Manning v. Cape Ann Isinglass & Glue Co.,
108 U.S. 462 (1883)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Manning v. Cape Ann Isinglass & Glue Co., 108 U.S. 462 (1883)

Manning v. Cape Ann Isinglass & Glue Co., 108 U.S. 462 (1883)

Decided May 7, 1883

108 U.S. 462


The facts in this case show a public use of the alleged invention for more than four years prior to the date of the patent.

This was a suit brought by the appellants, John J. Manning and Caleb J. Norwood, to restrain the infringement by the appellees of letters patent dated January 7, 1873, issued to the appellants and W. N. Manning, as assignees of the inventor, James Manning. By the subsequent assignment of W. N. Manning, the appellants became vested with the title to the entire patent.

It is well known that the swimming bladders or sounds of certain fishes are largely composed of that variety of gelatin called isinglass. The sounds are usually found in the market in a dry and hard state. They are manufactured into isinglass by a mechanical operation which consists in passing the macerated sounds successively between several sets of rollers, the first set kneading the sounds into a homogeneous sheet, and the subsequent sets squeezing and elongating the sheets into the ribbons of isinglass known to commerce. The invention covered by the patent sued on was for "an improvement in the manufacture of isinglass from fish sounds."

The specification of the patent declared as follows:

"In the manufacture of ribbon isinglass from fish sounds, it is customary to feed the softened and moist or macerated sounds to and between feed and compressing rollers, by which the viscid substance is compressed and joined and formed into a continuous sheet. Notwithstanding the constant application of cold water into the rolls, the substance adheres tenaciously to the roll and

Page 108 U. S. 463

accumulates thereupon and has to be cut away therefrom, an operation which is very slow and laborious, and productive of imperfect sheets."

"My invention is designed to obviate the return of the adhering gelatinous substance to the action of the rolls before it is stripped therefrom, and to so strip it that the rolls may work continuously or without stoppage; the ribbon, as it is stopped, being again fed or guided by the operator into and between the rolls until sufficiently reduced or elongated for removal or for the action of other rolls set nearer together to produce a thinner ribbon."

"To effect this result, I place at the side of each roll a scraper extending the whole length of the roll and having an edge set up to the roll, so that the roll shall run just clear of it, which scraper or cleaner strips from the whole surface of the roll the adhering gelatine in the form of a sheet."

"The invention consists in this method of passing the isinglass between hollow rolls, cooled by water thrown into the rolls, and then stripping the gelatinous matter from the rollers and returning it to the hopper to be again treated, the rollers being adjustable."

The claim was as follows:

"The herein described method of converting isinglass into sheets of any desired thickness by running it between hollow rolls into which cold water is thrown to cool the compressing surfaces, such rolls being preferably made adjustable to graduate the degree of compression, and the adhering sheets being removed from the rolls by stationary scrapers or clearers and returned to the hopper as required."

One of the defenses set up in the answer and relied on was that the improvement described in the patent had been in public use for more than two years before the patent was applied for.

The circuit court dismissed the bill on that ground. From its decree this appeal is prosecuted by the complainants.

Page 108 U. S. 464

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