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SSAT Reading Practice 7
 
 What does the word patent mean to you? Does it strike you as being something rather remote from your interests? If it does, stop and think a moment about some of the commonplace things that you use every day, objects that you take for granted as part of the world around you. The telephone, radio, television, the automobile, and the thousand and one other things (even the humble safety pin) that enrich our lives today once existed only as ideas in the minds of men. If it had not been possible to patent their ideas and thus protect them against copying by others, these inventions might never have been fully developed to serve mankind.

    If there were no patent protection there would be little incentive to invent and innovate, for once the details of an invention became known, hordes of imitators who did not share the inventor's risks and expenses might well flood the market with their copies of his product and reap much of the benefit of his efforts. The technological progress that has made America great would wither rapidly under conditions such as these.

    The fundamental principles in the U. S. patent structure came from England. During the glorious reign of Queen Elizabeth I in England, the expanding technology was furthered by the granting of exclusive manufacturing and selling privileges to citizens who had invented new processes or tools- a step that did much to encourage creativity. Later, when critics argued that giving monopoly rights to one person infringed on the rights of others, an important principle was added to the patent structure: The Lord Chief Justice of England stated that society had everything to gain and nothing to lose by granting exclusive privileges to an inventor, because a patent for an invention was granted for something new that society never had before.

    Another basic principle was brought into law because certain influential people in England had managed to obtain monopoly control over such age-old products as salt, and had begun charging as much as the traffic would bear. The public outcry became so great that the government was forced to decree that monopoly rights could be awarded only to those who created or introduced something really unique. These principles are the mainstays of our modern patent system in the United States.

    In colonial times patent law was left up to the separate states. The inconsistency, confusion, and unfairness that resulted clearly indicated the need for a uniform patent law, and the men who drew up the Constitution incorporated one. George Washington signed the first patent law on April 10,1790, and less than four months later the first patent was issued to a man named Samuel Hopkins for a chemical process, an improved method of making potash for use in soapmaking.

    In 1936 the Patent Office was established as a separate bureau. From the staff of eight that it maintained during its first year of operation it has grown into an organization of over 2500 people handling more than 1600 patent applications and granting over 1000 every week.

    The Patent Office in Washington, D. C., is the world's largest library of scientific and technical data, and this treasure trove of information is open for public inspection. In addition to more than 3 million U. S. patents, it houses more than 7 million foreign patents and thousands of volumes of technical literature. Abraham Lincoln patented a device to lift steam vessels over river shoals, Mark Twain developed a self-pasting scrapbook, and millionaire Cornelius Vanderbilt invented a shoe-shine kit.

    A patent may be granted for any new and useful process, machine, article of manufacture, or composition of matter ( a chemical compound or combinations of chemical compounds), or any distinct and new variety; of plant, including certain mutants and hybrids.

    The patent system has also helped to boost the wages of the American worker to an unprecedented level; he can produce more and earn more with the computer, adding machines, drill press or lathe. Patented inventions also help keep prices down by increasing manufacturing efficiency and by stimulating the competition that is the foundation of our free enterprise system.

    The decades of history have disclosed little need for modification of the patent structure. Our patent laws, like the Constitution from which they grew, have stood the test of time well. They encouraged the creative processes, brought untold benefits to society as a whole, and enabled American technology to outstrip that of the rest of the civilized world.

    What is the main idea of this passage?

    A. The patent system encourages free enterprise.

    B. The Constitution protects the patent system.

    C. The patent system in England has been influential in American patent development.

    D. Patents are important tools for inventors.

    E. Patented inventions protect the inventor, free enterprise, and the creative process.

    The answer is: E

 
 
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