National Cash Register Co. v. Boston Indicator Co. - 156 U.S. 502 (1895)

U.S. Supreme Court

National Cash Register Co. v. Boston Indicator Co., 156 U.S. 502 (1895)

National Cash Register Company v.

Boston Indicator and Recorder Company

No. 155

Argued January 17, 1895

Decided March 4, 1895

156 U.S. 502


Letters patent No. 271,363, issued January 30, 1883, to James Ritty and John Birch for a cash register and indicator, are valid, and are infringed by the defendant's machine.

This was a bill in equity for the infringement of letters patent No. 271,363, issued January 30, 1883, to James Ritty and John Birch for a "cash register and indicator."

The invention, as stated in the specification,

"Relates to an improvement in cash registers and indicators designed for the use of storekeepers and others as a means of accurately registering the total cash receipts for any given period of time -- as a day, for instance -- and for indicating to the customers that the amount paid has been registered by disclosing to their view such amounts upon figured tablets."

"The arrangements of the parts and operation of the machine are such that no tablet can be exhibited without its value's being counted upon the registering mechanism, and whenever any tablet is disclosed, it remains so until the machine is operated to disclose a second tablet."

"The novelty of our invention consists in the construction, combinations, and arrangements of the various parts, as will be herewith set forth and specifically claimed."

The following drawing exhibits such particulars of the patent as are pertinent to this suit:

Page 156 U. S. 503


The material parts of the specifications are as follows:

"We provide any suitable box or case, A, ornamented as desired, and of the general shape indicated, though its shape and ornamentation may be varied infinitely. In this outer case is fitted a metal framework consisting chiefly of two upright sides, B, united by a crossbar, C, and by the shafts and bars which support the operating mechanism."

"In the lower portion of the frame, and extending horizontally across it, is a rod or shaft, D, supported by and aiding to connect the sides, B, of the frame. Upon this shaft are hung a series of parallel keys, E, of metal, made heavier in the rear so as to remain in and return to the position indicated in Fig. 1 by their gravity alone, without the use of springs or other devices. In the present instance, twenty of these keys are shown, though any number may be employed. Each key has upon its front end, which extends through and projects from an opening in the front of the case or frame, a button, c, having marked upon it a figure to correspond with the value intended

Page 156 U. S. 504

to be indicated and registered whenever that key is operated by depressing the button. In a machine with twenty keys, the first button to the left would be numbered 5, the second 10, and the third 15, to represent five, ten, and fifteen cents, and so on progressively. As these buttons are about three-quarters of an inch in diameter, it would make the machine unnecessarily wide to arrange the whole series side by side in one bank, so we have arranged them in two banks, the one above the other. . . . The rear end of each key is flattened and slotted at its outer end, so as to embrace vertical guide-pins, b, set in the bar, C, and which aid the shaft, D, in preventing lateral play or twist of the keys."

"Resting upon the flattened ends of the keys are vertical metal rods, F -- one for each key -- which pass and have vertical play through perforations in metal guide bars, G, extending across and supported by the sides, B. These rods may be any shape in cross-section, though we prefer to make them square, with square perforations in the guide bars, G. The upper portion of each rod, just above the upper bar, G, is bent to form a knuckle or shoulder, d, upon its rear side, which has beveled or inclined operating faces, for a purpose to be presently explained."

"Suitably secured to the top of each rod is a tablet, H, of thin flat metal, and upon the face of each tablet is a number corresponding with the number upon the key over whose rear end the rod of that tablet rests."

"Thus, the tablet of the rod resting upon the key whose button is marked '5' is likewise marked '5' and so on through the series. In order to get the tablets into as narrow a space as possible, and thus not make the machine wider than necessary, their stems are bent so that the tablets can overlap each other, as shown in Fig. 4, and yet each can be operated without interfering with another."

"In the upper portion of the case is a large horizontal opening extending across the front of the case, and covered with transparent glass, e, Fig. 1, and when the keys are in their normal position of rest, with the rods, F, resting upon their rear ends, all of the tablets are hidden from view below the lower

Page 156 U. S. 505

edge of the opening, e, but when any key is pressed down by means of its button, the rod of that key is raised and its tablet exposed to view through the glass, e."

