230 F. 641 (5th Cir. 1916), 2779, Yancey v. Enright

Docket Nº:2779.
Citation:230 F. 641
Party Name:YANCEY v. ENRIGHT et al.
Case Date:February 24, 1916
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

Page 641

230 F. 641 (5th Cir. 1916)



ENRIGHT et al.

No. 2779.

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit.

February 24, 1916

Rehearing Denied April 19, 1916.

Page 642

John Dymond, Jr., and A. Giffen Levy, both of New Orleans, La. (E. Lloyd Posey, of New Orleans, La., of counsel), for appellant.

John C. Hollingsworth, of New Orleans, La. (Philip H. Mentz, of New Orleans, La., of counsel), for appellees.

Before PARDEE and WALKER, Circuit Judges, and GRUBB, District Judge.

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

The fourth claim of appellant's patent, numbered 919,109, expresses the idea of his invention in these words:

'In seining apparatus, the combination of means for converging and directing upwardly the lead lines of a seine, comprising a plurality of sets of suitably mounted closing and guiding rollers, said sets of rollers being spaced apart to allow of the passage of foreign matter apt to tangle in the web, adjacent to the lead lines.'

The novelty, if it exists, lies in a method of arranging and spacing the rollers, which help close and haul in the seine, which avoids the clogging of the machinery by foreign matter encountered by it, while the lead lines are passing the rollers, during the process of closing and hauling in the seine. Before the use of machines for closing and hauling seines in catching shrimp, the method had been for the fishermen to let the lead line pass under their feet, while they stood on the bed of the water. Aside from objections of discomfort to the fishermen, this method limited the catching of shrimp to waters so shallow as not to exceed the stature of a man. The purpose of closing machines was to overcome such objections and limitations. The appellant's patent 919,109 was not a pioneer in the art of seine fishing. A patent in 1895 in the art had been issued to Hommerberg, two to Lindsay in 1897, and three to the appellant, prior to the issuance of the one in suit, and an application for one had been made by Jackson, also before the issuance of the patent in suit, but abandoned. These constituted the prior art in April, 1909, when the patent, numbered 919,109, was issued to appellant. The aim of all was to avoid the necessity of closing and hauling in the seine by men standing on the bed of the water, and to permit it to be done from the surface of the water by a machine anchored on the bed of the water or supported and attached to the boat. None of the devices covered by any of the prior patents had been successful in practice, and for one and the same reason. In all of them, the free way, for the seine, in its passage, was limited to the diameter of the lead line, and while this was sufficient, in the absence of obstruction from foreign matter, it was found, in practice, that the stoppage of the machine by foreign matter, such as shells, seaweed, and folds of the net, was so frequent as to destroy the utility of the machine. The obstructions could only be removed by a descent to the bed of the water. In this state of the art, the appellant entered with the patented device involved in

Page 643

this litigation. Its aim was to avoid the clogging of the machine, and it accomplished this by providing an unrestricted free way for the passage of the lead line on one side, by having but a single-sided contact for it. The prior art furnished only a restricted free way of the width of the diameter of the lead line, if not expressly, by necessary implication at least, since theretofore the lead line had been kept confined only by contact on both sides of it, and would have become inoperative if the points of contact had been substantially wider apart than the diameter of the line. The appellant's idea, therefore, measured the difference between practical success and failure. The previous devices were proved valueless in practical seining. The appellant's device in suit accomplished the purpose of closing and raising the seine without requiring the fishermen to stand on the bed of the water while it was being done, and, while not perfect, was susceptible of commercial use and was, in fact, so used. We have no difficulty in agreeing with the court below that the appellant's patent numbered 919,109 was a valid one.

It is contended, however, that it was not a pioneer patent and was a combination patent, and for that reason the patentee was not entitled to the benefit of the doctrine of mechanical equivalents, and the appellees, using different means to bring about the same results, with their device, were not chargeable with infringement. It must be conceded that appellant's device, covered by patent numbered 919,109, was not the first in the art of machines for closing seines, and not in that sense a pioneer patent. It was, however, the first practical and successful seining machine used in the shrimp industry, and the first to obviate the fatal defect of the prior art, which consisted in the clogging of the machine by obstructions, while the seine was being closed and raised. It was a pioneer to the extent that it contained the first and vital element of unrestricted free way, which successfully prevented clogging, and first made...

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