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The U.S. Patent Office opened for business on July 31, 1790, established to protect the work of young America's inventors. The first patent granted was to Samuel Hopkins of Vermont for a new method of making fertilizer. The office has been busy ever since. Annually, more than 185,000 patents are granted. The Patent and Trademark Office also is a partner in the National Inventors Hall of Fame in Alexandria, Virginia. Among those inducted this year was Arthur Fry, inventor of the adhesive for the now universal Post-it Notes. Individuals receive 8 percent of patents -- the remainder are almost equally split between U.S. and foreign corporations.

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