You didn't make a copy of that new software program for your friend, did you? The US Patent and Trademark Office certainly hopes you didn't. For some 200 years, the agency has protected US inventions and intellectual property by issuing trademarks and patents in conjunction with its mission to foster an entrepreneurial spirit and see that US inventions and intellectual property contribute to a strong economy. Its primary function is receiving and processing patent and trademark applications and publishing information regarding the system. It is funded by the fees it collects. Established by the US Constitution, the Patent Office is part of the Department of Commerce. The agency issued its first patent in 1790.