188 F. 662 (N.D.Ill. 1911), 29,138., Geneva Mfg. Co. v. National Furniture Co.

Docket Nº:29,138.
Citation:188 F. 662
Party Name:GENEVA MFG. CO. et al. v. NATIONAL FURNITURE CO. et al.
Case Date:March 27, 1911
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

Page 662

188 F. 662 (N.D.Ill. 1911)

GENEVA MFG. CO. et al.



No. 29,138.

United States Circuit Court, N.D. Illinois.

March 27, 1911

Page 663

Dyrenforth, Lee, Chritton & Wiles, for complainants.

William R. Rummler and John W. Hill, for defendants.

SANBORN, District Judge.

This is a suit brought June 23, 1908, for the alleged infringement of the Rolph reissue patent of June 19, 1900, No. 11,831, the Weyer patent of May 29, 1899, No. 624,591, and the Rolph patent of November 28, 1899, No. 637,976, relating to sofa beds. The Pullman car seat, which is a seat in the daytime and a bed at night, illustrates in a general way the structure in question here. Back and seat are hinged or pivoted together, so that when the double seat is pulled down the two opposite seats with the backs assume a horizontal position. It is remarkable that no improvement has been made in the Pullman car bed seat since Field and Pullman took out their patent in 1865. In the advanced sofa bed structures of to-day, to make up the bed the operator stands in front of the sofa, takes hold of the front of the seat, raises or pulls it out, thereby uncovering the bedding box arranged in the base position under the seat, and permitting access to the mattress and bed clothing. These are then taken out, and the seat raised to the perpendicular. The back portion, being all the time locked to the seat portion, is thus lowered to the horizontal, with the seat standing at right angles. By tilting the latter slightly backward, the two parts are unlocked, and the seat let down to the same horizontal plane of the back, so that the bed may be then made up. In the latest Rolph patent, called the 'Rolph Automatic,' the bedding box is automatically moved out when the seat is raised, so as to render the bedding more accessible. This is done by a system of links and pivots, connecting base, bed box, back, and seat, so that they all move as a unit when force is applied to seat, back, or bedding box. This feature is not present in defendants' sofa bed known as its fourth construction. Another important distinction between the two results from this form of construction. Defendants' seat and back portions are not mechanically joined or connected to the base or bed box portion, but slide or roll on small wheels resting on short tracks laid on the upper edges of the ends of the base portion, just as a hand car may be rolled along a railroad track when one end is lifted up. In other respects defendants' sofa bed is the same as that of complainants. Thus the question whether these differences enable defendants to escape infringement is presented, and is the important question in the case.

Sofa beds are said to be one of the necessities of life in flats and dwellings with small rooms, where economy of space is essential. Their manufacture is estimated to represent about a million and a quarter dollars a year. To a considerable extent they are replacing the folding bed, which is useless by day and is supposed to have a

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tricky habit of shutting up without reason or warning, even when securely locked.

Sofa beds should possess certain highly useful and desirable features, among which are the capacity to hold the bedding, and make it easily accessible for use, of being made up and put back by a person standing in front, and without pulling the sofa away from the wall or pushing it back to the wall, using the seat as a means of raising or lowering the back in converting from sofa to bed or vice versa, ability to lock the seat and back together, so they will swing as a unit, and to lock and unlock them automatically by merely tilting the seat, using the weight of the back to counterbalance the seat, and employing seat and back for the bed surface. As complainants' expert well says:

'All the progress of the art indicates that the desideratum is to quickly and easily increase the available bed surface by the extent, at least, of the size of the back.'

As in most of the practical arts, sofa beds have had a period of growth and development, until they are supposed to have reached perfection. Before the inventions of Rolph and Weyer (now owned by complainants) a number of the desirable features referred to had been discovered and utilized by other patentees. Most of the elements found in the three patents in suit were old. The general form of sofa bed was well known. This comprised a base, bedding box, seat, and back portions hinged together (as in the Pullman car), locking means to hold seat and back at right angles to each other or in any other position, capability of front operation, automatic movement of base portion to the rear to support the back when horizontal, guideways or tracks for guiding the forward and backward movement of back and seat as a unit, and rollers or wheels pivoted to run on the tracks or ways. All these are found in the prior art, though Rolph and Weyer have so combined the best of these pre-existing separate elements, and so improved them, and as to some have so enlarged and extended their functions that they have made a considerable advance in the art. Fixtures of the patented structures sufficient to make a million and a quarter dollars worth a year are now being marketed. Conceding practical merit, commercial success, and meritorious advance in the art, it is further claimed by...

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