Closer to my own heart was Dwight D. Eisenhower’s praise of the Higgins boat. A. J. Higgins obtained Patent No. 2,144,111 for his landing craft. Eisenhower said, “Andrew Higgins is the man who won the war for us.” The landing craft ferried troops and equipment from ship to shore. “We never could’ve landed over an open beach. The whole strategy of the war would have been different.”


The reason this means so much to me is because my father, Henry Wallace (Hank) Honaker piloted one of these landing craft in World War II. In 1943, he joined the Navy at 17. His job was to get troops and equipment from his ship, the USS Towner (a.k.a., 77), to the shore. Like most World War II veterans, he didn’t talk much about the war. All he really said was, “You hit the beach, drop the front, unload, reverse engines, and head back to the ship. You only had one real decision to make, and that was whether you swim to shore or back to the ship if you were hit.”

I often think of that 17-year-old taking fire, and doing what he did to get men and supplies to shore time after time. They were “The Greatest Generation.”


To get answers to your questions about anything IP click here. To schedule a time to talk, email, or give him a call at 248-433-7381.

Bill Honaker, The IP Guy

About the Author:

Bill Honaker, “The IP Guy” is a former USPTO Examiner, a partner with Dickinson-Wright, and author of the forthcoming book, Invisible Assets – How to Maximize the Hidden Value in Your Business. To download a sample chapter, click here.

To get answers to your questions click here to schedule a time to talk, email, or give him a call at 248-318-7015.

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