Mast, Foos & Co. v. Stover Manufacturing Co.,
177 U.S. 485 (1900)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Mast, Foos & Co. v. Stover Manufacturing Co., 177 U.S. 485 (1900)

Mast, Foos & Co. v. Stover Manufacturing Company

No. 149

Argued February 1-2, 1800

Decided April 23, 1900

177 U.S. 485


There is no obligation on the part of courts in patent causes to follow the prior adjudications of other courts of coordinate jurisdiction, particularly if new testimony be introduced varying the issue presented to the prior court. Comity is not a rule of law, but one of practice, convenience and expediency. It requires of no court to abdicate its individual judgment, and is applicable only where, in its own mind, there may be a doubt as to the soundness of its views.

Patent No. 433,031, granted to Mast, Foos & Company upon the application of Samuel W. Martin, for an improvement in windmills was anticipated by prior devices, and is invalid. Under the state of the art, it required no invention to adapt to a windmill the combination of an internal toothed spur wheel with an external toothed pinion for the purpose of converting a revolving into a reciprocating motion.

Where a case is carried by appeal to the circuit court of appeals from an order granting a temporary injunction, it is within the power of that court to dismiss the bill if there be nothing in the affidavits tending to throw doubt upon the existence or date of the anticipating devices, and, giving them their proper effect, they establish the invalidity of the patent.

This was a writ of certiorari to review a decree of the circuit court of appeals dismissing a bill in equity brought for

Page 177 U. S. 486

the infringement of a patent, and appealed to that court from an order of the Circuit Court for the Northern District of Illinois granting a preliminary injunction. The bill was filed by the petitioner, Mast, Foos & Company, an Ohio corporation, and was founded upon letters patent No. 433,531, granted to the petitioner, upon the application of one Samuel W. Martin, for an improvement in windmills.

In his specification, the patentee states that the

"invention consists essentially of an improved back gear organization involving an external toothed pinion, and an internal toothed spur gear, the pinion being mounted on the wheel shaft and the gear having formed on or connected with it the wrist pin, to which the operating pitman is attached, whereby the speed of the main shaft as applied to the wrist pin and pitman is reduced, and whereby also all pounding and lost motion is prevented as the pitman connection passes over the center and changes from a pushing to a pulling action. This object is accomplished by the fact that a plurality of the pinion teeth are always engaged with the internal spur gear, resulting in giving a perfectly uniform and smooth and noiseless reciprocating motion to the actuating rod, thereby prolonging the life of the machine by saving it from constant jarring and preventing wear and tear."

"* * * *"

"The freedom of the organization from lost motion and sudden jerks as the wrist pin passes over the center renders the operation of the pump smooth and regular. This increases the effectiveness of the pump and prevents undue wear and tear."

The following diagram illustrates the patented combination:


Page 177 U. S. 487

Petitioner sought a recovery only upon the first claim:

"1. The combination, with a windmill driving shaft and a pinion thereon, of an internal toothed spur wheel mounted adjacent to the said shaft and meshing with said pinion, a pitman connected with the spur wheel, and an actuating rod connected with the pitman."

Almost immediately upon filing the bill motion was made for a preliminary injunction, which was granted, largely upon the authority of an opinion of the Circuit Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit in the case of Mast, Foos & Co. v. Dempster Mill Manufacturing Co., 82 F. 327. An appeal was taken from that order to the circuit court of appeals, which not only reversed the order for the injunction, but dismissed the bill. 89 F. 333.

Whereupon petitioner applied for and was granted a writ of certiorari from this Court.

Page 177 U. S. 488

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