Smith v. Snow
294 U.S. 1 (1935)

Annotate this Case

U.S. Supreme Court

Smith v. Snow, 294 U.S. 1 (1935)

Smith v. Snow

No. 102

Argued December 3, 4, 1934

Decided January 7, 1935

294 U.S. 1




1. Claim 1 of the Smith Patent, No. 1,262,860, for a method for the incubation of eggs, held valid, and infringed. P. 294 U. S. 7.

2. Claim 1 covers broadly the essential elements of the Smith invention, viz., (a) the arrangement of the eggs at different levels in staged incubation in a closed chamber, having restricted openings of sufficient capacity for the escape of foul air without undue loss of moisture; (b) the application to the eggs of heated air in a current created by means other than variation of temperature, and (c), as marking the boundaries of the claim, a sufficient velocity in the current to circulate and diffuse the air and maintain it throughout the chamber at substantially the same temperature, whereby the air will be vitalized, moisture conserved, and the units of heat carried from the eggs in the more advanced stage of incubation to those in a less advanced stage.


(1) The claim is not limited by the particular mode of use described in the specifications, since the claims of the patent, not its specifications, measure the invention. P. 294 U. S. 11.

(2) Examination of the claim in the light both of scientific fact and of the particular form in which the inventor reduced it to practice as described in the specifications makes it plain that the claim does not require any particular order or arrangement of the eggs in staged incubation in the incubator, or that the propelled air current

Page 294 U. S. 2

should reach them in any particular order, or that it should be guided, controlled, or directed by any particular means, or in any particular manner other than that it should be of sufficient velocity to produce the results prescribed by the claim. Pp. 294 U. S. 9, 294 U. S. 13.

(3) There is nothing in the file wrapper to suggest that any addition was made to Claim 1 to restrict the patent to any particular order of arrangement of the eggs or any particular direction or means of control of the current of air, other than its velocity, and nothing to estop the patentee from asserting that the claim is not restricted by such features. P. 294 U. S. 14.

(4) The claim is not limited by the prior art. P. 294 U. S. 16.

(5) The invention as claimed was infringed by respondents' apparatus in this case. P. 294 U. S. 18.

3. The fact that a claim broadly covering the essentials of an invention omits particular means of application which are called for by other claims is evidence that the broader claim was not intended to be so restricted. P. 294 U. S. 13.

4. The inventor of a novel method of artificial incubation of eggs, which solved the major problems of that art in a highly efficient manner and was attended by great practical and commercial success, is entitled to broad claims in his patent, and to a liberal construction of them tending to secure to the patentee the benefit of his invention, rather than to defeat the grant. P. 294 U. S. 14.

5. A broad claim is not to be given a restricted construction because its allowance in the Patent Office followed the rejection of narrow claims. P. 294 U. S. 16.

6. The invention of a combination is not anticipated by earlier and impracticable experiments for the same end with isolated elements of the combination. P. 294 U. S. 17.

70 F.2d 564 reversed.

Certiorari to review a decree reversing a decree of the District Court and holding valid, but not infringed, a claim of a patent for an improved apparatus and method for the incubation of eggs.

Page 294 U. S. 3

MR. JUSTICE STONE delivered the opinion of the Court.

Certiorari was granted to review a decree of the Circuit Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, 70 F.2d 564, which reversed the decree of the District Court and held valid, but not infringed, the first claim of the Smith patent, No. 1,262,860, of April 16, 1918, for an improved apparatus and method for the incubation of eggs. [Footnote 1] The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held the same claim valid and infringed in Waxham v. Smith, 70 F.2d 457, in which case certiorari was also granted. The question thus presented is one of the scope of the claim.

Only so much of the patent as relates to a method for incubation is now involved. Correct appreciation of the contentions made requires a brief exposition of the well known phenomena which attend the incubation of eggs under natural conditions.

The period for hatching eggs of the domestic hen is twenty-one days. The eggs are cold at the beginning of the period of incubation, although at that time generation has already progressed slightly. Continuation of this process and successful incubation depend upon the

Page 294 U. S. 4

application of heat to the eggs, and the maintenance of their temperature at not less than body heat, about 100

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