Patent Search – Determining Age Of Antiques

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Patent SearchPerforming a patent search is a fantastic way to discover how old antiques are when trying to determine their age.  I never really thought about doing patent searches, that is, until this year.  I was talking to an antique dealer in Gruene, Texas and I was asking how old a particular gooseneck lamp was.  He suggested to do a patent search and then the light bulb went off in my head.  Wow, why hadn’t I thought of this.  I mean I always was aware of pending patents and patents, but for some reason I never even bothered to look any of the countless numbers I have seen.

When Kathleen and I got home, we were so excited, we jumped on the computer and typed patent search in Google and what do you know, Google has its own patent search capability.  Of course you can go directly to the source, namely the US Patent & Trademark Office.  However we found Google’s Patent search to be more than adequate and even easier to use.

The first patent in the US was issued July 31, 1790 to Samuel Hopkins for the process of making potash, an ingredient used in fertilizer.   The patent was signed by our first President, George Washington.  Since that time, over 6 million patents have been issued.

Here is an an example of how to perform a patent search.

  1. Select Antique – Select the antique you want to search for.
  2. Locate Patent Numbers – Find where the patent or patent pending numbers are located.  With many antiques, pending numbers are predominately displayed, usually on the bottom of the item.  I selected a Hotchkiss No. 6 Stapler.  As you can see in the 2nd image below, there are 3 patents Pending numbers on this Hotchkiss stapler.  Note: “Patent pending”,  “pat. pend.”, “pat. pending”, or “patent applied for” mean that a patent application has been filed, but the patent hasn’t been issued or assigned.  Patent pending serves to notify potential inventors and infringers, that to copy the particular invention may make them liable for damages should the patent be issued.
  3. Perform Patent Search – Once you have a patent number or pending number, plug that number into Google’s Patent search.  With luck, you should get several results.  Look for the patent that looks similar to what your searching for.  I have found that there are often duplicate patent numbers for different inventions, so you may have to do a little digging.
  4. Determine Age –  When reviewing the Patent, there should be an issued date.  The patent issued date then will give you an approximate age of the antique.  If you used patent pending numbers like we did for this Hotchkiss stapler, then the age of the antique is probably going to be earlier than the patent date.  So for our example we looked up the pending patent number “2117741” and it was patented on May 17, 1938.  The original application was accepted on April 25, 1935.  So it took 3 years before the patent was approved.  That means that this stapler, since it had patent pending, was probably made sometime between April 25, 1935 and May 17, 1938.

Pretty Cool, Right!  We hope this little nugget of information helps others determine the age of their antiques and makes them better antique shoppers.

Hotchkiss Number 6 Stapler
Hotchkiss Number 6 Stapler

Drawings for HotchKiss Stapler No. 6 Patent Pending 2117741

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I share a passion for collecting all things vintage and antique and love to share that passion with others.

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