302 U.S. 490 (1938), 62, Textile Machine Works v. Louis Hirsch Textile Machines, Inc.

Docket Nº:No. 62
Citation:302 U.S. 490, 58 S.Ct. 291, 82 L.Ed. 382
Party Name:Textile Machine Works v. Louis Hirsch Textile Machines, Inc.
Case Date:January 03, 1938
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 490

302 U.S. 490 (1938)

58 S.Ct. 291, 82 L.Ed. 382

Textile Machine Works


Louis Hirsch Textile Machines, Inc.

No. 62

United States Supreme Court

Jan. 3, 1938

Argued November 19, 1937




1. Claims 1, 3, 14 and 15 of Patent No. 1,713,628, to Schletter, May 21, 1929, for an attachment for "flat" or "straight" knitting machines, including machines of the "full-fashioned" type, held invalid for want of novelty. Pp. 494, 497.

Claim 14, taken as typical, defines the invention as the combination in a straight knitting machine of (a) a set of yarn guide carrier bars for operating yarn guides traveling less than the

Page 491

full width of the fabric being knitted, (b) a spindle having reversed screw threads, (c) stops operated by said spindle, (d) means for turning the spindle in either direction, (e) pattern-controlled means for determining the time of operation of the spindle, and (f) pattern-controlled means for determining the direction of rotation of the spindle.

2. The addition of a new and useful element to an old combination may be patentable, but the addition must be the result of invention, rather than the mere exercise of the skill of the calling, and not one plainly indicated by the prior art. P. 497.

3. Commercial success may be decisive where invention is in doubt. P. 498.

But, in this case, it does not appear whether the commercial success is attributable to novelty of the bare conception of the use of the attachment with full-fashioned knitting machines, rather than to the skill with which the patentee devised mechanisms for making the attachment effective, but for which he made no claim, or to the strength of the hands into which the patent came. P. 499.

87 F.2d 702 affirmed.

Certiorari, 301 U.S. 680, to review the reversal of a decree, 13 F.Supp. 476, sustaining four claims of the petitioner's patent, enjoining further infringement, and ordering an accounting.

STONE, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE STONE delivered the opinion of the Court.

This case comes here on certiorari to review a decree, in a patent infringement suit, of the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, which reversed the District Court and held invalid claims 1, 3, 14, and 15 of the Schletter patent, No. 1,713,628 of 1929, for an attachment for flat knitting machines. 87 F.2d 702. The Circuit Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit had previously held these

Page 492

claims valid and infringed in Alfred Hofmann, Inc. v. Textile Machine Works, 71 F.2d 973. The patent is for an attachment for "flat" or "straight" knitting machines, including machines of the "full-fashioned" type. By use of the attachment, as the specifications state,

yarn guides can be accurately controlled to lay a yarn over a distance less than the full length of a course being knitted, as for reinforcing or for so-called split-seam work wherein sections of fabric are connected by suture seams.

The attachment, it is stated, may be used for "fashioning designs, as clocks, upon hosiery."

Flat knitting machines are adaptable to use in the manufacture of full-fashioned garments such as stockings, underwear, or sweaters. A characteristic feature of the manufacture is that the garment, or a portion of it, is knitted in a flat web which, in the course of knitting, is shaped by variation of its width in such a way that it conforms to the contour of the body to be fitted, when its shaped edges are united in a seam. The desired variations in width are secured through control of the traverse or "throw" of the yarn guide which brings the yarn to the needles of the machine as [58 S.Ct. 292] they knit the web. They may be and usually are set up as multiple units in a single machine capable of knitting simultaneously a number of garments of the same type.

The object of the patented attachment in providing accurate controls for yarn guides laying a yarn over a distance less than the full width of a fabric being knitted, is either to knit an additional yarn over a particular area of the main body of the fabric so as to strengthen it or form upon it an ornamental design, or to insert in it "split-seam work," which is a portion of the main fabric knitted with a separate yarn and forming a distinctive design. The attachment makes it possible to lengthen and shorten the throw of the yarn guide, and thus to form designs with reentrant angles in both reinforcement and split-seam work.

Page 493

The patented device embraces a rotatable spindle having threads cut upon it, in reverse, on opposite sides of its central portion, with a nut mounted upon each of its two threaded parts and moved by its revolutions so that, when the spindle is turned in the one direction or the other, the nuts are moved by the reversely threaded screws toward or away from each other. Carried on the nuts so as to move with them are yarn carrier stops which are so adapted and located as to serve as controls to limit the travel of carrier rods which have mounted on them the yarn guides. The function of the mechanism is to control the movement of the stops which, in turn, control the distance of travel of the yarn guides. This is accomplished by the movement of the stop nuts toward or away from each other by the rotation of the threaded spindle in the appropriate direction.

Movement in conformity to a desired pattern is effected by the transmission of power from the main camshaft of the knitting machine to two ratchet wheels mounted on the end of the threaded spindle, each with an actuating pawl. The two pawls are in such relationship that, when one operates, its complementary ratchet wheel the spindle will rotate in one direction, and when the other operates its complementary ratchet wheel, the spindle will turn in the opposite direction. The operation of the ratchet wheels is controlled by means of buttons arranged on two endless belts propelled by the main camshaft. The buttons attached to one of the belts serve to actuate a mechanism which pushes both pawls. The buttons affixed to the other belt govern a mechanism that selectively engages one or the other of the two pawls, and thus determines the direction in which the spindle, and...

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