Butterworth v. United States,
112 U.S. 50 (1884)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Butterworth v. United States, 112 U.S. 50 (1884)

Butterworth v. United States

Argued October 15-16, 1884

Decided November 3, 1884

112 U.S. 50


The Secretary of the Interior has no power by law to revise the action of the Commissioner of Patents in awarding to an applicant priority of invention, and adjudging him entitled to a patent. The legislation on this subject examined and reviewed.

The executive supervision and direction which the head of a Department may exercise over his subordinates in matters administrative and executive do not extend to matters in which the subordinate is directed by statute to act judicially.

Page 112 U. S. 51

The action of the Commissioner of Patents in awarding or refusing a patent to an applicant and in matters of that description is quasi-judicial.

The Commissioner of Patents, after determining that a patent shall issue, acts ministerially in preparing the patent for the signature of the Secretary and in countersigning it. And if he then refuses to perform those ministerial acts, mandamus will be directed.

The remedy by bill in equity, under Rev.Stat. § 4915, applies only when the court decides to reject an application for a patent on the ground that the applicant is not, on the merits, entitled to it.

The case is stated in the opinion of the Court.

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