222 F. 918 (E.D.Va. 1915), 1760, Benthall Mach. Co. v. National Mach. Corp.

Docket Nº:1760, 1759, 1762.
Citation:222 F. 918
Party Name:BENTHALL MACH. CO. v. NATIONAL MACH. CORPORATION, Inc. SAME v. VIRGINIA-CAROLINA PEANUT PICKER CO. SAME v. DEBNAM et al.
Case Date:April 02, 1915
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
 
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Page 918

222 F. 918 (E.D.Va. 1915)

BENTHALL MACH. CO.

v.

NATIONAL MACH. CORPORATION, Inc.

SAME

v.

VIRGINIA-CAROLINA PEANUT PICKER CO.

SAME

v.

DEBNAM et al.

Nos. 1760, 1759, 1762.

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia.

April 2, 1915

Page 919

The complainant, the Benthall Machine Company, the owner of the Ferguson & Benthall patent, No. 808,442, for a peanut picker, of the Benthall patent, No. 890,401, for a peanut stemmer, and of the Jones patent, No. 908,271, for a peanut picker and stemmer combined, filed its bills in equity in these causes (hereafter for convenience referred to as causes Nos. 1, 2, and 3); No. 1 being against the National Machine Corporation, Incorporated, No. 2 against the Virginia Carolina Peanut Picker Company, and No. 3 against Thomas H. Debnam and Walter C. Ferguson, otherwise known as the Ferguson Manufacturing Company.

The complainant, and the defendants the National Machine Corporation and the Virginia-Carolina Peanut Picker Company are corporations duly organized under the laws of the state of Virginia, and Debnam and Ferguson are copartners trading as the Ferguson Manufacturing Company, and each doing business in this judicial district.

The subject-matters of the patents in suit relate to machines for picking peanuts from vines, and for removing stems from peanuts after they are picked. The peanut picking mechanism operates first upon the vines, picking and removing the peanuts therefrom, which thereafter, and in a continuous operation, are delivered to the stemming mechanism, which removes the stems from the peanuts, and the peanuts are delivered by the machine practically in marketable condition; that is to say, that the patents in suit involve the manufacture of peanut picking and stemming machines by the complainant, embodying and containing the peanut picking apparatus under the Benthall & Ferguson patent, and the stemming apparatus under the Benthall patent conjointly.

The three separate causes, as they relate generally to the same subject-matter, and as one patent is involved in all the suits, and another in two of the suits, and the defenses attacking the validity of the patents are generally the same, are for convenience heard together.

In the first suit, against the National Machine Company, the complainant alleges infringement of claims 4 and 5 of the Benthall patent, which are as follows:

4. In a peanut stemmer, a stemming device comprising a disk provided on its periphery with a plurality of teeth, said teeth being inclined to radii of the disks, and having their front edges straight, the edges of the adjacent teeth meeting at an acute angle, and the points of the teeth being nearer the centers of the disks than the heels thereof, and the spaces between the teeth being of a width at the widest part approximately equal to that of the teeth.

5. In a peanut stemmer, a stemming device comprising a disk provided on its periphery with a plurality of spaced teeth having straight front edges, the heels of the teeth being farther from the centers of the disk than the points thereof, whereby to form a guard for the point, and the edges of the adjacent teeth meeting at an acute angle, whereby to exert a wedging action on the stem.'

(These claims relate to an improved stemming disk or saw.) Also, the infringement of claims 8 and 9 of the Jones patent, as follows:

8. In a device of the class described, a peanut stemmer comprising a hollow cylindrical rotary drum having circumferential slots through its wall, rotary toothed wheels extending into said drum through said slots, means for supplying peanuts at one end of the drum, and means for discharging said peanuts at the other end of the drum.

9. In a device of the class described, a peanut stemmer comprising a hollow cylindrical rotary drum having circumferential slots through its wall, a shaft parallel with said drum carrying stemming wheels extending into the slots of said drum'-- and are directed to the construction of the stemming mechanism generally.

In the second suit, against the Virginia-Carolina Peanut Picker Company, the complainant alleges infringement of claim 1 of the Ferguson-Benthall patent, as follows:

1. A picking machine for picking nuts, etc., from the vines, consisting of a stationary picking screen for catching and holding the nuts, combined with a carrier belt for dragging the vines over the screen and a

Page 920

stirring device consisting of a horizontally reciprocating frame with downwardly projecting spring fingers arranged above the carrier belt to spread the vines and work the nuts through the screen.'

