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America's History in the Making

Resource Archive: Search Results

United States Patent for the Refrigerator Car

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J. B. Sutherland, U.S. PATENT FOR THE REFRIGERATOR CAR (1867). Courtesy of the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

Creator J. B. Sutherland
Context The establishment of a favorable patent system contributed to American industrial expansion
Audience United States Patent and Trademark Office
Purpose To show the importance of a patent system in facilitating the patent process, and encouraging innovation and invention

Historical Significance

The United States established a Patent Office, consisting of trained examiners, to process applications for patents. The Patent Office also gave applicants legal recourse to contest the decisions of the examiners by appealing to the Supreme Court. In 1869, the United States Patent Office charged only $35 to obtain a patent, compared to $450 in Britain, France, and Russia; $420 in Belgium; and $350 in Austria. The process of obtaining patents, the right to legal recourse, and the low fee made the patent system in the United States favorable to industrial and economic development. In this example, J.B. Sutherland patented a refrigerated railroad car that allowed the cattle dealer Gustavus Swift to sell his beef internationally--forever changing the distribution of food.

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