Gates Iron Works v. Fraser
153 U.S. 332 (1894)

Annotate this Case

U.S. Supreme Court

Gates Iron Works v. Fraser, 153 U.S. 332 (1894)

Gates Iron Works v. Fraser

No. 253

Argued March 8, 1894

Decided May 14, 1894

153 U.S. 332

Syllabus

The claims covered by letters patent No. 56,793, issued July 31, 1866, to Henry Pearce for "a new and useful machine for crushing and pulverizing quartz-rock, stone, and any description of ores," were not infringed by the machine made by the defendants, and were in some respects anticipated by the invention patented to Jonathan F. Ostrander by letters patent No. 4478, dated April 25, 1846; by the invention patented to George H. Wood by letters patent No. 28,031, dated April 24, 1860, and by the invention patented to James W. Rutter by reissued letters patent No. 3633, dated September 7; 1869.

The invention patented to Charles M. Brown by letters patent No. 201,646, dated March 26, 1878, for "a new and useful improvement in ore-crushers" was in its general features a reproduction of the machine patented to James W. Rutter by reissued letters patent No. 3633, dated September 7, 1869, and in view of the prior patents to Rutter and Tripp, must receive a narrow construction, which frees the defendants from the charge of infringing them.

The invention patented to George Raymond and Albert Raymond by letters patent No. 237,320, dated February 1, 1881, for "improvements in grinding mills," was for a combination which included several features not found in the machines made by the defendants.

The function of the safety pin in letters patent No. 110,397, issued to John H. Rusk, December 20, 1870, and antedated December 9, 1870, is practically the same as that of the pin in the combination patented to George and Albert Raymond.

The claim in letters patent No. 243,343, issued June 21. 1881, to Philetus W. Gates for the segmental cast-bearing for the ball of the socket joint, having a form which gives it a bearing contact upon the ball, was anticipated by machines constructed by Charles M. Brown and in public use more than two years before Gates applied for his patent.

The claim in letters patent No. 243,545, issued June 28, 1881, to Philetus W. Gates for a novel application of a loose collar around the eccentrically gyrating shaft to prevent dirt from getting into the bearing, was anticipated in the Brown machine, as changed in 1878, by a circular washer or collar upon the top of the sleeve that surrounded the breaking head, which fitted around the shaft.

The invention patented to Philetus W. Gates by letters patent No. 246,608, dated September 6, 1881, viz., a device for a depression or groove in the outer bearing surface of the bearing-box, and applying within this depression

Page 153 U. S. 333

a removable portion of carbon-bronze metal so as to correct the wear of the machine at that place, is void for want of patentable invention.

The alleged invention in letters patent No. 250,606, issued December 13, 1881, to Philetus W. Gates, is for a combination of old features, viz., a shaft, a bearing for the shaft, a hard metal plate in the lower end of the shaft, an adjustable sliding step block, an oil step box, and a hard metal plate at the end of the shaft, all of which, except the metal plate, were present in the Brown machine as made and sold more than two years before Gates applied for the patent, and the metal plate was old and in use for the same purpose as in Gates' machine long before his application.

The use of safety pins for saving machinery from the strain of a sudden jar did not involve patentable invention.

A verbal assignment of an interest in letters patent is held to have no force or effect against a subsequent assignee claiming under a formal written transfer and having no knowledge of the previous verbal transfer.

At the March term, 1890, of the Circuit Court of the United States for the Northern District of Illinois, the Gates Iron Works, a corporation organized under the laws of the State of Illinois, filed its bill of complaint against David R. Fraser, Thomas Chalmers, and Hiram H. Scoville, alleging that the said complainant was the sole owner of several letters patent of the United States, namely, No. 56,793, issued to Henry Pearce, July 31, 1866; No. 201,646, issued to Charles M. Brown, March 26, 1878; No. 237,320, issued to George and Albert Raymond, February 1, 1881; No. 110,397, issued to John H. Rusk, December 20, 1870; No. 243,343, issued to P. W. Gates, June 21, 1881; No. 243,545, issued to P. W. Gates, June 28, 1881; No. 246,608, issued to P. W. Gates, September 5, 1881, and No. 250,656, issued to P. W. Gates, December 13, 1881, and which said letters patent, and the inventions and improvements therein described, had, by assignments in writing prior to the commencement of the suit, become vested in the complainant. The bill further alleged that the defendants were making, using, and vending machines embodying the said inventions in disregard of the rights of complainant, and prayed for the usual relief.

