Keyes v. Eureka Consolidated Mining Co. - 158 U.S. 150 (1895)


U.S. Supreme Court

Keyes v. Eureka Consolidated Mining Co., 158 U.S. 150 (1895)

Keyes v. Eureka Consolidated Mining Company

No. 228

Argued April 15, 1895

Decided May 6, 1895

158 U.S. 150

Syllabus

A person in the employ of a smelting company invented a new method of tapping and withdrawing molten metal from a smelting furnace. He took out a patent for it, and permitted his employer to use it without charge so long as he remained in its employ, which was about ten years. After that, his employer continued to use it, and when the patent was about to expire, the patentee filed a bill against the company, praying for injunctions, preliminary and perpetual, and for an accounting. Before the return of the subpoena, the patent had expired. On the trial, it appeared that the invention had been used for more than seventeen years with the knowledge and assent of the patentee, and without any complaint

Page 158 U. S. 151

on his part except that the company had not paid royalties after he quitted its employment. The defenses were (1) that the circuit court had no jurisdiction of the case because no federal question was involved and there was no diversity of citizenship of the parties, (2) that even if there was a federal question involved, the circuit court, as a court of equity, had no jurisdiction of the case because complainants had a plain, adequate, and complete remedy at law. The court below sustained both of the defenses and dismissed the bill. Held that the decree was fully justified.

This was a bill in equity filed by appellants against appellee in the Circuit Court of the United States for the Northern District of California to recover for the infringement of a patent. The patent, No. 121,385, bears date November 28, 1871, and was issued to appellants as joint inventors, the invention consisting of a method of tapping or withdrawing molten lead or other metals from a smelting furnace. The bill was filed October 29, 1888, and contained the usual prayer for an injunction, preliminary and perpetual, and for an accounting for damages and for profits. The subpoena was issued on that day, returnable December 3, 1888, but no notice was given of an application, nor was any application made, for a preliminary injunction. Appellee answered January 7, 1889, and a replication was filed on the fourth of the following February. No question was made as to the validity or construction of the patent, and the patent does not appear in the record.

The defenses were (1) that the circuit court had no jurisdiction of the case because no federal question was involved and there was no diversity of citizenship of the parties; (2) that even if there was a federal question involved, the circuit court, as a court of equity, had no jurisdiction of the case because complainants had a plain, adequate, and complete remedy at law. The circuit court, Sawyer, J., sustained both of the defenses and dismissed the bill, 45 F. 199, whereupon the case was brought to this court on appeal.

Page 158 U. S. 152



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