Adams v. Burke

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtMILLER
Citation17 Wall. 453,21 L.Ed. 700,84 U.S. 453
Decision Date01 October 1873
PartiesADAMS v. BURKE

84 U.S. 453
21 L.Ed. 700
17 Wall. 453
ADAMS
v.
BURKE.
October Term, 1873

APPEAL from the Circuit Court for the District of Massachusetts; the case being thus:

On the 26th day of May, 1863, letters-patent were granted

Page 454

to Merrill & Horner, for a certain improvement in coffinlids, giving to them the exclusive right of making, using, and vending to others to be used, the said improvement.

On the 13th day of March, 1865, Merrill & Horner, the patentees, by an assignment duly executed and recorded, assigned to Lockhart & Seelye, of Cambridge, in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, all the right, title, and interest which the said patentees had in the invention described in the said letters-patent, for, to, and in a circle whose radius is ten miles, having the city of Boston as a centre. They subsequently assigned the patent, or what right they retained in it, to one Adams.

Adams now filed a bill in the court below, against a certain Burke, an undertaker, who used in the town of Natick (a town about seventeen miles from Boston, and therefore outside of the circle above mentioned) coffins with lids of the kind patented, alleging him to be an infringer of their patent, and praying for an injunction, discovery, profits, and other relief suitable against an infringer.

The defendant pleaded in bar:

'That he carries on the business of an undertaker, having his place of business in Natick, in said district; that, in the exercise of his said business, he is employed to bury the dead; the when so employed it is his custom to procure hearses, coffins, and whatever else may be necessary or proper for burials, and to superintend the preparation of graves, and that his bills for his services in each case, and the coffin, hearse, and other articles procured by him, are paid by the personal representatives of the deceased; that, since the date of the alleged assignment to the plaintiff of an interest in the invention secured by the said letters-patent, he has sold no coffins, unless the use of coffins by him in his said business, as above described, shall be deemed a sale; has used no coffins, except in his said business as aforesaid; and has manufactured no coffins containing the said invention; and that since the said date he has used in his business as aforesaid, in Natick, no coffin containing the invention secured by said letters-patent, except such coffins containing said invention as have been manufactured by said Lockhart & Seelye, within a circle, whose radius is ten miles, having the

Page 455

city of Boston as its centre, and sold within said circle by said Lockhart & Seelye, without condition or restriction.'

The validity of this plea was the question in the case. The court below, referring to the case of Bloomer v. McQuewan,1 in which Taney, C. J., delivering the opinion of the court, said:

'When a machine passes to the hands of the purchaser, it is no longer within the limits of the monopoly. It passes outside of it, and is no longer under the protection of the act of Congress.'

And referring also to some other cases, held that the plea was good. And from a decree which followed, dismissing, of course, the bill, this appeal was taken.

Mr. C. B. Goodrich, for the appellant; Messrs. R. H. Dana and L. S. Dabney, contra.

Mr. Justice MILLER delivered the opinion of the court.

The question presented by the plea in this case is a very interesting one in patent law, and the precise point in it has never been decided by this court, though cases involving some of the considerations which apply to it have been decided, and others of analogous character are frequently recurring. The vast pecuniary results involved in such cases, as well as the public interest, admonish us to proceed with care, and to decide in each case no more than what is directly in issue.

We have repeatedly held that where a person had purchased a patented machine of the patentee or his assignee, this purchase carried with it the right to the use of that machine so long as it was capable of use, and that the expiration and renewal of the patent, whether in favor of the original patentee or of his assignee, did not affect this right. The true ground on which these decisions rest is that the sale by a person who has the full right to make, sell, and use such a machine carries with it the right to the use of that machine to the full extent to which it can be used in point of time.

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The right to manufacture, the right to sell, and the right to use are each substantive rights, and may be granted or conferred separately by the patentee.

But, in the essential nature of things, when the patentee, or the person having his rights, sells a machine or instrument whose sole value is in its use, he receives the consideration for its use and he parts with the right to restrict that use. The article, in the language...

