Rosenwasser v. Spieth, 129 U.S. 47 (1889)


U.S. Supreme Court

Rosenwasser v. Spieth, 129 U.S. 47 (1889)

Rosenwasser v. Spieth

No. 122

Argued December 11-12, 1888

Decided January 14, 1889

129 U.S. 47



U.S. Supreme Court

Rosenwasser v. Spieth, 129 U.S. 47 (1889) Rosenwasser v. Spieth

No. 122

Argued December 11-12, 1888

Decided January 14, 1889

129 U.S. 47




The improvement in percolators for which letters patent were granted April 18, 1882, to Nathan Rosenwasser, was anticipated by an apparatus described in Geiger's Handbuch der Pharmacie, published at Stuttgart in 1830.

In equity for an alleged infringement of letters patent. The bill prayed for a discovery and an accounting and the payment of all gains and profits discovered on the accounting, and for injunctions, both interlocutory and final. The answer denied that the plaintiffs invented the patented improvement or that the alleged invention was patentable. The final decree

Page 129 U. S. 48

dismissed the bill, from which the plaintiffs appealed. The case is stated in the opinion.

MR. JUSTICE GRAY delivered the opinion of the Court.

This is a bill in equity for the infringement of letters patent granted April 18, 1882, to Nathan Rosenwasser for improvements in percolators, with the following specification and claim:

"My invention relates to percolating apparatus to be employed for filtering purposes, or for making fluid extracts or decoctions, and it consists in a device constructed and adapted to operate substantially in the manner hereinafter specified."

"In the drawings, figure 1 represents my device in longitudinal section, and Fig. 2 shows the application of said device when used as a filter or in making fluid extracts."

"A is the main body of my percolator. B is a constricted inlet. C is the enlarged open end, which serves the double purpose of a discharge or outlet and as an opening through which the percolator is charged with filtering substance when the device is to be used as a filter, or with any drug from which an extract is to be made. D is a perforated plate. This plate may, if desired, be replaced by any porous diaphragm or interposing substance such as filter paper, cloth, pumice, or the like. This is to prevent the drug from escaping from the percolator during its use, and it is to be secured in position by suitable means. E represents the drug from which an extract is to be made, or, if the device is to be used as a filter, then E represents charcoal, sand, or any suitable filtering material."

"I will describe my apparatus as employed in making fluid extracts. The container, A, is charged with any drug or substance, E, from which an extract is to be made. The drug, E, is charged into the container, A, through the enlarged mouth, C. Now, by the ordinary process and mechanism for making

Page 129 U. S. 49

fluid extracts, it has heretofore been the practice to charge the menstruum into the large mouth, C, but this method made it impracticable to obtain any increased or variable pressure upon the menstruum unless a cap piece were fitted over the enlarged mouth, C, and a tube or its equivalent attached and connected either to an elevated reservoir containing the menstruum or else some special pressure apparatus connected with said tube. All this in practice is impracticable, but by the employment of my device and method, it is a very easy matter to charge the container, A, and, by applying the menstruum in exactly an opposite manner from that heretofore adopted, viz., to the end of the container, A, opposite the charging month, C, to exert any desired pressure upon the menstruum. Fig. 2 of the drawings illustrates my method and mechanism, which consists, after the container, A, is charged in the usual manner through its enlarged mouth, C, as already specified, in inverting the percolator, attaching a flexible or other tube, F, to the constricted mouth, B, and applying the menstruum through said tube from an elevated reservoir, G. When thus used, the enlarged mouth, C, becomes the ultimate discharge, which has never before, to my knowledge, been true in any method heretofore known or practiced. By elevating the reservoir, G, more or less, a greater or lighter pressure is exerted by the menstruum, and it is therefore driven through the drug more or less forcibly and rapidly. This pressure, as may readily be seen, can be nicely adjusted and varied at pleasure to suit the requirements of any case. A stop-cock, H, may be used to govern the quantity of the menstruum admitted to the percolator, A."

"What I claim is the combination, with a vessel, G, and adjustable tube, F, of a percolator, A, having a large filling and discharge orifice at its lower end, and a restricted opening, B at its upper end, with which connects the lower end of the adjustable tube or pipe, F, substantially as set forth."

The description of the percolator, and of the mode of using it to make fluid extracts or decoctions of drugs, amounts to this: the percolator is a cylinder wholly open at the lower end, and with a cover at the upper end, having a small opening,

Page 129 U. S. 50

attached to which is a flexible or adjustable tube leading from a reservoir of the liquid to be used for steeping the drug. The percolator is turned bottom up while the drug is put in, and a perforated or porous diaphragm inserted to hold the drug in place. It is then turned bottom down again. The pressure of the liquid, and consequently the quickness of its passage through the drug, are increased or diminished by elevating or lowering the reservoir or by turning a stop-cock in the tube, and the extract is discharged through the bottom of the percolator into a vessel placed below.

The novelties suggested consist in having one end of the percolator open, serving both to receive the drug and to discharge the extract; in turning the percolator bottom up to put in the drug, and bottom down to let the extract drip out; in having a perforated or porous diaphragm to hold the drug in place, and in regulating the pressure of the liquid by means of a tube from the reservoir to the small opening in the covered end of the percolator.

