The public radio program This American Life did a fantastic episode a few weeks ago about how the patent system is deeply flawed, at least where software patents are concerned. The episode aired almost exactly 100 years after the millionth patent was issued.
You can read Patent #1,000,000 here.
The first patent was issued in 1790. It took 121 years to get to patent number 1,000,000. It took just 24 more years to reach patent 2,000,000. And then 26 years to reach patent 3,000,000. Patent 4,000,000 was reached just 15 years later. And patents 5,000,000 and 6,000,000 took 15 years and then 8 years to reach. Patent 7,000,000 was reached 7 years later in 2006.
We’re still waiting to reach patent 8,000,000. We just reached patent 8,000,000 three days ago, as noted in the comments by Raghav.
UNCLE SAM’S PATENTS REACH THE MILLION MARK: Francis H. Holton of Ohio Granted the Coveted Patent No. 1,000,000 for a Tack-Proof Pneumatic Automobile Tire — The First Patent Issued Was Also for an Improvement to the Wheel of a Moving Vehicle. (PDF)
From August 20, 1911