Silsby v. Foote
61 U.S. 378 (1857)

Annotate this Case

U.S. Supreme Court

Silsby v. Foote, 61 U.S. 20 How. 378 378 (1857)

Silsby v. Foote

61 U.S. (20 How.) 378

Syllabus

Foote's patent declared good, for the combination of machinery used in

"the application of the expansive and contracting power of a metallic rod by different degrees of heat, to open and close a damper which governs the admission of air into a stove, in which such rod shall be acted upon directly by the heat of the stove or the fire which it contains."

The award by the circuit court of damages for an infringement of the patent affirmed, by an equal division of this Court; but the allowance of interest overruled.

Where a patentee claims more than he is entitled to, his patent may still be good for what is really his own, provided he enters a disclaimer for the surplus without any unreasonable delay. In this case, the patentee was allowed to recover damages for an infringement, but not to recover costs, agreeably to the provisions of the Act of Congress of the 3d March, 1837.

In May, 1842, Foote obtained a patent for an improvement in regulating the draft or heat of stoves. The claim which he made was this:

Page 61 U. S. 379

"What I claim as my invention and desire to secure by letters patent is the application of the expansive and contracting power of a metallic rod by different degrees of heat, to open and close a damper which governs the admission of air into a stove or other structure in which it may be used, by which a more perfect control over the heat is obtained than can be by a damper in the flue."

"I also claim as my invention the mode above described of letting the heat of a stove, at any requisite degree by which different degrees of expansion are required, to open or close the damper."

"I also claim the combination above described, by which the regulation of the heat of a stove or other structure in which it may be used, is effected; and I also claim as my invention the mode above described of connecting the action of the metallic rods with the damper, so that the same may be disconnected when the damper shall have closed, and the heat shall continue to rise &c."

"ELISHA FOOTE, Jr."

Afterwards, in March, 1847, he filed the following disclaimer:

"To the commissioner of Patents:"

"The petition of Elisha Foote, of Seneca Falls, in the County of Seneca and State of New York, respectfully represents that your petitioner obtained letters patent of the United States for an improvement in regulating the draft of stoves, which letters patent are dated on the 26th day of May, 1842; that he has reason to believe that through inadvertence and mistake the claim made in the specification of said letters patent in the following words, to-wit:"

" What I can as my invention and desire to secure by letters patent is the application of the expansive and contracting power of a metallic rod by different degrees of heat to open and close a damper, which governs the admission of air into a stove or other structure in which it may be used, by which a more perfect control over the heat is obtained than can be by a damper in the flue,"

"is too broad, including that of which your petitioner was not the first inventor."

"Your petitioner therefore hereby enters his disclaimer to so much of said claim as extends the application of the expansive and contracting power of a metallic rod by different degrees of heat to any other use or purpose than that of regulating the heat of a stove, in which such rod shall be acted upon directly by the heat of the stove, or the fire which it contains; which disclaimer is to operate to the extent of the interest in said letters patent vested in your petitioner, who has paid ten

Page 61 U. S. 380

dollars into the Treasury of the United States, agreeably to the requirements of the act of Congress in that case made and provided."

This did not apply to the whole of his claim, but only to a part of it.

In 55 U. S. 14 How. 218, will be found the report of a suit which Foote instituted against some of the present appellants. The judgment of the court below being affirmed by this Court, that suit was brought to an end.

On the 9th of October, 1848, Foote filed his bill on the equity side of the circuit court against the present appellants, complaining that they continued their infringement upon his patent, praying for an injunction, an account &c. After other proceedings were had in the case, MR. JUSTICE NELSON, in vacation, viz., September, 1850, ordered an issue to be made up at law upon the first and third points of the claim, the second and fourth not being drawn into controversy. In June, 1851, the trial at law took place, which resulted in a verdict for the defendants.

Afterwards, the cause came before the Court on a hearing of the pleadings and proofs, and case made upon the trial of the feigned issues, and after hearing of counsel for the respective parties, the court, on the 29th day of August, 1853, directed the following order to be entered:

In equity

This cause having been heard on argument by counsel for the respective parties on the pleadings and proofs, and upon the case made since the trial of the feigned issue therein, and the court having considered the same, and being of the opinion that the complainant was the first and original inventor of the application of the expansion and contraction of the inflexible metallic rod to the regulation of the heat of stoves, as described and claimed in his patent, adjudge and decree that the defendants have infringed the said patent in making and vending the regulators of stoves, as charged in the said bill of complaint, and that the said complainant is entitled to have a perpetual injunction to restrain said defendants, their agents, servants, and all claiming or holding under or through them, from making, vending, or using, or in any manner disposing of any regulator or regulators of stoves, embracing the invention or improvements described in said letters patent, namely, any regulator in which the expansive and contracting power of an inflexible metallic rod, which expansion and contraction, if produced by changes in the heat of the stove regulated, shall

Page 61 U. S. 381

be applied to the damper to regulate the heat thereof, and this notwithstanding the verdict of the jury upon the feigned issue, heretofore rendered on the trial of the same.