"In Figs. 1 and 4, one of the tablets is thus shown raised up and exposed to view. Now it is an important feature of our machine that after a key has been operated and its tablet exposed to view, such tablet shall remain up and exposed until another key is operated, whereupon the first falls back out of view, and the second remains exposed, and so on, thus always keeping in view the tablet of the key last operated. To effect this result, we pivot, by means of trunnions or a shaft extending between the sides, B, a forwardly inclined wing, I, pivoted at its lower edge, as at f, and resting at its upper edge against the rear sides of the upper portions of the rods, F. This wing extends back of all of the rods, and is free to vibrate on its pivotal axis, f. It is yieldingly held against the rods by any suitable spring, a spiral spring being shown for that purpose in Fig. 2, secured at one end of the wing and to the side, B, of the frame. Just on the inner sides of the frames, B, and pivoted upon the shaft, D, are flat arms, J, extending upward and rearward and downward and forward of their pivotal points. The front ends of these arms extend into the opening made for the keys in the front of the case, A, and are connected by a bar, K, extending entirely across this opening, and resting up against the under sides of all the keys. Of course, when any one of the keys is depressed, the bar, K, is likewise carried down, and the upper portions of the arms, J, are vibrated forward. . . . To return the bar, J, when the key is released, and to assist the key itself to return, any suitable spring may be employed."

"Pivoted at h, upon the right-hand side of the frame, B (Fig. 1), is a bell crank tripping arm, L, with the rear end rounded and resting against the upper portion of the front side of the wing, I. Its vibration is limited by two pins or detents, i, as shown, and upon the same pivot, h, is hung a follower, j, whose lower end extends below the elbow of the bell crank, and whose rear edge rests against a shoulder, k, upon the bell crank. The lower end of this follower has a beveled engaging

Page 156 U. S. 506

nose, l, against which the upper end of a trigger, m, pivoted at or near its middle, as at o, to the side, B, rests. The lower end of this trigger is connected to the upper end of the arm, J, on that side of the machine by a link, p. The opposite arm . . . is connected by a similar link to similar tripping mechanism for operating the hammer of a bell or gong, which is secured in any suitable manner to the side of the frame."

"Now the operation of thus much of the machine is as follows: when any key is pressed down, its rod and tablet are raised, and the elbow, d, of the rod, in rising, aids in pressing back the wing, I; but to aid the elbow the arm, J, on the right, which, as before explained, is drawn forward whenever a key is pressed, imparts motion to the link, p, and trigger, m, whose upper end, acting on the nose, l, of the follower, j, presses it back, and with it the bell crank, L, which is thus forced against the wing, and presses it back. Now the parts are so arranged that when the lower side of the elbow, d, is just above the top edge of the wing, the key has completed its downward stroke, and is arrested by the front bar, N, of the case, the trigger, m, has passed beyond the nose, l, of the bell crank, so that the latter swings back out of the way, and the spring, a', draws the wing forward under the elbow, d, so that the latter rests upon the upper edge, as seen at b' (Figs. 1 and 2), and there remains, thus retaining the tablet and rod of the operated key elevated. Now upon releasing the key, it falls backward to its normal position by gravity, and is aided by the spring, g (Fig. 2), which returns the bar, K, and arms, J. The follower, j, being free to swing forward without moving the bell crank, permits the trigger, m, to flip it up, and pass under its nose to its normal position. During this operation, the opposite arm . . . has in like manner actuated the hammer of the gong, which is sounded every time a key is depressed to its furthest limit, and only then, and thus gives notice to the customer that the machine has been properly operated. Whenever the same key is successively operated, its rod and the tablet remain up and exposed to view; but when a different key is operated, the tablet of the previous

Page 156 U. S. 507

one is released, and falls back out of sight, and the tablet of the operated key remains up and exposed."

The remainder of the specification relates to the registering or recording mechanism, which is not in issue here. The only claim alleged to have been infringed is the first, which reads as follows:

"1. In a registering and indicating machine, the combination, with a series of indicating tablets operated by a series of keys, of a series of rods, each provided with a detent or shoulder, and carrying one of the aforesaid tablets, and a supporting wing with connecting mechanism whereby, upon operating anyone of the keys, the wing is so moved as to permit the passage of the rod, and whereby, upon the release of the keys, the wing engages with and holds up the tablet rod and tablet, substantially as described."

The answer put in issue principally the question of infringement, and, upon a hearing upon pleadings and proofs, the circuit court found this issue in favor of the defendant, and dismissed the bill. Plaintiff thereupon appealed to this Court.

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