Special Equipment Co. v. Coe,
324 U.S. 370 (1945)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Special Equipment Co. v. Coe, 324 U.S. 370 (1945)

Special Equipment Co. v. Coe

No. 469

Argued March 2, 5, 1945

Decided March 26, 1945

324 U.S. 370


1. In this suit in equity under R.S. § 4915 to compel the Commissioner of Patents to issue a patent upon an application for a subcombination of the elements of a machine, assumed to be a useful invention, for which the claimant had previously filed a patent application, the record fails to establish that the claimant intended to misuse the patent on the subcombination or to make no use of the alleged invention, and the decision of the court below refusing on that ground to order issuance of the patent was therefore erroneous. Pp. 324 U. S. 374, 324 U. S. 380.

2. A subcombination patent may legitimately be used as a means of preventing appropriation by others of a combination invention which the claimant is using where there is absent any purpose to enlarge the patent monopoly of either invention. P. 324 U. S. 376.

A patent on a combination embodied in an inventor's complete machine, without allowance of subcombination claims, would not prevent free use of the subcombination. Hence, denial of a patent on the subcombination would deprive the inventor of the benefit of the exclusive right to use the subcombination in the ways specified by the patent laws. It would also leave the public free to use, and thus to appropriate, a part, however important, of the inventor's complete machine, even though patented.

3. The statutes permit, and it is the settled practice of the Patent Office to allow, subcombination as well as combination claims. P. 324 U. S. 377.

4. The patent grant is not of a right to the patentee to use the invention, but of the right to exclude others from using it. P. 324 U. S. 378.

5. Ethyl Gasoline Corp. v. United States, 309 U. S. 436, lends no support to the contention that a patentee may not use his patent as a

Page 324 U. S. 371

protection against misappropriation of his invention even though the invention is not used. P. 324 U. S. 379.

6. Petitioner's intended use of the subcombination patent to prevent others from appropriating the alleged invention, and, by that means, from appropriating an essential part of the complete machine is in no way inconsistent with petitioner's making other permissible uses of the subcombination patent. P. 324 U. S. 379.

144 F.2d 497, reversed.

Certiorari, 323 U.S. 697, to review the affirmance of a judgment dismissing the complaint in a suit under R.S. § 4915 to compel the Commissioner of Patents to issue a patent.

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