Dashiell v. Grosvener
162 U.S. 425 (1890)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Dashiell v. Grosvener, 162 U.S. 425 (1896)

Dashiell v. Grosvener

No. 569

Argued January 9-10, 1896

Decided April 18, 1890

162 U.S. 425

Syllabus

The first claim in letters patent No. 425,584, issued April 15, 1890, to Samuel Seabury for an improvement in breech-loading cannon, viz.,: for

"The combination, with a breech-loading cannon and a breech block for the same, which is withdrawn in a rearward direction, of a breech block carrier hinged to the breech, and a breech block retractor hinged to the breech separate from said carrier to move independently of said carrier to draw the breech block thereinto and push it therefrom, but capable of moving the said carrier while the breech block is therein, substantially as set forth,"

must, in view of the state of the art at the time of the invention, be limited to the precise mechanism employed, and, being thus limited, it is not infringed by the device patented to Robert B. Dashiell by letters patent No. 468,331, dated February 9, 1892.

This was a bill in equity by the appellees against Dashiell for the infringement of letters patent No. 425,584, issued April 15, 1890, to Samuel Seabury, a lieutenant in the United States navy, for an improvement in breech-loading cannon. In his specification, the patentee made the following statement of his invention:

"This improvement relates to breech-loading cannon in which a screw breech block, which is withdrawn in a rearward direction, is employed, with a swing carrier or receiver hinged to one side of the breech of the gun, and into which the breech block is withdrawn, and which serves as a guide for

Page 162 U. S. 426

directing the breech block into and from its seat in the breech, and as a support for the breech block while out of the gun. In such a gun, there are three movements necessary to open the breech, namely, first, the turning of the breech block to unlock it; second, the withdrawal of the breech block backward into the receiver; and, third, the swing aside of the receiver with the breech block in it. These three movements have hitherto been separately performed by hand, the breech block having been first turned to unlock it by hand, and then pulled by hand back into the receiver, and the receiver having been then swung aside by hand with the breech block in it to open the breech."

"The object of this improvement is to provide for the more rapid working, loading, and firing of such breech-loading cannon by effecting all these movements in succession by a continuous movement of a single lever."

The plaintiff relied only upon the first claim of the patent, which reads as follows:

"1. The combination, with a breech-loading cannon and a breech block for the same, which is withdrawn in a rearward direction, of a breech block carrier hinged to the breech, and a breech block retractor hinged to the breech separate from said carrier, to move independently of said carrier to draw the breech block thereinto and push it therefrom, but capable of moving the said carrier while the breech block is therein, substantially as set forth."

The plaintiffs were Seabury, the patentee, and certain others who were assignees of interests under the patent. The defendant was, when the suit was begun, an ensign in the United States navy, and the infringing acts were admitted to have been done under his authority and procurement, under a contract between himself and the Navy Department through which he was to be paid a stipulated sum for each gun manufactured embodying the infringing device. For this device letters patent No. 468,331 had been issued to him February 9, 1892.

Upon a hearing, upon pleadings and proofs, the circuit court was of the opinion that the Seabury patent was valid and the Dashiell patent an infringement thereon, and it entered a decree to that effect. 62 F. 584.

Page 162 U. S. 427

On appeal to the court of appeals, that court was of opinion that an injunction would prohibit the officers in charge of the navy yard from manufacturing guns for use upon the war vessels of the United States, and for that reason ought not to be granted. The bill of complaint also relied upon certain allegations of fraud which the court held were material to be proved, and were not sustained, and for those reasons it reversed the decree of the court below and dismissed the bill. 66 F. 334.

Application was thereon made to this Court for a writ of certiorari, which was granted.

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