14 F.2d 957 (D.N.J. 1926), Connecticut Telephone & Electric Co. v. Automotive Equipment Co.

Citation:14 F.2d 957
Case Date:October 11, 1926
Court:United States District Courts, 3th Circuit, District of New Jersey

Page 957

14 F.2d 957 (D.N.J. 1926)




United States District Court, D. New Jersey.

October 11, 1926

Page 958

Mitchell Bros., of New York City (Robert C. Mitchell and George H. Mitchell, both of New York City, of counsel), for complainant.

Kiddle & Margeson, of New York City (Henry T. Hornidge, of New York City, of counsel), for defendant.

RELLSTAB, District Judge.

The plaintiff is a manufacturer and seller of electrical apparatus and devices for autos. It sells several forms of ignition equipment, among which is the igniter mechanism known as the Connecticut ignition system, embodied in certain patents owned by it. The defendant is a dealer in auto supplies, and sells igniter parts for use in various ignition systems, among which are certain parts made by Gilfillan Bros., designed and catalogued by it solely for use in the plaintiff's igniter, known as Connecticut model 16. In its bill the plaintiff charges the defendant with infringing three of its patents and with unfair competition in trade. The answer of the defendant asserts the invalidity of the patents and denies infringement and unfair competition. It counters by alleging unfair competition on the part of the plaintiff; that it violated Rev. Stat. Sec. 4901 (Comp. St. Sec. 9447), by falsely marking certain parts as patented, and the Act of October 15, 1914, commonly known as the Clayton Act (38 Stat. 730), by agreements with its customers that they shall not use or deal in the supplies furnished by the plaintiff's competitors, including the defendant. One of the patents sued upon, Cuno, No. 1,029,914, has been withdrawn from the controversy.

The defendant is charged with contributory infringement of the other two patents, Wilcox & Cavanagh, No. 1,204,104, covering the igniter, and Stahl & Cavanagh, No. 1,221,239, covering an electrical connector, made up of a plug and socket used in connection with such igniter. The Connecticut model 16 igniter, made and sold under its patent, is one of a number of ignition systems of automobiles. The purpose of all these is to interrupt the primary or low-tension electric current supplied by the storage battery, and to distribute the transformed high-tension current to the spark plugs, which are inserted in the cylinders of the engine, in the proper order of firing.

The specifications of the Wilcox & Cavanagh patent state:

'This invention relates to improvements in ignition apparatus for internal combustion engines, and particularly to the means for controlling the timing of the spark and the mounting and assembling of the various parts of the timing and distributing mechanism.

'The object of this invention is to simplify and improve the construction of such parts, whereby they may be manufactured at relatively small cost without sacrifice to quality, and whereby the apparatus may be easily assembled and adjusted and disassembled, and whereby renewals may be quickly and cheaply effected.

'For example, the timer element in an apparatus of this character is one part that is subject to the greatest wear, and requires after a time readjustment or replacement. It is our plan to so construct this part of the apparatus that it can be made so cheaply, and can be so easily replaced, that an entirely new part, fully assembled, may be purchased at trifling cost and substituted in place of the old one, without requiring any special skill.

'Again, our new construction provides a novel method of mounting and adjusting; and whereas, in constructions heretofore provided, the entire timer and distributor head has been made axially adjustable for the purpose of varying the moment of the spark, in this case the entire timer head is rigidly mounted, the only moving parts being inclosed and protected. This is of advantage because it saves wear on the mechanical parts and upon the various electrical connections. ' (Lines 9-45, page 1 of patent.)

'The only place where wear occurs will be either in the timer element itself or in the bearing support therefor. In the event any portion of the timer element should be unduly worn or broken, it is merely necessary to remove the part 7, remove the screws 30-30 and the washers 29-29a whereupon, by disconnecting the lower end of the wire 22, the entire timer element may be removed and discarded and a new one substituted.

