In order to give this court jurisdiction over questions or
propositions of law sent up by a circuit court of appeals for
decision, it is necessary that the questions or propositions should
be clearly and distinctly certified,
Page 148 U. S. 267
and should show that the instruction of this court is desired fn
the particular case as to their proper decision.
A statement that one circuit court of appeals has arrived at a
different conclusion from another circuit court of appeals on a
question or proposition is not equivalent to the expression of a
desire for instruction as to the proper decision of a specific
question, requiring determination in the proper disposition of the
The fact that a circuit court of appeals for one circuit has
rendered a different judgment from that of the circuit court of
appeals for another circuit under the same conditions may furnish
ground for a certiorari on proper application.
The case is stated in the opinion.
MR. CHIEF JUSTICE FULLER delivered the opinion of the Court.
The record in this case consists of the following certificate,
signed on the 10th day of October, 1892, by the judges then holding
the Circuit Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit:
"This cause comes before this court by an appeal from the decree
of the Circuit Court of the United States for the Eastern Division
of the Southern District of Ohio sustaining the letters patent of
the appellees and declaring that the appellants have infringed said
letters patent, and directing the issue of a perpetual injunction
and ordering the statement of an account of profits and
"The transcript presented to this court shows that the appeal
was taken immediately from said decree, before accounting was had.
Both parties desired that this court should give a full hearing on
the merits of said decree, so far as relate to the validity of the
patent and infringement, and should enter a final decree in this
court thereon, the parties agreeing between themselves to suspend
accounting until the decision of this court can be had. This court,
Page 148 U. S. 268
find that they have, under the seventh section of the act
creating United States circuit appellate courts, jurisdiction to
grant such a hearing and enter such a final decree as is asked,
because said decree of the circuit court is only an interlocutory
decree, and presents on appeal, under section 7, only the question
whether the decree for an injunction, interlocutory in fact however
final in form, was improvidently granted in the legal discretion of
the court, and involves only incidentally the question of the
validity of the patent and the infringement complained of. The
Circuit Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, under similar
circumstances, after listening to adverse argument, in Jones
Co. v. Munger &c. Co.,
50 F. 785, held that said section 7
gave jurisdiction to the court, on agreement of parties, to render
a final decree on the merits of the validity and infringement of
the patent involved. As the judgment of this court differs from
that of a coordinate court, the instruction of the Supreme Court is
respectfully requested upon the question."
"It is therefore ordered that a copy hereof, certified under the
seal of the court, be transmitted to the clerk of the Supreme Court
of the United States."
By section sixth of the Judiciary Act of March 3, 1891,
establishing circuit courts of appeals, 26 Stat. 826, c. 517, it is
provided that the judgments or decrees of those courts shall be
final in certain enumerated classes of cases, and, among them, in
all cases arising under the patent laws, but that in such cases the
circuit court of appeals may certify to
"the Supreme Court of the United States any questions or
propositions of law concerning which it desires the instruction of
that court for its proper decision. And thereupon the Supreme Court
may either give its instruction on the questions and propositions
certified to it, which shall be binding upon the circuit court of
appeals in such case, or it may be sent the whole record and cause
may be sent up to it for its consideration, and thereupon shall
decide the whole matter in controversy in the same manner as if it
had been brought there for review by writ of error or appeal."
And it is also provided, in respect of cases in which the
Page 148 U. S. 269
and decrees of the circuit courts of appeals are made final,
"it shall be competent for the Supreme Court to require, by
certiorari or otherwise, any such case to be certified to the
Supreme Court for its revision and determination, with the same
power and authority in the case as if it had been carried by appeal
or writ of error to the Supreme Court."
Thus, in the interest of jurisprudence and uniformity of
decision, the supervision of this Court by way of advice or direct
revision is secured. In re Woods, Petitioner, 143 U.
; Lau Ow Bew, Petitioner, 141 U.
; 144 U. S. 144
47, 144 U. S.
In order, however, to invoke the exercise of our jurisdiction in
the instruction of the circuit courts of appeals as to the proper
decision of questions or propositions of law arising in the classes
of cases mentioned, it is necessary that such questions or
propositions should be clearly and distinctly certified, and that
the certificate should show that the instruction of this Court as
to their proper decision is desired.
It was long ago settled under the statutes authorizing questions
upon which two judges of the circuit court were divided in opinion
to be certified to this Court, that each question so certified must
be a distinct point or proposition of law, clearly stated, so that
it could be definitely answered, Perkins v.
11 Wheat. 237; Sadler v.
7 How. 646; Jewell v. Knight,
123 U. S. 426
123 U. S. 432
Fire Ins. Assoc. v. Wickham, 128 U.
, and that if it appeared upon the record that no
division of opinion actually existed among the judges of the
circuit court, this Court would not consider a question as
certified, even though it were certified in form, Railroad Co.
v. White, 101 U. S. 98
10 How. 54; Nesmith v.
6 How. 41.
We regard the certificate before us as essentially defective. It
does not specifically set forth the question or questions to be
answered, and, apart from that, it does not state that instruction
is desired for the proper decision of such question or questions.
On the contrary, it appears therefrom that the court had arrived at
a conclusion, nothing doubting (for reasons, we may remark, given
in its opinion reported in 52 F. 337) but that, because the circuit
court of appeals
Page 148 U. S. 270
for another circuit had reached the opposite conclusion, under
similar circumstances, the request for instruction is
While the fact that the circuit court of appeals for one circuit
has rendered a different judgment from that of the circuit court of
appeals for another under the same conditions might furnish ground
for a certiorari on proper application, the assertion of the
existence of such difference, and of the wish that it might be
determined by this Court, is not equivalent to the expression of a
desire for instruction as to the proper decision of a specific
question or questions requiring determination in the proper
disposition of the particular case. The difference can only exist
when the courts have actually reached contradictory results, but
each must proceed to its own judgment unless such grave doubts
arise as to induce the conviction that this Court should be
resorted to for their solution in the manner provided for.
As, in our judgment, this certificate is not in compliance with
the statute, we must decline to certify any opinion upon the
matters involved, and direct the cause to be