McCormick Harvesting Machine Co. v. Aultman
169 U.S. 606 (1898)

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U.S. Supreme Court

McCormick Harvesting Machine Co. v. Aultman, 169 U.S. 606 (1898)

McCormick Harvesting Machine Company v. Aultman

Nos. 180, 181

Argued December 1-2, 1897

Decided March 21, 1898

169 U.S. 606

Syllabus

If the owner of a patent applies to the Patent Office for a reissue of it and includes, among the claims in the application, the same claims as those which were included in the old patent, and the primary examiner rejects some of such claims.for want of patentable novelty, by reference to prior patents, and allows others, both old and new, the owner of the patent does not, by taking no appeal and by abandoning his application for reissue, hold the original patent (the return of which he procures from the Patent Office) invalidated as to those of its claims which were disallowed for want of patentable novelty by the primary examiner in the proceeding for reissue; as the Patent Office, by the issue of the original patent, had lost jurisdiction over it, and did not regain it by the application for a reissue.

This was a question certified to this Court by the Circuit Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit involving the authority of a primary examiner of the Patent Office to reject as invalid claims of an original patent which were incorporated in an application for a reissue.

It appears that the McCormick Harvesting Machine Company filed a bill in equity in the United States Circuit Court for the Northern District of Ohio against C. Aultman et al., and also one against the Aultman-Miller Company, in each of

Page 169 U. S. 607

which it was sought to restrain the defendant from the future infringement of two patents covering automatic twine binders for harvesting machines. As the interests of the several defendants were closely identified, the two cases were heard together.

The question certified involves only patent No. 159,506, issued to Marquis L. Gorham, February 9, 1875, and the other patent sued upon will therefore not be considered. The record shows that there was filed in the Patent Office by the executrix of Gorham an application for a reissue of this patent, in which were included several claims of the original patent, as well as many new claims. Upon consideration, the assistant or primary examiner decided that claims 3, 10, 11, 25, and 26 of the original patent should be rejected for want of patentable novelty, and reference was made to prior patented devices. No appeal was taken from this decision, and subsequently, in compliance with a request, the original patent was returned to the plaintiff corporation, which had become the owner thereof. Thereafter these suits were brought against the defendants upon the original patent.

In the circuit court, it was decided that as the original claims 3, 10, 11, 25, and 26 had been determined by the examiner to be invalid, and no appeal had been taken from that decision, but the same had apparently been acquiesced in, the adverse action must be regarded as fatal to the claims in question, and to the same extent as if the rejection had been incident to the original application for the patent. 58 F. 778.

Upon appeal, the circuit court of appeals decided that there was no infringement by the defendants as to claims 25 and 26, but that there was infringement of claims 3, 10, and 11 of the original patent, unless it should be determined that they were invalidated by their being rejected by the examiner upon an application for a reissue of the same, and, desiring instruction upon this point, it certified to this Court the following question:

"If the owner of a patent applies to the Patent Office for a reissue of it, and includes among the claims in the application the same claims as those which were included in

Page 169 U. S. 608

the old patent, and the primary examiner rejects some of such claims for want of patentable novelty, by reference to prior patents, and allows others, both old and new, does the owner of the patent, by taking no appeal and by abandoning his application for reissue, hold the original patent, the return of which he procures from the Patent Office, invalidated as to those of its claims which were disallowed for want of patentable novelty by the primary examiner in the proceeding for reissue?"

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