The defendants filed a joint and several answer admitting that the letters patent mentioned in the bill had been issued,

Page 153 U. S. 334

but denying that the persons to whom they had been granted were the original and first inventors of the several inventions described and claimed therein or that the defendants had infringed or were infringing the rights of the complainant in the said inventions.

The answer further averred that the defendant Hiram H. Scoville had, prior to the filing of the application by Charles M. Brown for a patent for the improvements described and claimed in said patent No. 201,646, dated March 26, 1878, by and with the consent of the said Brown, made and put into use two machines containing the inventions secured by said patent No. 201,646, and that the defendants had a right to make and sell machines containing said inventions by virtue of an oral license given by Brown to Scoville before the application for said patent was filed.

The answer further alleged that P. W. Gates was not the original and first inventor of the improvements described in the several patents Nos. 243,343, 243,545, 246,608, 250,656, but that substantially those improvements were invented by said Charles M. Brown before the supposed invention thereof by Gates, and were embodied and exemplified in certain full-sized working machines built by the said Hiram H. Scoville, which were publicly used more than two years before Gates made application for any one of the said four patents.

The answer further stated that Henry Pearce was not the original and first inventor of the improvement patented by said patent No. 56,793, dated July 31, 1866, and that substantially the same thing was shown and described in letters patent No. 28,031, issued to one G. H. Wood, dated April 24, 1860.

Subsequently, the defendants, with leave of court, filed the following amendment to the answer, to-wit:

"Letters patent to J. F. Ostrander, granted and dated April 25, 1846, No. 4,478, 'grain mill.'"

"And as to the patent mentioned in said bill of complaint as having been granted and issued to J. H. Rusk, Charles M. Brown, G. and A. Raymond, and the four patents to P. W. Gates, numbered, respectively, 243,343, 243,545, 246,608, and 250,656, they further aver upon information and belief that

Page 153 U. S. 335

the said Brown, Raymond, Rusk, and Gates were not the original and first inventors of the things patented by or to them, respectively, and that substantially the same things were patented by, or shown and described in, the following letters patent, to-wit:"

"As to patent to H. Pearce, No. 56,793."

"Letters patent to J. F. Ostrander, granted and dated April 25, 1846, No. 4,478, for improvement in grain mill."

"Letters patent to G. H. Wood, granted and dated April 24, 1860, No. 28,031."

"As to patent to J. H. Rusk, No. 110,397."

"Letters patent to A.C. Ellithorpe and I. Scoville, granted and dated November 23, 1858, for improvements in machine for breaking stones, etc., No. 22,113."

"Letters patent to Hiram H. Scoville, granted and dated May 26, 1868, No. 78,332, for improvement in stonebreaker."

"As to patent to C. M. Brown, No. 201,646."

"Letters patent to Charles Tripp, granted and dated November 10, 1857, No. 18,610, for improvement in grinding mill."

"Letters patent to Conrad P. Wagner, granted and dated

Page 153 U. S. 336

January 30, 1866, for improvement in quartz mill, No. 52,347."

"Letters patent to Thomas Varney, granted and dated April 9, 1867, No. 63,675, for improvement in quartz mill."

"As to patent to P. W. Gates, No. 246,608."

"Letters patent to H. Pearce, granted and dated July 31, 1866, No. 56,795, for improvement in quartz mill."

"As to patent to P. W. Gates, No. 250,656."

"Letters patent to P. W. Gates, granted and dated June 28, 1881, No. 243,545, for improvement in rock or stone breaker."

"Letters patent to Daniel Hughes, granted and dated February 20, 1866, No. 52,716, for improvement in quartz crusher, etc."

"Letters patent to L. Fagin, granted and dated October 30, 1866, No. 59,201, for improvement in hanging millstones."

"English letters patent to Claude Marie Savoye, No. 6, 195 of 1831, for improvement in machinery for grinding grain and other substances."

"The defendants, further answering, say, upon information and belief, that some of the older ones of complainant's said patents show and describe improvements which are claimed in other and later of the complainant's said patents, and they further say that as to the said several patents by them herein and hereinbefore mentioned are shown and described devices, parts, or combination of parts that are substantially the same as the devices and combinations set forth in other patents than those to which they are specifically named as relating, and that any and all of said patents will be referred to as containing the substance of any or either of the complainant's said patents, as may be deemed appropriate."

The cause was put at issue, a large amount of evidence taken, and after argument, on March 31, 1890, the court below dismissed the bill at complainant's costs. From this decree an appeal was taken to this Court.

Page 153 U. S. 337

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