Patterson v. Kentucky
97 U.S. 501

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U.S. Supreme Court

Patterson v. Kentucky, 97 U.S. 501 (1878)

Patterson v. Kentucky

97 U.S. 501




1. Where, by the application of the invention or discovery for which letters patent have been granted by the United States, tangible property comes into existence, its use is, to the same extent as that of any other species of property, subject, within the several states, to the control which they may respectively impose in the legitimate exercise of their powers over their purely domestic affairs, whether of internal commerce or of police.

2. A party to whom such letters patent were, in the usual form, issued for "an improved burning oil" whereof he claimed to be the inventor, was convicted in Kentucky for there selling that oil. It had been condemned by the state inspector as "unsafe for illuminating purposes" under a statute requiring such inspection, and imposing a penalty for selling or offering to sell within the state oils or fluids, the product of coal, petroleum, or other bituminous substances, which can be used for such purposes and which have been so condemned. It was admitted on the trial that the oil could not, by any chemical combination described in the specification annexed to the letters patent, be made to conform to the standard prescribed by that statute. Held that the enforcement of the statute interfered with no right conferred by the letters patent.

The facts are stated in the opinion of the Court.

Mr. JUSTICE HARLAN delivered the opinion of the Court.

Whether the final judgment of the Court of Appeals of

Page 97 U. S. 502

Kentucky denies to plaintiff in error any right secured to her by the Constitution and laws of the United States is the sole question presented in this case for our determination.

That court affirmed the judgment of an inferior state court in which, upon indictment and trial, a fine of $250 was imposed upon plaintiff in error for a violation of certain provisions of a Kentucky statute, approved Feb. 21, 1874, regulating the inspection and gauging of oils and fluids, the product of coal, petroleum, or other bituminous substances. The statute provides that such oils and fluids, by whatever name called and wherever manufactured, which may or can be used for illuminating purposes, shall be inspected by an authorized state officer before being used, sold, or offered for sale. Such as ignite or permanently burn at a temperature of 130

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