In Germany in 1897, Robert Bosch applied to register a patent for the magneto device that starts a car’s engine. Eleven years later, his company formed an intellectual property division, which celebrated its centenary last year. During the intervening 100 years, Bosch added more than 30,000 employees working in research and development, reinvests an average of 7.7 percent of its revenue into R&D (above the automotive industry average of 4.7%), and its IP team filed 3,281 priority patent applications in 2007. IP Review, Iss. 24, Winter 2008/2009 at 13, provides this information about an early law department.
From time to time I have written about the history of law departments (See my post of Oct. 24, 2008: historical references to management of legal departments with 7 references.). Perhaps the term “law department” should not apply to that first in-house group of patent prosecutors at Bosch back at the turn of the 19th century, but I am at least assuming they were lawyers and they were employees.