Abe Lincoln: patent troll?

It's fashionable gripe about the patent system these days and claim that patent holders are trying to extort money out of legitimate businesses.

But who is and who isn't exploiting the system is a grey area. Abe Lincoln obtained a patent, noted Brian Halla, CEO of National Semiconductor. He got it for inventing an inflatable pontoon that helped boats get past sandbars and other obstacles on canals. It's patent number 6469--see reference here.

He's the only U.S. president ever to get a patent, said Halla. (I haven't had time to verify if Lincoln's the only one, but feel free to look into it and prove Halla wrong.)

Lincoln, he added, was one of the three technologically minded presidents the U.S. has had. The first was Thomas Jefferson, whose Louisiana Purchase was the Internet of its day. The second was Lincoln, who railroaded the transcontinental railroad through. The third was Eisenhower, who got the country charged up on science after Sputnik and pioneered the national highway system.

Now, the country needs a leader who can instill the nation with a sense of technological direction, he added.

Halla's list of technologically adept presidents, however, did not include the two presidents who worked as engineers. They were Herbert Hoover and Jimmy Carter. Maybe an EE isn't the best training for political leadership.


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