325 F.2d 109 (6th Cir. 1963), 14812, Holstensson v. V-M Corp.

Docket Nº:14812.
Citation:325 F.2d 109, 139 U.S.P.Q. 401
Party Name:Axel Harald HOLSTENSSON et al., Plaintiffs-Appellees, v. V-M CORPORATION, Defendant-Appellant.
Case Date:November 21, 1963
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

Page 109

325 F.2d 109 (6th Cir. 1963)

139 U.S.P.Q. 401

Axel Harald HOLSTENSSON et al., Plaintiffs-Appellees,


V-M CORPORATION, Defendant-Appellant.

No. 14812.

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit.

November 21, 1963

Page 110

Donald J. Simpson, Chicago, Ill., Lewis T. Steadman, Chicago, Ill., Robert G. Howlett, Grand Rapids, Mich., on brief, for appellees.

Before MILLER and O'SULLIVAN, Circuit Judges, and WILLIAM E. MILLER, District Judge.

O'SULLIVAN, Circuit Judge.

This appeal involves the validity and charged infringement of United States Patent No. 2,291,158, issued on July 28, 1942, to A. H. Holstensson, as joint inventor with and assignee of, S. P. Arvidius. The claimed invention related to 'talking machines for playing a plurality of records in succession.' On November 4, 1954, Holstensson filed this action against defendant-appellant, V-M Corporation, a manufacturer of record players, charging its infringement of the claims of said patent. During the pendency of the action, plaintiff Holstensson assigned his rights in the patent to Glenville Industries, Inc., who thereafter prosecuted the action. Defendant denied infringement and for numerous reasons, some of which we discuss hereafter, charged that the patent was invalid. As the case was tried, only Claim No. 1 of the patent in suit was involved. The District Judge held that Claim No. 1 was valid and infringed by defendant. On July 28, 1959, the patent expired so that the relief sought is limited to damages allegedly suffered prior to the patent's expiration.

The patent in suit can be sustained, if at all, only as a patentable combination. Its Claim No. 1 and its specifications describe

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old art and previously patented subject matter. Plaintiff, however, asserts that some of the elements of Claim No. 1 are new and that their co-action with whatever is old in the total mechanism endows the claim with validity as a patentable combination. The respective positions of the parties are partially exposed by defendant-appellant's Statement of Question Involved, which reads:

'Does the improvement of one part of an old combination give the right to claim, in a patent, that improvement in combination with other old parts which perform no new function in the combination?'

and by plaintiff-appellee's Counter-Statement, which reads:

'Is the combination of mechanical elements defined by Claim 1 of Patent No. 2,291,158, certain elements of which are new, a patentable combination of elements rather than 'an old combination' of elements?'

In addition to its contention that the involved patent does not disclose a patentable combination, defendant asserts that it is void for overclaiming.

A. H. Holstensson and S. P. Arvidius were both residents and nationals of Sweden. Arvidius was an inventor and Holstensson a manufacturer. About 1934, Arvidius went to work for Holstensson. He invented a record player which, as early as 1934, was exhibited and marketed in Europe. He assigned his rights to such invention to Holstensson who obtained a patent therefor in Sweden on August 18, 1936. The United States rights to this invention, however, were retained by Arvidius. On November 1, 1934, Arvidius applied for a U.S. patent therefor. He obtained an original patent on it in 1936, and a reissue thereof on August 9, 1938, (Reissue No. 20,819). In this opinion, we refer to such patent as the Arvidius patent.

This Arvidius patent described a record player which automatically accomplished the essential functions required for playing in succession and without manual intervention, a series of records. These functions were stated by the District Judge to be the dropping or placing of a record onto a turntable, the swinging of the arm, carrying the needle, into playing position, the lowering of such arm, called the tone arm, to have the needle enter the grooves of a record, the playing of the record, the raising of the tone arm when the record has been played, the then swinging of it to the side so another record could be dropped onto the turntable and the automatic repetition of these operations until all of the records have been played. For our discussion, we combine and group all of these functions under two titles, viz.: the record dropping mechanism and the cycling mechanism, the latter moving and controlling the cyclic movements of the tone arm.

