Railroad Supply Co. v. Elyria Iron & Steel Co.,
244 U.S. 285 (1917)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Railroad Supply Co. v. Elyria Iron & Steel Co., 244 U.S. 285 (1917)

Railroad Supply Company v.

Elyria Iron & Steel Company

No. 95

Argued April 17, 18, 1917

Decided May 21, 1917

244 U.S. 285


The following patents, viz., No. 538,809, of May 7, 1895, No. 691,332, of January 14, 1902, and No. 721,644, of February 24, 1903, all granted to one Wolhaupter for alleged new and useful improvements in railroad tie plates, are here examined in respect of certain of their claims in comparison with the prior art, and are held invalid for want of novelty and invention.

Flanges and teeth projecting from the under surfaces of tie plates for the purpose of holding them to the ties, and flanges or shoulders on the upper surfaces, designed to receive and resist the lateral thrust of the rails and thus preserve the gauge of the track, having been described in earlier patents and become well known, invention in the Wolhaupter plates is left to depend upon the method of combining strength with economy by providing flanges upon the upper surfaces for the rails to rest upon; but this feature also, besides having been in substance anticipated by earlier patents, is held to be no more than the product of ordinary mechanical skill, since resort to channels, grooves, and corrugations was a familiar method of reducing the cost of iron plates by reducing their weight without decreasing their strength.

A patentee is presumed to have had all prior patents before him when he applied for his patent.

Mere carrying forward of the original thought, a change only in form, proportions, or degree, doing the same thing in the same way, by

Page 244 U. S. 286

substantially the same means, with better results, is not such invention as will sustain a patent.

Patents claiming merely improvements in devices already well exploited in the prior art must be limited strictly to the forms described in the claims.

213 F. 789 affirmed.

The case is stated in the opinion.

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