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125 practice notes
  • Mercoid Corporation v. Inv Co, MID-CONTINENT
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • January 3, 1944
    ...in the patent system. Pennock v. Dialogue, 2 Pet. 1, 7 L.Ed. 327; Kendall v. Winsor, 21 How. 322, 329, 16 L.Ed. 165; Adams v. Burke, 17 Wall. 453, 21 L.Ed. 700; Motion Picture Co. v. Universal Film Co., supra, 243 U.S. pages 510, 511, 37 S.Ct. page 418, 61 L.Ed. 871, L.R.A.1917E, 1187, Ann.......
  • Apple, Inc. v. Samsung Elecs. Co., Case No.: 11-CV-01846-LHK
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Northern District of California
    • August 18, 2012
    ...LP v. Elec. Transaction Consultants Corp., 563 F.3d 1271 (Fed. Cir. 2009); U.S. v. Univis Lens, 316 U.S. 241 (1942); Adams v. Burke, 84 U.S. 453 (1873); Bloomer v. Millinger, 68 U.S. 340, 350-51 (1863); Litecubes, LLC v. Northern Light Prods., Inc., 523 F.3d 1353, 1370-71 (Fed. Cir. 2008) (......
  • Apple, Inc. v. Samsung Elecs. Co., Case No.: 11-CV-01846-LHK
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Northern District of California
    • August 20, 2012
    ...LP v. Elec. Transaction Consultants Corp., 563 F.3d 1271 (Fed. Cir. 2009); U.S. v. Univis Lens, 316 U.S. 241 (1942); Adams v. Burke, 84 U.S. 453 (1873); Bloomer v. Millinger, 68 U.S. 340, 350-51 (1863); Litecubes, LLC v. Northern Light Prods., Inc., 523 F.3d 1353, 1370-71 (Fed. Cir. 2008) (......
  • Straus v. Victor Talking Mach. Co., 49.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (2nd Circuit)
    • February 4, 1924
    ...they have passed into the possession of dealers and of the public, we conclude that it falls within the principles of Adams v. Burke, 17 Wall. 453, 456, 21 L.Ed. 700, 703, and of Bauer v. O'Donnell, 229 U.S. 1, 57, * * * that it is therefore invalid, and that the District Court properly hel......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
125 cases
  • Mercoid Corporation v. Inv Co, MID-CONTINENT
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • January 3, 1944
    ...in the patent system. Pennock v. Dialogue, 2 Pet. 1, 7 L.Ed. 327; Kendall v. Winsor, 21 How. 322, 329, 16 L.Ed. 165; Adams v. Burke, 17 Wall. 453, 21 L.Ed. 700; Motion Picture Co. v. Universal Film Co., supra, 243 U.S. pages 510, 511, 37 S.Ct. page 418, 61 L.Ed. 871, L.R.A.1917E, 1187, Ann.......
  • Apple, Inc. v. Samsung Elecs. Co., Case No.: 11-CV-01846-LHK
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Northern District of California
    • August 18, 2012
    ...LP v. Elec. Transaction Consultants Corp., 563 F.3d 1271 (Fed. Cir. 2009); U.S. v. Univis Lens, 316 U.S. 241 (1942); Adams v. Burke, 84 U.S. 453 (1873); Bloomer v. Millinger, 68 U.S. 340, 350-51 (1863); Litecubes, LLC v. Northern Light Prods., Inc., 523 F.3d 1353, 1370-71 (Fed. Cir. 2008) (......
  • Apple, Inc. v. Samsung Elecs. Co., Case No.: 11-CV-01846-LHK
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Northern District of California
    • August 20, 2012
    ...LP v. Elec. Transaction Consultants Corp., 563 F.3d 1271 (Fed. Cir. 2009); U.S. v. Univis Lens, 316 U.S. 241 (1942); Adams v. Burke, 84 U.S. 453 (1873); Bloomer v. Millinger, 68 U.S. 340, 350-51 (1863); Litecubes, LLC v. Northern Light Prods., Inc., 523 F.3d 1353, 1370-71 (Fed. Cir. 2008) (......
  • Straus v. Victor Talking Mach. Co., 49.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (2nd Circuit)
    • February 4, 1924
    ...they have passed into the possession of dealers and of the public, we conclude that it falls within the principles of Adams v. Burke, 17 Wall. 453, 456, 21 L.Ed. 700, 703, and of Bauer v. O'Donnell, 229 U.S. 1, 57, * * * that it is therefore invalid, and that the District Court properly hel......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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