'We have found that the entire timer element, constructed as referred to, may be so economically produced and sold that the cost of making this change or substitution is so slight that it is far better to effect such substitution than to attempt to either repair or replace, or substantially readjust, any of the parts thereof. Furthermore, by the aforesaid

Page 959

construction, these changes may be made by any one without the exercise of special skill and without the use of special tools. ' (Lines 96-118, page 2 of patent.)

From this quotation, it is obvious that a quick and easy disassembling and substitution of a new timer and distributor assembly, in place of an old or used one, was the desideratum of the patented improvement, and in particular the substitution of a new timer assembly, though only a part thereof needed repair, replacement, or readjustment, was contemplated.

The claims allowed (12 in number) are all combination claims; the different elements all being old in the pertinent or analogous art. All except claims 3, 5, 10, and 12 are alleged to be infringed by the defendant, and all, with the exception of 7, were amended to overcome Davidson, No. 1.015,788, January 30, 1912, and Smith, No. 1,080,788, December 9, 1913. Claims 1 and 2 are subcombination claims; the other claims are for the igniter as a whole, including both interrupter and distributor parts. The timer mechanism is an element in all the claims in suit, and claims 1, 2, 6, 7, 8, and 9 refer to it as removeable. The plaintiff contends that the easy removability of the timer unit and the substitution of another, without dismembering the igniter or disturbing the adjustment of the other operative parts, is a substantial advance in the art. The distributor mechanism is an element in claims 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 11.

Of the claims in issue, it is deemed sufficient to set out only two-- claim 1, to show the subcombination, and claim 4, to show the whole combination. In setting forth these claims, the amendments made to overcome Davidson are bracketed, while those to overcome Smith are italicized. Thus noted, they read:

'1. In an igniter apparatus of the character described, a stationary timer housing, a (unitary) timer element mounted therein and thereon (and bodily removable therefrom) and comprising a carrier movable relatively to said housing, a contact arm mounted on said carrier and having a contact point, a second stationary cooperating contact point mounted on said carrier and rotatable means for intermittently operating said arm to separate said contact points with means (mounted independently of said timer element) for moving said carrier to vary the moment of operation of said cam on said arm.'

'4. In an igniter mechanism, a relatively stationary distributor part, including at least two terminals, a rotatable distributor arm, including a contact adapted to intermittently close the circuit between said terminals and including a rotatable shaft, a timer housing surrounding said shaft, and a timer element inclosed in said housing and mounted thereon, said timer element being rotatable adjustably relatively to said housing, said housing being relatively stationary, with means (mounted independently of said timer element and) outside said housing for rotatably shifting said timer element, said timer element including two make and break contacts, one of which at least is insulated from said timer element and said housing.'

The stressed feature of the patent is the removable timer assembly or unit mounted in and on a stationary timer housing. This unit comprises a base plate, or carrier, mounted for partial rotation, upon which is pivoted a breaker arm carrying a contact point at its free end to intermittently make and break contact with another contact point upon an arm or bracket fixed to such base plate, and a fiber anti-friction roller pivoted to the breaker arm to contact with the rotating cam attached close to the top of the driving shaft. The distributor assembly comprises a distributing cap-- being the upper section of the housing-- with sockets and distributing terminals fixed therein, a radial distributing arm within this housing, carrying an electric element and spring, removably fixed upon the cam referred to. The alleged contributory infringement of this patent is directed to plaintiff's model 16 igniter, found in many different makes of automobiles.

The defendant, in support of its defense of invalidity, introduced a number of patents and publications and instances or prior public use. All these have been examined, and the contention of defendant in regard thereto carefully considered, and found not to establish such defense. An element common to all the claims in suit, though somewhat differently expressed, is the means to shift the timer element, which is declared to be mounted independently of the latter element, and (in all but claim 11) a stationary housing for the timer mechanism also is an element.

The following references only are deemed necessary for specific consideration, for it is manifest that, if these are not anticipatory, none of the others can be: Eisemann magneto, No. 953,990, April 5, 1910, described in the Motor Magazine of December 17, 1907, and in the Automotor Journal of November 14, 1908; Hall E. I. C. magneto, Automotor Journal, November 13, 1909, pp. 1358-1360,


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