275 U.S. 319 (1928), 37, Temco Electric Motor Company v. APCO Manufacturing Company

Docket Nº:No. 37
Citation:275 U.S. 319, 48 S.Ct. 170, 72 L.Ed. 298
Party Name:Temco Electric Motor Company v. APCO Manufacturing Company
Case Date:January 03, 1928
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 319

275 U.S. 319 (1928)

48 S.Ct. 170, 72 L.Ed. 298

Temco Electric Motor Company


APCO Manufacturing Company

No. 37

United States Supreme Court

Jan. 3, 1928

        Argued October 18, 1927




        1. Large public demand for, and commercial success of, a patented article is evidence of invention. P. 324.

        2. The specifications and drawings of a patent may be referred to as an aid in construing a claim. P. 330.

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        3. A claim in a patent should be construed liberally, so as to uphold, and not destroy, the right of the inventor. P. 330.

        4. An improver who appropriates, without license, the basic patent of another is an infringer, and suable as such. P. 328.

        5. Patentee who applied for a second patent as an improvement "over" the first, characterizing the new device as different in mechanical construction and functional results, held not estopped to insist on the old invention as against one who secured patent to the improvement through interference proceedings. P. 328.

        6. The Thompson patent, No. 1,072,791, issued September 9, 1913, for a shock absorber attachable to motor cars which have their leaf springs above and along their axles and attached at the middle to the car body above and at the ends to the axles near the wheels, is valid, including Claim No. 3, and is infringed by defendant's device, made under patent No. 1,279,035, granted to Storrie, September 17, 1918. P. 326.

        The Thompson patent is for a combination of old elements, consisting (1) of a spiral spring, resting upon and in part guided by (2) a stanchion, attached to the top of the axle near the wheel; (3) a hanger bearing on the top of the spiral spring, in one form encasing it, in another passing through it, capable of moving up and down with the spring and attached below to (6) a link attached in turn to (7) the end of the leaf spring. The gist of the invention (besides its peculiar application as a separable part to the Ford car) is in the arrangement of its parts so that all shocks and vibrations from the wheels are imparted first to the spiral springs before reaching the leaf springs, and thus are the more effectively absorbed or dampened due to the different responses of the two kinds of springs. .

        7. The radius link employed in the Storrie patent is a mere improvement on the Thompson combination. P. 325.

        11 F.2d 109 reversed.

        Certiorari, 271 U.S. 653, to a decree of the circuit court of appeals which reversed a decree of the district court sustaining, on three claims, the above-named petitioner's patent in its suit for infringement. Another of the patent claims, No. 3, was held void by the district court, a ruling which was sustained by the court below on petitioner's cross-appeal.

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        TAFT, J., lead opinion

        MR. CHIEF JUSTICE TAFT delivered the opinion of the Court.

       The Temco Electric Company, a corporation of the State of Ohio, filed this bill in equity against the Apco Manufacturing Company, a corporation of the State of Rhode Island, charging that the Apco Company had wronged the Temco Company by infringement of a patent for a shock absorber fitted for a Ford motor car, issued to Ralph P. and Wm. S. Thompson, assignors of one-third to Oliver P. Edwards, and assigned by them to the Temco Company, and owned by it. The Apco Company answered, denying the validity [48 S.Ct. 171] of the patent and its infringement, averring that it was inoperative, and that the shock absorber which the Apco Company was making was made under a patent to one William Storrie, applied for March 18, granted September 17, 1918, and numbered 1,279,035. The answer further set out the names of certain patents which were said to be anticipations of the patent upon which the suit was brought.

        The district court held that the patent was a very narrow patent, and that Claim No. 3 was invalid because it lacked words of description enough to make it operative. Deferring, however, to the decision of the district judges and of the Circuit Court of Appeals of the Sixth Circuit, it sustained the three claims of the patent but declined to grant a preliminary injunction. Though of opinion that the infringement had not been shown, nevertheless it entered

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a decree in favor of the appellee out of deference to two decisions of the circuit court of appeals. K-W Ignition Co. v. Temco Electric Motor Co., 243 F. 588, and the same case reported again in 283 F. 873. The Circuit Court of Appeals of the Fifth Circuit declined to follow the two decisions of the Circuit Court of Appeals of the Sixth Circuit, and reversed the judgment of the district court. There had been a cross-appeal brought by the appellee to reverse the district court in its holding that the third claim was invalid, and that cross-appeal was denied. 11 F.2d 109. The case has been brought here by certiorari. 271 U.S. 653.

        The patent sued on was issued to Ralph P. Thompson and William S. Thompson, of Leipsic, Ohio, assignors of one-third to Oliver P. Edwards, of Leipsic, Ohio. The application was filed October 10, 1912, and the patent was issued September 9, 1913, and numbered 1,072,791, and has since been assigned by the patentees to the Temco Company. The object of the patentees was to provide a shock absorber which would make riding in an automobile easy. They professed to accomplish this by supplying a set of quick-acting coiled springs in connection with the set of slow-acting and friction-retarded leaf springs originally built into the vehicle. The compression and recoil of the two sets of springs occurred at different times, in consequence of which their respective pulsations were not synchronous. The result was said in the specifications to be that the shock to the road wheel and axle...

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