Worley v. Tobacco Company
104 U.S. 340 (1881)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Worley v. Tobacco Company, 104 U.S. 340 (1881)

Worley v. Tobacco Company

104 U.S. 340

APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE UNITED

STATES FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI

Syllabus

1. Letters patent No. 181,512, granted Aug. 22, 1876, to Christian Worley and Henry McCabe for an improvement in manufacturing plug tobacco are void inasmuch as the improvement herein described was, with the consent of the inventor, in public use for more than two years prior to his application therefor.

2. Egbert v. Lippmann, supra, p. 104 U. S. 333, cited and approved.

3. An inventor cannot relieve himself of the consequences of such use by assigning to those who used his invention an interest therein or in the letters patent granted therefor.

The facts are stated in the opinion of the Court.

MR. JUSTICE WOODS delivered the opinion of the Court.

The bill of complaint avers that letters patent No. 181,512, bearing date Aug. 22, 1876, were issued to Christian Worley and Henry McCabe, the complainants, for an improvement in manufacturing plug tobacco, of which Worley was the inventor and McCabe his assignee of an undivided half, and that the defendants were infringing them. It prays for an injunction to restrain further infringement and for damages and an account of profits. The answer asserts the invalidity of the letters, and denied infringement. Upon final hearing, the circuit court dismissed the bill, and the complainants appealed.

The specifications on which these letters patent were issued declare as follows:

"The common way to proceed in finishing plug tobacco is to press the bunches into plugs having the form seen in the retail stores. The plugs are next removed from the moulds in which they are pressed and packed in boxes, and the boxes placed in a room where the tobacco is sweated and cured. The plugs are afterward taken from the boxes and subjected to a second pressing before they are packed in the boxes for sale."

"My improved mode consists in finishing tobacco by placing the plugs in a box in alternate layers with thin metal plates, applying

Page 104 U. S. 341

extreme pressure thereto, and subjecting the plugs to dry heat for several hours while they are tightly compressed between the plates which are in contract with the broad sides of the plugs, and finally removing the box and leaving the contents therein until cold, the whole process being adapted to give a fine and smooth finish to the wrapper, and by putting the plug in proper condition, doing away with its tendency to bulge out at the sides, as plugs are apt to do when they have not been thus treated."

The claim was thus set forth:

"I am aware that there is not any novelty in, first, the simple finishing of tobacco by placing it in a heated room, and secondly, the simple pressing of tobacco between metallic plates, and therefore I do not claim this distinct heating and pressing of tobacco broadly; but what I do claim as new and of my invention, and desire to secure by letters patent is:"

"The mode of finishing tobacco substantially as described, consisting of placing the plugs in a box in alternate layers with thin metal plates, applying extreme pressure thereto, and subjecting the plugs to dry heat of about 140

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