But, passing over the difficulty that the diaphragm is not claimed as part of the combination patented, neither the percolator open at one end, the diaphragm, the inversion of the percolator, the insertion of the tube in the small opening in the covered end, nor the making that tube flexible, and with a stopcock, is new. All those elements appear in the Real press, as modified by Beindorf, described in Geiger's Handbuch der Pharmacie, published in 1830 at Stuttgart, in Germany, which is an exhibit in the case, and a translation of the material parts of which (vol. 1, pp. 157-160), verified by the oath of a witness for the defendant and included in the record, appears, though not quite grammatical, to be substantially accurate notwithstanding the opposing testimony introduced by the plaintiff to impugn its correctness. It will be sufficient to quote from that translation the following passages: *

"The Real press consists principally of a

Page 129 U. S. 51

hollow cylinder, which contains the powdered substance to be exhausted between two perforated plates, tightly packed, so that the substance cannot move to [in] either direction. If the cylinder is open at both ends, a cover is fitted air-tight at one end, having a hole in the center into which a long tube is fitted, also air-tight. Between the cover and the perforated plate mentioned some space must remain. In extracting, the cylinder is placed vertical [upright], so that a vessel for gathering the liquid may be placed underneath."

"A very practical change in the construction of the Real press has been introduced by Beindorf. The cylinder is fitted into a chair [frame], the cover or seat of which is movable, so that by turning [inverting] the same the press may be filled and connected with the tube."

"The filled cylinder, turned bottom up, is placed upon a chair [frame] having a hole in the

Page 129 U. S. 52

middle in which the cylinder fits and around which he [it] rests."

"In the opening in the bottom a tube is fitted, which may be made of tinned iron [tin plate], glass, wood, leather, etc."

"Near the upper end of the tube is placed a vessel containing the menstruum, [liquid solvent], the surface of which must be somewhat lower than the end of the tube. A syphon is now introduced into the liquid and in the tube, air sucked through the tube, so that the liquid will commence to flow through the syphon into the tube, which is thereby filled. The column of menstruum [liquid] thus acts pressing and dissolving upon the substance to be extracted. It penetrates it, and arrives, laden with the soluble matter contained in the substance at the lower end of the apparatus, often in a syrupy consistence."

"In order to control the apparatus, stop or continue the operation, the tube is provided with a cock, which may be closed if necessary, or the upper end of tube may be closed after removing the syphon."

This Court concurs in opinion with the circuit judge that the plaintiff's contrivance is not new, and that, if it were new, there would be grave doubt whether it involved any invention. 22 F. 841. As the plaintiff's contrivance had been anticipated in the German publication half a century before, it is unnecessary to decide whether, if new, it would have been patentable.

Decree affirmed.


"Die Real'sche Presse besteht der Hauptsache nach aus einem hohlen Cylinder, in welchem die auszuziehende Substanz in gepulverten Zustande zwischen 2 siebfoermig durchloecherten Platten fest gepackt enthalten ist, so dass sie nach keiner Seite hin weichen kann. Wenn der Cylinder an beiden enden offen ist, so wird an einem Ende ein Deckel luftedicht aufgepasst, welcher in der Mitte ein Loch hat, worein eine hohe Roehre, ebenfalls luftedicht, gesteckt wird. Zwischen dem Deckel und der obern siebfoermigen Platte muss etwas Raum bleiben. Beim Extrahiren wird der Cylinder aufrecht festgestellt, so dass ein Gefaess zum Aufsammeln der Fluessigkeit untergestellt werden kann."

"Eine sehr zweckmaessige Abaende rung der Real'schen Presse hat Beindorf vorgenommen. Der Cylinder wird in einen Stuhl gepasst, dessen Deckel beweglich ist, so dass durch Umdrehen desselben die Presse gefuellt und mit dem Rohr verbunden werden kann."

"Der gefuellte, mit dem Boden nach oben gerichtete Cylinder, wird auf einen Stuhl gestellt, der in der Mitte ein Loch hat, in welches derselbe passt und mit seinem Wulste aufliegt."

"Den obern leeren Raum fuellt man miteder auszuziehenden Fluessigkeiten an, und passt in die Oeffnung des Bodens eine Roehre sie kann von Weissblech, Glas, Holz, order ein lederner Schlauch u. s. w. seyn."

"Neben das obere Ende der Roehre stelle man ein Gefaess mit der Ausziehungsfluessigkeit, so das der Spiegel der Fluessigkeit etwas niederer als das Ende der Roehre steht. Man senke jetzteinen Heber in die Fluessigkeit und in die Roehre, ziehe durch die Roehre mit dem Munde etwas Luftan, indem man mit den Lippen, dem Daumen, und Zeigefinger das Eindringen derselben von aussen zu hindern strebt; die Fluessigkeit wird such heben und durch den Heber in die Roehre auslaufen, diese wird selbst damit aufgefuellt, und so wirkt die Fluessigkeit drueckend und loesend auf die Substanz. Sie durchdringt sie und kommt, mit extractiven Theilen beladen, anfangs oft von Syrupsdicke, vollkommen klar hervor."

"Um die Wirkung nach Belieben aufhoeren zu machen, bringt man einen Hahn an die Roehre, den man schliesst, oder man verschliesst nach weggenommenem Heber das obere Ende der Roehre."