And claims 1 and 3 of the Benthall patent, as follows:

1. In a peanut stemmer, and in combination, a relatively long open rectangular frame, friction rollers journaled at the corners thereof, a relatively short rectangular frame resting on the rollers, the bottom of said short frame being composed of a series of longitudinally arranged transversely spaced slats, a plurality of mandrels journaled transversely of the lower frame and spaced apart from each other, spaced stemming devices secured to the mandrels, each device comprising a disk having upon the periphery thereof spaced teeth, the points of the teeth being within the circumference of the circle whose radius is equal to the distance from the center of the disk to the heels of the teeth, means for vibrating the upper frame toward and from the stemming devices, comprising a shaft journaled in the lower frame and having a cranked portion, an arm hinged to the upper frame and pivoted on the cranked portion, and means for rotating the shaft and the mandrels.'

3. In a peanut stemming device, the combination with the frame, of a plurality of mandrels journaled in the frame, stemming devices on the mandrels, each comprising a disk provided on its periphery with spaced teeth, the points of the teeth being within the periphery of the circle whose center is the center of the disk and whose radius is equal to the distance from the center of the disk to the heel of the teeth, means for receiving the vines, and means for vibrating said receiving means toward and from the stemming devices.'

And, in the third suit, against the Ferguson Manufacturing Company, complainant alleges infringement of claims 2, 4, and 5 of the Ferguson & Benthall patent, which are as follows:

2. In a picking machine, the stirring device consisting of a frame bearing downwardly projecting fingers, combined with a subjacent carrier and a subjacent picking screen, the stirring device being provided with means for imparting a lateral motion to the same.'

4. A machine for picking nuts, pods, etc., from vines, comprising a carrier for the vines, a picking screen arranged below the carrier through which the nuts may drop while still adhering to the vines and movable brush below the screen to clean the same.

5. A machine for picking nuts, pods, etc., from vines, comprising a carrier for the vines, a picking screen arranged below the carrier, a movable cleaner below the screen and a stirring device arranged above the carrier to work the nuts through the screen.'

And claims 1 and 3 of the Benthall patent, hereinbefore set out as involved in the second suit.

Page 921

Charles A. Munn and T. Hart Anderson, both of New York City, and Tazewell Taylor, of Norfolk, Va., for complainant.

George W. Ramsey and L. S. Bacon, both of Washington, D.C., and Lee Britt, of Suffolk, Va., for defendants.

WADDILL, District Judge (after stating the facts as above).

The defenses to the several suits involve many charges of invalidity, the two prominent defenses, however, that apply to all the cases, being: (1) That the patents respectively are invalid because of lack of patentable novelty as shown in the prior art. (2) They deny infringement of any of the patents, and allege special objections to the several patents, as follows: To the Jones patent, (a) the invalidity thereof, because of the anticipation in the prior art by the Pope stemmer; (b) because it describes an inoperative machine; to the Ferguson & Benthall patent, (c) the invalidity thereof, because of anticipation by the prior use of the Ben Hicks machine; (d) because it describes an inoperative machine; (e) because the same was not legally issued; and to the Benthall patent, (f) the invalidity thereof, because of the anticipation in the prior art by use of the Gwaltney machine; (g) of the Ben Hicks machine; (h) of the Hundley machine; and (i) because of defective description in the application for the patent.

It will be observed that in these nine enumerations of specific objections to the three patents in suit, lettered from 'a' to 'i,' five of them relate to lack of novelty because of alleged anticipation in the prior art, and two for failure to disclose operative appliances. They will be considered as respects each patent in discussing that general subject, leaving but two objections that need be specially considered, namely: (1) That the Benthall patent was void because of defective description in the application therefor; and (2) the Ferguson & Benthall patent was void because it described an inoperative machine, and that it was not legally issued.

Page 922

It seems to the court that these specific objections are technical in character, and without merit. The Benthall patent was sworn to by the patentee, and fully set forth its purposes; and the alleged lack of oath relates to a failure to file an additional affidavit, upon the requirement of the authorities of the patent office, to amplify certain of the provisions of the claims in the patent, which being made, that office acted upon without further affidavit.

The Ferguson-Benthall...

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