Brigham v. Coffin
149 U.S. 557 (1893)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Brigham v. Coffin, 149 U.S. 557 (1893)

Brigham v. Coffin

No. 251

Argued and submitted April 24, 1893

Decided May 10, 1893

149 U.S. 557

Syllabus

Letters patent No. 283,057, issued August 14, 1883, to Frank E. Aldrich for an improvement in rubber cloths or fabrics, are void for want of novelty.

This was a bill in equity for the infringement of letters patent No. 283,057, issued August 14, 1883, to Frank E. Aldrich, for an improvement in rubber cloths or fabrics.

The patentee stated in his specification:

"My invention relates more especially to means for ornamenting the cloth or fabric, and it consists in a rubber cloth or fabric composed wholly or in part of rubber, having one or both of its surfaces provided with useful or ornamental designs or figures printed or stamped thereon with an ink or compound of a different color or shade from the body of the fabric by means of rollers, blocks, or in any other suitable manner, the ink or compound preferably containing rubber, caoutchouc, gutta percha, or some analogous material, as hereinafter more fully set forth and claimed."

"In carrying out my invention, I take an ordinary rubber cloth, preferably gossamer rubber cloth, or any fabric composed wholly or in part of rubber, and print or stamp its finished surface or surfaces with an ink or compound of a different color or shade from the body of the goods by means of engraved rollers, blocks, types, dies, or in any other suitable manner. I deem it preferable, however, to use rollers, one or more being employed according to the number of colors to be applied, and the cloth passed in cuts through the printing machine, after the manner of printing calico and similar goods."

"The ink or compound employed in printing the figures or designs on the cloth or fabric is prepared as follows: take one-half pound of rubber or caoutchouc, four quarts of naphtha,

Page 149 U. S. 558

one-half pound of red lead, and one-eighth of an ounce of flowers of sulphur. Dissolve the gum in the naphtha, and then add and thoroughly mix the other ingredients therewith."

"I do not confine myself to the exact proportions given, as these may be varied considerably without materially changing the nature of the compound, and instead of naphtha, some other solvent may be used for the rubber if desired, although naphtha is deemed preferable. Also, instead of the lead, litharge, pigments, shellac, ocher, lampblack, or any other coloring matter may be employed according to the shade or color it is desired to give the ink."

"* * * *"

"As I propose to make the ink or printing compound described the subject matter of other letters patent, the same is not herein claimed when in and of itself considered."

His claims were as follows:

"1. As an improved article of manufacture, a rubber cloth or fabric composed wholly or in part of rubber, having one or both of its surfaces printed or stamped with useful or ornamental designs or figures in an ink or printing compound of a different color or shade from the body of the cloth or fabric, substantially as set forth."

The second claim was like the first, except that the ink or compound is described as being "composed in part of rubber, caoutchouc, gutta percha, or some analogous substance, and a coloring material or materials, substantially as specified."

The third claim was like the second, except that, instead of the words, "and a coloring material or materials," there is substituted, "and containing sulphur, or an ingredient for rendering the ink vulcanizable."

The fourth claim was like the first, except that the cloth or fabric is described as "varnished."

The fifth claim was also like the first, except that the ink or printing compound is described as "analogous to the coating of the cloth or body of the fabric, and of a different color or shade therefrom."

The sixth claim was also like the first, except that the ink or compound was described as "containing rubber and sulphur,

Page 149 U. S. 559

or an ingredient for vulcanizing the rubber when subjected to heat or the sun's rays."

The seventh claim was like the sixth, except that the words "the sun's rays" were omitted.

The answer denied that Aldrich was the inventor of any material or substantial part of the thing patented, and gave notice of prior patents; denied that the Aldrich patent described anything of value or importance; averred that it was practically worthless; denied that the invention was any advance upon the art of making rubber fabrics, or that such fabrics had ever been practically manufactured as described in the patent. The answer also denied infringement.

On a hearing upon pleadings and proofs in the court below, the bill was dismissed, 37 F. 688, and the plaintiff appealed.

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