Vandenburgh v. Truscon Steel Co.
261 U.S. 6 (1923)

Annotate this Case

U.S. Supreme Court

Vandenburgh v. Truscon Steel Co., 261 U.S. 6 (1923)

Vandenburgh v. Truscon Steel Company

No. 273

Argued January 17, 1923

Decided February 19, 1923

261 U.S. 6

Syllabus

1. A patent cannot be extended by reissue to a field beyond its original intention. P. 261 U. S. 14. Miller v. Brass Co.,104 U. S. 350.

2. Patent No. 841,741, to Vandenburgh, for a bar to be used in reinforcing concrete construction, provided on one side with a series of kerfs, each with an integral overlapping spur, and a spiral coil disposed in the kerfs and retained beneath the spurs, is not infringed by a collapsible construction consisting of a spiral loosely engaging two spacer bars. P. 261 U. S. 14.

3. The method of attaching a metal spiral to a metal rod by kerfs, was anticipated in metal working and in reinforcing concrete, and

Page 261 U. S. 7

adding a spur or clamp, or hammering the kerf edge, to fix the rod involved no invention. P. 261 U. S. 15.

277 F. 345 affirmed.

This was a bill in equity by Vandenburgh praying an injunction and accounting for the infringement of a patent granted him January 22, 1907, No. 841,741, and reissued to him August 15, 1916. Reissue No. 14, 182. The patent is for a reinforcing bar to be used in concrete construction.

The patent, since reissue, has been the subject of litigation in the second, third and sixth circuits. In all the circuits, the first and second claims of the reissue have been held void because too broad and because secured nine years after the original issue for the purpose of covering intervening devices. In the second circuit, Judge Hough, sitting on the district court, found that Claim 3 must be so narrowly construed that defendant's device did not infringe. The circuit court of appeals sustained the third claim and found infringement, reversing the district court's decree, and sent the case back for assessment of profits which have been found to be about $15,000.00.

In the third circuit, Judge Orr found Claim No. 3 invalid for lack of invention. The circuit court of appeals sustained the decree of dismissal by the district court, but on the ground of noninfringement.

In the sixth circuit Judge Westenhaver took the same view as Judge Orr and dismissed the bill. The circuit court of appeals affirmed the action of the district court on the ground that, if valid, Claim No. 3 must be so narrowly construed that the defendant did not infringe.

The drawings accompanying the specifications of the patent are the same in the reissue, and appear below.

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The specifications say:

"The invention has for an object to provide a reinforcing bar with one or more spirally disposed coils secured to

Page 261 U. S. 8

the bar so as to provide an extended area of contact adapted to resist strain longitudinally and laterally of the bar and to form a truss within the body of concrete or other plaster material which provides the maximum of supporting strength in the arch or surface to be formed."

"Other and further objects and advantages of the invention will be hereinafter set forth, and the novel features thereof defined by the appended claims. "

Page 261 U. S. 9

"In the drawings, Figure 1 is a vertical section showing the bar applied to supporting girders or beams. Figure 2 is an enlarged vertical section on the line 2-2, Fig. 1. Fig. 3 is a detailed perspective of the primary and secondary coils shown in Fig. 1. Fig. 4 is a similar view of a modified form using one coil. Fig. 5 is a detailed plan of the form shown in Fig. 3, and Fig. 6 is an elevation of the two meshing coils used for girder and column construction."

"The bar may be provided with a primary coil 6, extending in one direction, as shown in Fig. 4, which is sufficient in light construction; but, when a heavier construction is to be used, a secondary coil 7 is provided, which extends in the opposite direction to the coil 6 and through the same, so as to cross beneath the coil 6 at a point directly above the bar, thus providing a construction in which all lateral pull or strain of the coil is avoided, owing to the equalization thereof by the oppositely extending coils and the tendency of the coils to move or flatten toward the face of the bar resisted. This preferred construction is shown in Figs. 1 and 3, and it is also desirable that both of the coils be deflected away from the center of the bar, as shown in Fig. 1, as the greatest supporting strain carried by the arch is at the center thereof, and this deflection therefore resists such strain and tends to draw the coils upward into a position at right angles to the bar."

"As a preferred means of securing the coils to the bar I have shown a series of kerfs 8 in one face of the bar inclined away from the center of the bar toward the opposite ends thereof, and the coils are seated within these kerfs and held therein by means of the integral spurs 9, which are forced downward upon the coils when inserted and permanently retain them in position. "

Page 261 U. S. 10

"In Fig. 6, a modified application of the invention is shown where two of the bars are disposed parallel to each other, with their coils intermeshing, for use in column or girder construction, wherein such a construction provides the maximum of strength with the minimum of weight in the reinforcing material."

"In the operation of the invention, it will be seen that the bar supporting the coil resists any movement thereof longitudinally of the bar and provides the necessary strength upon which the truss structure formed by the coils is carried."

The first four claims of the original patent were as follows:

1. In a reinforcing bar, a spiral coil rigidly secured thereto at two points in each convolution thereof and extended beyond and free of said bar at the opposite side therefrom to the securing point.

2. In a reinforcing bar, a spiral coil rigidly secured thereto at two points in each convolution thereof and extended beyond and free of said bar at the opposite side therefrom to the securing point, said coils being deflected in opposite directions from the center of the bar toward the ends thereof.

3. A reinforcing bar provided upon one end with a series of kerfs each having an integral overlapping spur, and a coil disposed in said kerfs, each convolution thereof being retained beneath one of said spurs.

4. A reinforcing bar provided upon one edge with a series of kerfs disposed diagonally to the length of the bar each having an overlapping integral spur projected toward the center of the bar, and a coil disposed in said kerfs and retained beneath said spurs.

The first and second claims of the reissued patent were as follows:

1. A concrete reinforcing consisting of a bar having a plurality of integral spurs, and a spiral coil permanently

Page 261 U. S. 11

secured thereto by having the spurs bent down on the several coils, the coils extending beyond and free of the bar at the opposite side therefrom to the securing point.

2. A concrete reinforcing consisting of a bar having integral means to secure a coil thereto, and a spiral coil permanently secured to the bar in each convolution and extended beyond and free of said bar at the opposite side therefrom to the securing point.

The third and fifth claims of the reissue patent were the same as the third and fourth of the original.

The defendant makes and sells a collapsible spiral, or cylindrical helix, used in strengthening concrete columns or pillars. It consists of a cylindrical spiral of steel wire fitted to two T-bars or spacers. Each convolution of the spiral engages the leg or outside edge of the T-spacers at regular intervals. The engagement is loose-fitting, so that this construction, which is normally stovepipe-shaped, can be made flat for shipment by moving the metal rods or spacers longitudinally in opposite directions. The method by which the spiral is attached to the spacer bar is a rectangular notch in the edge of the T-bar with one or both corners peened or hammered down so as to retain and loosely hold the spiral. This is said to infringe the claims of plaintiff's reissued patents Nos. 1 and 2 and also Claims 3 and 5, which were in the reissue as in the original patent, except that in Claim 3 the word "end" was changed to "edge" to correct an obvious error.

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