Cochrane v. Deener,
94 U.S. 780 (1876)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Cochrane v. Deener, 94 U.S. 780 (1876)

Cochrane v. Deener

94 U.S. 780


1. The powers and jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia in patent cases are the same, as well in equity as at law, as those of the circuit courts of the United States, and whether a case, involving the validity or the infringement of letters patent, shall be first tried at law is a matter of discretion, and not of jurisdiction.

2. The improvement in processes for manufacturing flour for which reissued letters patent No. 6,841 were granted to William F. Cochrane and his assignees April 21, 1874, being a reissue of letters patent No. 37,317, granted to him Jan. 6, 1863, does not consist in using drafts or currents of air, but in the process as a whole, comprising the application of the blast, and the carrying off the fine impurities whereby the middlings, after being separated from the other parts, are purified preparatory to regrinding.

3. A process may be patentable irrespective of the particular form of the instrumentalities used. If one of the steps of a process be that a certain substance is to be reduced to a powder, it may not be at all material what instrument or machinery is used to effect that object, whether a hammer, a pestle and mortar, or a mill. Either may be pointed out, but if the patent is not confined to that particular tool or machine, the use of the other would be an infringement, the general process being the same.

4. A process is a mode of treatment of certain materials to produce a given result. It is not an act or series of acts, performed upon the subject matter to be transformed and reduced to a different state or thing. If new and useful, it is just as patentable as a piece of machinery. In the language of the patent law, it is an art.

Page 94 U. S. 781

5. The machinery pointed out as suitable to perform the process may or may not be new or patentable, whilst the process itself may be altogether new and produce an entirely new result. The process requires that certain things should be done with certain substances and in a certain order, but the tools to be used in doing this may be of secondary consequence.

6. The Court holds that reissued letters patent No. 5,841, bearing date April 21, 1874, for improvements in processes for manufacturing flour, No. 6,030, bearing date Aug. 24, 1870, No. 6,594 and No. 6,595, bearing date Aug. 17, 1875, for improvements in machines for bolting flour, and issued to William F. Cochrane and his assignees, are valid and were infringed by the defendants in using machines constructed according to reissued letters patent No. 5,346, bearing date April 1,1873, being a reissue of letters patent No. 135,953, bearing date Feb. 18, 1873, and granted to Edward P. Welch and his assignees, for improvements in middlings purifiers, and being for improvements upon machines patented to Jesse B. Wheeler and Ransom S. Reynolds, but that letters patent No. 37,319 and No. 37,320, bearing date Jan. 6, 1863, issued to said Cochrane for improvements in bolting flour, were not infringed.

The case is stated in the opinion of the Court.

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