Coupe v. Royer - 155 U.S. 565 (1895)
U.S. Supreme Court
Coupe v. Royer, 155 U.S. 565 (1895)
Coupe v. Royer
Argued November 7, 1894
Decided January 7, 1895
155 U.S. 565
In letters patent No. 77,920, granted to Herman Royer and Louis Royer, May 12, 1868, for "an improved machine for treating hides," the first claim, viz., for "a vertical shaft," and the second claim, viz., for a "grooved weight," are restricted to a shaft and crib in a vertical position, and to a weight operating by the force of gravity aided by pressure, and they cannot be extended so as to include shafts and cribs in a horizontal position, and pressure upon the hides by means of false heads, actuated and controlled by gearing wheels, springs, and a crank.
In jury trials in actions for the infringement of letters patent, it is the province of the court, when the defense denies that the invention used by the defendant is identical with that included in the plaintiff's patent, to define the patented invention, as indicated by the language of the claims, and it is the province of the jury to determine whether the invention so defined covers the art or article employed by the defendant.
The measure of recovery in a suit in equity for such infringement is the gains and profits made by the infringer, and such further damage as the
proof shows that the complainant sustained in addition to such gains and profits, but in an action at law, the damages are measured only by the extent of the plaintiffs loss, as proved by the evidence, and when the evidence discloses the existence of no license fee, no impairment of the plaintiff's market, no damages of any kind, the jury should be instructed, if they find for the plaintiff, to find nominal damages only.
This was an action of trespass on the case brought in October, 1889, in the Circuit Court of the United States for the District of Massachusetts, by Herman and Louis Royer against William Coupe and Edwin A. Burgess, for an alleged infringement of letters patent of the United States No. 77,920, dated May 12, 1868, for an "improved machine for treating hides."
The patent expired on May 12, 1885, and this suit was entered July 14, 1885. The trial resulted, on November 10, 1886, in a verdict for the plaintiffs in the sum of $18,000, and judgment was entered on November 26, 1889, for the sum of $21,288 damages and $164.25 costs.
The defendants below sued out a writ of error to this Court.