New York (October 28, 2016, 11:04 AM EDT) -- First, a disclaimer: The author of this article grew up in Pittsburgh, remembers Forbes Field, saw Roberto Clemente play, and remains a loyal Pirates fan. But for this week, the Pirates' black and yellow has been replaced with Cubs' red and blue.
Recently, there has been a lot of focus on Section 101 and what should be protected by patents. About 125 years before the last Cubs World Series win, Thomas Jefferson provided an answer to this question that this still accurate today:
Perhaps, if nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called an idea. . . . Its peculiar character, too, is that no one possesses the less, because every other possesses the whole of it. He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me.
Inventions then cannot, in nature, be a subject of property. Society may give an exclusive right to the profits arising from them, as an encouragement to men to pursue ideas which may produce utility.
Graham v. John Deere Company of Kansas City, 383 U.S. 1, 15 L.Ed.2d 545, 86 S.Ct. 684, 689 n.2 (1966), quoting VI WRITINGS OF THOMAS JEFFERSON, pp. 180 – 181 (Washington ed. 1907).
These ideas, which society finds to have sufficient utility to give exclusive rights to, provide a window into the problems, concerns and what mattered to the people of that time. Thus, a tour of the shoes in the US Patent and Trademark Office (ask anyone with a PTO Registration Number under 35,000 to explain what a "shoe" is) provides an anthropological view into the past.
A quick tour of the shoes for 1908, the last time the Cubs won a World Series, provides a fun view into life with a Cubs win.
Aeronautics, Class 242, were just developing with 68 patents issuing in 1908, compared to 471 patents in railways, Class 104, and 236 patents in Class 54, harnesses for working animals. However, the last time the Cubs won the World Series, aeronautics had a long way to go:
Interestingly society back in 1908 found greater importance in music, with 396 patents issuing in Class 84, than in firearms, Class 42 with only 120 patents issuing, and tobacco, Class 131 with only 136 patents issuing. Player pianos were all the rage, and the world had yet to see an electric guitar or keyboard.
The begging of a long felt, but unresolved need for selfie technology was just emerging.
The beginning of other modern-day technologies that are so trendy and important to our daily lives were just beginning in 1908, as Chicagoans celebrated a Cubs victory. Everyone had to have the latest customized ringtone.
Some things, however, have remained unchanged over the last 108 years.
Dentistry was and is still scary.
But, close the door quick, so the ice doesn’t melt. To put things in context back when the Cubs were World Series winners, there were no light bulbs in refrigerators, or “ice boxes.” So, the question had not yet been asked — “Does the light really go out when you close the door?”
The 1908 Shoes had a surprising number of automatic fire alarms, the beginning of our smoke detectors. It had been almost 40 years since the great Chicago fire, but concerns from that tragedy may have been lingering. Perhaps it was concern over revelry gone awry, with a Cubs win. The reasons, remain unclear, but it was a significant concern of the time.
Perhaps in all times, including 1908, there are things that seemed important at the time, but with the passage of time, just make no sense at all.
Our patent system plays an important role, not only in fostering, encouraging and protecting innovation, but in preserving how people approached the issues of their time, and through “the action of the thinking power called an idea,” addressed them. Some things were very different, others pretty much the same, but one thing remains unchanged for the last 108 years — You Gotta Love the Cubbies!