Ide v. Ball Engine Co.
149 U.S. 550 (1893)

Annotate this Case

U.S. Supreme Court

Ide v. Ball Engine Co., 149 U.S. 550 (1893)

Ide v. Ball Engine Company

No. 227

Argued April 21, 1893

Decided May 10, 1893

149 U.S. 550

Syllabus

Letters patent No. 301,720, issued July 8, 1884, to Albert L. Ide for new and useful improvements in steam engine governors are void for want of novelty in the invention claimed in the specification.

Page 149 U. S. 551

This was a bill in equity for the infringement of letters patent No. 301,720, issued July 8, 1884, to the plaintiff, Ide, for a steam engine governor. Another patent, No. 308,498, issued to the same party November 25, 1884, was originally embraced in the bill, but upon the trial in the court below, the charge relative to this patent was not pressed, and the case was rested wholly upon No. 301,720.

"This invention," said the patentee, in his specification,

"relates to that class of steam engine governors known as 'flywheel governors,' and has for its primary object to provide means for holding the eccentric steadily in its proper poised position, in opposition to the tendency of certain extraneous forces which are calculated to disturb the movements of the valve as sought to be determined by the balanced forces of weights and springs when the engine is in motion."

"To this end, the invention consists in the combination of a dashpot with the governor and pulley, said dashpot connected with a fixed and movable part, or with two relatively or unequally movable parts -- as, for example, with the extremity of a weight lever and the pulley hub. In this class of governors, the position of the eccentric is variably determined by the opposing and self-balancing forces exerted by the centripetally acting spring or springs, and the centrifugally acting weight or weights connected with said springs, the tendency being to hold the eccentric permanently in a certain poised position for a given speed of the wheel to which the governor is applied, and to vary the position of the eccentric exactly as the speed of said wheel is varied. There are, however, certain temporarily acting causes of disturbance, calculated to change the position of the eccentric independently of the speed of the wheel. . . . At a regular and very high speed of the governor wheel or pulley, these disturbing forces operate but slightly, owing to the momentum of the weights, which serve to prevent their deflection from a regular course, but at lower speeds than that at which the apparatus is adjusted to run, and particularly in accelerating or retarding the engine, as in starting up or slowing down, these incidental disturbing forces interfere materially with the valve action and give an objectionable

Page 149 U. S. 552

irregularity to the movements of the weights. In the case of an engine used for running a dynamo for electric lighting purposes and subject to sudden and wide changes in requisitions of power and speed, the effects of the disturbances referred to manifest themselves also in the quality or intensity of the lights. A dashpot constructed and attached to the apparatus in such a manner as to prevent sudden movements of the weight levers or of the eccentric is found in practice to wholly overcome the defects indicated, and to give a desirable steadiness and regularity to the movements of the movable parts of the governor, as well as accuracy and reliability to the cut-off action of the valve."

After giving a description of the device by reference to the drawings, the patentee added:

"The cylinder of the dashpot is filled with glycerine or some other noncompressible liquid, preferably one that is also not congealable at a temperature to which the engine is likely to be exposed. By means of the dashpot applied to the relatively movable and stationary parts or to the unequally moving parts, as described, wide and sudden radial movements of the weights, E', are prevented and, as a consequence, the governor will have a steady and efficient action at all speeds of the pulley or wheel to which said governor is applied. . . . The dashpot, while preferably connected with the end of the lever, E, may obviously be attached to the eccentric itself, and to a fixed or less movable part of the apparatus."

The single claim of the patent was as follows: "In a flywheel governor, the combination, with relatively moving parts, of a dashpot, substantially as described."

The defendants set up in their answer the invalidity of the patent by reason of prior use, and also noninfringement. Upon a hearing in the court below upon pleadings and proofs, the bill was dismissed upon the ground of want of novelty, 39 F. 548, and plaintiff appealed to this Court

Page 149 U. S. 553

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