What did congress do in 1790 to protect the rights of inventors?
The short answer is that, in that year, it passed the Patent Act of 1790. This was not the only patent act that it would pass, but it was the first.
The Constitution had given Congress the right to grant patents to inventors (this is given in Article I, Section 8, Clause 8). Patents are very important because they encourage people to invent things. If there are no patents and you invent something, someone else can steal your invention and you get nothing for it. But with a patent, you get a financial reward for the work and brain power that you put into making your invention.
Because inventions lead to new technology, putting laws in place to protect patents was an important way to help the US economy grow.
Well, the first Federal Patent Act was passed. A patent is where an inventor files his/her design with he Patent Office, and then they own the design for a period of years. In this way, no one can just steal the design, make the product themselves and profit off of the ingenuity and resourcefulness of the inventor.
It wasn't perfect, and was used in part to grant monopolies on business in some states, but overall it was a positive step to encourage people to pursue inventions. Samuel Hopkins was the first American to receive a patent soon after the act was passed.