Wing v. Anthony,
106 U.S. 142 (1882)

Annotate this Case
  • Syllabus  | 
  • Case

U.S. Supreme Court

Wing v. Anthony, 106 U.S. 142 (1882)

Wing v. Anthony

Decided November 13, 1882

106 U.S. 142


Reissued letters patent No. 1049, bearing date Sept. 25, 1860, granted to Albert S. Southworth for certain improvements in taking photographic impressions, and subsequently extended for seven years from April 10, 1869, are void, the claim therein made being for a different invention from that described in the original letters.

This was a bill in equity to restrain the infringement by the defendants of reissued letters patent dated September 25, 1860, granted to Albert S. Southworth, for certain improvements in taking photographic impressions. The original letters patent were dated April 10, 1855; the reissue, September 25, 1860.

The answer of the defendants denied the novelty and the utility of the invention, denied infringement, and alleged that the invention described in the reissued patent was not the same invention described in the original patent.

The circuit court, upon final hearing, dismissed the bill. To obtain a review of this decree, the complainants have appealed to this Court.

It appears from the evidence in this case and is a matter of general knowledge that a camera is the principal instrument used in taking photographic pictures. This is a rectangular, oblong box, in one end of which is inserted a tube containing a double convex lens, while at the other end is a plate-holder, immediately in front of which is a sliding shield. A plate of glass receives in a dark room a chemical preparation which renders it sensitive to the action of light. The plate is then put into the plate-holder at the end of the camera opposite the lens, the shield in front of the plate is withdrawn, and the rays of light passing through the lens from an object suitably placed in front of it fall upon the plate and produce there an image of the object. This is then perfected by certain other chemical processes, and is called a negative, and from it many copies may be printed. Thus photographic pictures are produced.

The camera should be so arranged with relation to the

Page 106 U. S. 143

object to be pictured that a right line drawn from the center of the object will pass directly through the axis of the lens and fall upon the plate at right angles. In this manner the best pictures are obtained. If this method is not followed, the picture will be distorted and otherwise imperfect.

It is conceded that prior to the date of Southworth's invention, this object was accomplished by tilting the camera itself into different positions with respect to the object to be pictured, and in this manner bringing the center of the field of the lens upon different parts of the plate.

Complainants contend that prior to Southworth's invention, only one correct picture could be taken on the same plate, except in the manner just stated. The object of the invention covered by his original patent was to provide efficient means by which several correct pictures could be taken on different parts of the same plate.

In the specification of his original patent, he declares his invention to be "a new and useful plate-holder for cameras for taking photographic impressions," and says:

"The object of my invention is to bring in rapid succession different portions of the same plate, or different plates of whatsoever material prepared for photographic purposes, into the center of the field of the lens for the purpose of either timing them differently, that the most perfect may be selected, or of taking different views of the same object with the least delay possible, or of taking stereoscopic pictures upon the same or different plates with one camera."

He then declares:

"My invention consists of a peculiarly arranged frame in which the plate-holder is permitted to slide, by which means I am enabled to take four daguerreotypes on one plate at one sitting, different portions of the plate being brought successively opposite an opening in the frame, the opening remaining stationary in the axis of the camera while the plate-holder and plate are moved."

The specification here proceeds to describe minutely the frame-holder by which the object of the invention is accomplished.

The claim of the original patent is as follows:

"What I claim as my invention and desire to secure by letters patent is the within-described plate-holder in combination with the frame in which it moves, constructed and operated in

Page 106 U. S. 144

the manner and for the purpose substantially as herein set forth."

The specification of the reissued patent contains the following passages, which do not appear in the original specification:

"I have invented certain improvements in taking photographic impressions. . . . In taking daguerreotypes, photographs, etc., it has been customary to use a separate plate for each impression, the plate being removed from the camera and replaced by another when several impressions of the same object were to be taken, as in multiplying copies or for the purpose of selecting the best-timed pictures. This caused considerable delay and trouble, to obviate which is the object of my present invention, which consists in bringing successively different portions of the same plate or several smaller plates secured in one plate-holder into the field of the lens of the camera."

"In carrying out my invention, I have made use of a peculiarly arranged frame in which the plate-holder is permitted to slide, and in which the position of the plate-holder is definitely indicated to the operator, so that he can quickly and accurately adjust the plate or plates; the accompanying drawings and description so explaining the same that other skilled in the art may understand and use my invention."

Then follows a description of the plate-holder which is identical with the description contained in the original specification, and is illustrated by the same drawings.

The reissue specification further declares:

"In this case, however" -- that is, when it is desired to take more than four impressions on the same plate,

"I use suitable grooves, stops, or indices, by which the operator adjusts the positions of the plate substantially on the same principle that he uses the corners of the opening k in the above-described apparatus. It is evident that my improvement may be embodied by causing the lens of the camera to be made adjustable in different positions with respect to the plate while the plate remains stationary, so that different portions of the plate may be brought into the field of the lens. This I have tried, but do not consider it practically to be so good a plan as the foregoing, as it necessitates a change of position of the camera itself or of the objects. "

Page 106 U. S. 145

The claim of the reissued patent was then stated as follows:

"What I claim as my invention and desire to secure by letters patent is bringing the different portions of a single plate, or several smaller plates, successively into the field of the lens of the camera, substantially in the same manner and for the purpose specified."

Disclaimer: Official Supreme Court case law is only found in the print version of the United States Reports. Justia case law is provided for general informational purposes only, and may not reflect current legal developments, verdicts or settlements. We make no warranties or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the information contained on this site or information linked to from this site. Please check official sources.