307 U.S. 350 (1939), 166, Toledo Pressed Steel Co. v. Standard Parts, Inc.

Docket Nº:No. 166
Citation:307 U.S. 350, 59 S.Ct. 897, 83 L.Ed. 1334
Party Name:Toledo Pressed Steel Co. v. Standard Parts, Inc.
Case Date:May 29, 1939
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 350

307 U.S. 350 (1939)

59 S.Ct. 897, 83 L.Ed. 1334

Toledo Pressed Steel Co.


Standard Parts, Inc.

No. 166

United States Supreme Court

May 29, 1939

Argued March 1, 1939




1. Patent No. 1,732,708, Claims 1, 2, 5-7, 11-13, to Withrow and Close, relating to a burner for outdoor warning signals, diminishing liability of flame extinguishment by wind and rain, held invalid for want of invention. P. 356.

2. Aggregation of two old devices, productive of no new joint function, is not invention. P. 356.

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3. Evidence of unsuccessful efforts upon the part of a few others, not familiar with the prior art, to attain the result achieved by the patented device, of acceptance of licenses by manufacturers not shown to have made wide or successful use of it, and evidence of its utility and commercial success held insufficient to establish novelty in this case. P. 356.

93 F.2d 336 affirmed.

99 F.2d 806 reversed.

Certiorari, 305 U.S. 667; 306 id. 623, to review three decrees in infringement suits. In the first two suits, which involved the same claims, relief was denied by the court below. In the third suit, which involved some of those claims and some others in addition, relief was granted.

BUTLER, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE BUTLER delivered the opinion of the Court.

These are patent infringement suits brought by the Toledo Pressed Steel Company, owner of Withrow and Close Patent No. 1,732,708, issued October 22, 1929, for a burner for use in outdoor warning signals such as construction torches and truck flares. The first two suits were brought in the federal court for the northern district of Ohio. It filed an opinion indicating the facts that it deemed established by the evidence and, without formal findings, held the patent valid and infringed by the Bolser and Kari-Keen flares respectively sold by the defendants. The circuit court of appeals for the sixth circuit held the

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patent invalid for want of invention, and reversed. 93 F.2d 336. The other suit was brought in the federal court for the eastern district of New York. It made findings as required by Rule 70 1/2,, held plaintiff's patent invalid, and dismissed the bill. The circuit court of appeals for the second circuit held the patent valid and infringed by the Anthes flare sold by the defendant, and reversed. 99 F.2d 806.

In the interest of plaintiff, seeking to uphold the patent prima facie valid, and of the public, liable to exclusion from manufacture, use, or sale in virtue of the right it purports to confer, final adjudication as to validity is of primary importance. The patent in suit relates to torches for guarding street obstructions and to flares, which are large torches, for warning that vehicles are stopped on the road.

Formerly, red lanterns were much used. But, after general use of automobiles having red tail lights to some extent resembling them, they did not serve so satisfactorily [59 S.Ct. 898] as before. Open-flame torches came to be extensively employed. The motion of the luminescent flame distinguishes them from other signals. But there were complaints that they were sometimes extinguished by wind or rain.

Open-flame torches, in use for some years before patentees' claimed invention, included those which were bomb-shaped, flat-bottomed, weighted for stability, and with an opening in the top for a wick. That type was well known at least after the patent covering it, McCloskey No. 1,610,301, was issued December 14, 1926; in 1929, it was held invalid by the circuit court of appeals for the sixth circuit for lack of invention and because anticipated. McCloskey v. Toledo Pressed Steel Co., 30 F.2d 12. Plaintiff had a large business in the manufacture and sale of torches, including the McCloskey type. It advertised that they would burn in all kinds of weather;

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having received many complaints of extinguishment by wind and rain, patentees, respectively plaintiff's president and vice-president, set about producing something to make them dependable and to serve as represented. Within a year, but after experiments, trials, and failures, they brought forward the patented device.

The specification states that the claimed invention particularly relates to devices to increase efficiency and to prevent flame extinguishment. It declares that the objects of the invention are to provide a simple attachment to attain those ends and a burner so constructed that liability of extinguishment by wind or rain will be reduced to a minimum. It further says that, with the described construction and arrangement, consumption of oil and wick is materially decreased.

The claims involved are printed in the margin.1 Considered together, unobscured by artificiality in their statement,

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it fairly [59 S.Ct. 899] may be said that they show that all that the patentees did was to put over the wick of a torch, well known in the art, an inverted metal cup-like cap having holes in its sides, some to let in air for combustion and others to let out flame. The cap was also well known, and had been used as a part of other devices for the protection of kerosene and other flames.

A number of devices patented earlier than plaintiff's included the elements essential to its burner.

Billingham Patent, No. 191,031, issued August 15, 1876, related to torches for lighting street lamps. It shows a

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wick-type torch with a tube-like cap having holes, some to let in air, and others to let the flame come out. This cap, imperforate at the top, serves to prevent extinguishment of the flame by wind or rain. Almond Patent, No. 193,796, issued August 7, 1877, related to vapor burners for heating. The device, some parts...

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