In the Arvidius patent, the record dropping was accomplished by what was referred to as the 'slicer' method. Oppositely disposed on either side of the turntable are two rotatable uprights (posts). On the top of each are two horizontal blades with a common pivot, but separated horizontally a distance equal to the thickness of a record. The records to be played are threaded over a central solid spindle and supported by having the outer edges of the lowermost record rest on the blades of the upright posts. When the tone arm has been swung to the side by the cycling mechanism, the lowermost record is dropped to the turntable by reciprocations of the slicer blades, releasing the lower record, but automatically reacting to restore support to the remaining unplayed records. A complex of gears, cams, pins, pinions, springs, etc., located on a base platform to the side of and below the turntable so cooperated that all functions were performed in cyclic sequence, the activation of the slicers occurring when the tone arm had been swung out of the way of the dropping record. Then began again the cycle wherein the tone arm is swung back to playing position at the edge of a new record, the record is played and the automatic movements continue to the next dropping of a record through the

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reciprocations of the slicers. The reciprocations of the slicers result from a 'push-pull' movement of a link located beneath the turntable, operating off of the cycling mechanism. This link is connected at its ends to levers attached to the rotatable uprights, and by which they move to reciprocate the slicer blades. Such method of record dropping combined with the cycling mechanism to make up the Arvidius patent. The patent described an entire machine, with Figures 1 to 8, which comprehended both the record dropping and cycling mechanism. The inventor stated:

'This invention relates to automatic gramophones of the kind in which a pile of records is supported centrally above a turntable, the records being dropped one at a time upon the turntable and played in succession.

'The invention has for its object to provide an improved mechanism for effecting the necessary motions of the movable arm carrying the reproducing needle, and for actuating the means carrying the pile of records so as to cause a fresh record to be dropped upon the turntable after playing of each preceding record.

'Further objects of the invention are to provide a mechanism of this character which is reliable in its operation and comparatively simple and inexpensive in its construction and which can be readily applied as an attachment, if desired, to existing gramophones of any conventional type. 'With this and other objects in view, the invention consists in certain novel features of construction, combination and arrangement of parts as will fully appear as the description proceeds, the novel features thereof being pointed out in the appended claims.'

The patent in suit, which we call the Holstensson patent, was applied for in 1938 by Holstensson and Arvidius as joint inventors. They described the device sought to be patented as a 'Talking Machine for Playing a Plurality of Records.' As to Claim 1 of the patent, our review of its language, the accompanying specifications and the evidence received at the trial of this case, persuades us that it discloses the old Arvidius patent except as to the record supporting and dropping mechanism. In place of the old 'slicer' method, the new application provided for the records to be supported above and dropped onto the turntable through the use of a central hollow spindle with an offset shoulder thereon in its upper portion and containing a lever so arranged and operated as to push the lowermost record off of the shoulder sideways so that its hole would engage the lower section of the spindle and drop to the turntable. When such displacement was completed, the lever, by spring action, moved back to its previous position, there to remain inactive until, at the proper time within the cycle, it was to drop another record. The lever contained within the hollow spindle extended, within said spindle, from where the latter was provided with the offset shoulder, down through the turntable where its lower end was connected to a link. When activated by, and operating off of, the cycling mechanism located below the turntable, this link, by a 'push-pull' movement rocks the lever within the spindle to bring about the dropping of a record. This accomplished, the link and lever remain inactive while the tone arm, controlled by the cycling mechanism, goes through its cycling movements and it is again time to drop a record. Between the respective 'push-pull' movements of the links which activate the record dropping both by the slicer and the spindle method, the record players described and patented by the old Arvidius patent and the Holstensson patent in suit bring about the automatic playing of records in the same way and by the same means.

This, then, is the lawsuit before us. A reissue patent granted on August 9, 1938, on an application made on November 1, 1934, describes and claims as its inventions a record dropping mechanism and a cycling mechanism (the Arvidius patent). A second patent, applied for on September 23, 1938, and issued on July 28,

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1942, describes and claims as its inventions, a new record dropping mechanism and...

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