"And it is further adjudged and decreed, that the cause be referred to Augustus A. Boyce, Esq., the clerk of this court, to ascertain and report the number of regulations for stoves embracing the principle aforesaid that have been made, and also the number sold by the said defendants, or either of them, since the 23d day of March, 1847, and the damages complainant has sustained, or use and profits the defendants, or either of them, have derived by reason of such infringement, since the time last aforesaid; and, upon the coming in and confirmation of the said report, that said complainant have a decree and execution for the amount found due to him, and also for the costs in this suit, to be taxed."

It appeared from the record that the court, on the trial of the feigned issues, instructed the jury that the first claim of the patentee was disproved by the prior construction of the Saxton stove, and that the patent must rest for its validity upon the other claims.

In June, 1854, the master made his report, which was very voluminous, and to which both parties filed numerous exceptions, some of which were overruled and others allowed by the court. The result of some of the rulings made a further reference to the master necessary, when both parties expressed a desire that the court should make the examination itself. This was accordingly done, when the following decree was passed, viz.:

"This Court having accordingly made such examination and determination, it is further ordered, adjudged, and decreed, and this court, by virtue of the power and authority therein vested, doth further order, adjudge, determine, and decree that the said defendants are respectively liable to the said complainant for the sums of money hereinafter set forth, in the manner hereinafter particularly mentioned, for their profits of the use by the said defendants, or such of them as are hereinafter particularly declared liable therefor, of the said invention of the complainant, described and secured to him by letters patent granted to the said complainant, as set forth in the bill of complaint in this cause, which use was unauthorized and an infringement and violation of the rights of the said complainant, under the said patent -- that is to say that the said defendant, Horace C. Silsby, either severally or jointly with others of said defendants, is liable for and chargeable with the sum of twenty-three

Page 61 U. S. 382

thousand six hundred and forty-four dollars and twenty-two cents $23,644.22; that of the said last-mentioned sum the said defendant, Washburn Race, is in like manner liable for the sum of eighteen thousand one hundred and eighty-two dollars and six cents $18,182.06; that of the said first-mentioned sum the said defendant, Edward Mynderse, is in like manner liable for and chargeable with the sum of fifteen thousand nine hundred and sixteen dollars and twelve cents; and that of the said first-mentioned sum the said defendant, Henry Henion, is liable for and chargeable with the sum of three thousand one hundred and fifty-four dollars and eighty-five cents; and that of the said first-mentioned sum the said defendant, Abel Downs, is liable for and chargeable with the sum of three thousand two hundred and sixty-seven dollars and thirty-seven cents."

"And it is further ordered, adjudged, and decreed, and this Court, by virtue of the power and authority therein vested, doth order, adjudge, and decree, that each of the said defendants pay to the said complainant the sum which such defendant is above declared and decreed to be liable for and chargeable with, and interest thereon, until such payment, or so much thereof as shall be necessary, together with the sums previously paid by the other defendants, to pay off and discharge the first-mentioned sum of twenty-three thousand six hundred and forty-four dollars and twenty-two cents, and interest thereon, from the entry of this decree; and the evidence in this cause not enabling the court now to determine with precision the rights of such defendants as between themselves, in respect to the sums for which each of such defendants is liable to contribute to the other, it is further ordered and decreed, that the sums paid by or collected from the property of each defendant, under this decree, shall be first applied in payment and discharge of the amount, if any, for which said defendant is solely liable, and next to the payment and discharge of such amount, if any, as the said defendant and the least number of the other defendants is liable, in such manner as to give to the said complainant his just and full rights against each and all said defendants; and if any controversy or question shall arise in respect to the proper application of any moneys so paid or collected, either defendant or party may apply to this Court, upon affidavit and due notice to the adverse party in interest, for instructions in respect to the application thereof, or the stay of further executions against any single defendant, or any portion of such defendants, on the ground that the whole sum for which he is hereby made liable has been paid by himself and other defendants jointly liable therefor. "

Page 61 U. S. 383

"And it is further ordered, adjudged, and decreed that the said defendants pay to the said complainant his costs in this suit, to be taxed, with interest thereon from the taxation and allowance thereof until paid, and that he have executions for such costs, and for the sums above decreed to be paid him as aforesaid, but such execution against the defendants other than the said defendant, Horace C. Silsby, shall be only for such costs, and the amount for which such defendants are hereinbefore respectively declared to be liable."

"S. NELSON"

"N. K. HALL"

From this decree the complainant and respondents both appealed, but as the case of the respondents' appeal came on first for argument, it only is noticed. Both cases were decided together.

Page 61 U. S. 385

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