Art Metal Works v. Abraham & Straus, 341.

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (2nd Circuit)
Writing for the CourtMANTON, L. HAND, and CHASE, Circuit
Citation70 F.2d 641
Decision Date30 April 1934
Docket NumberNo. 341.,341.

70 F.2d 641 (1934)


No. 341.

Circuit Court of Appeals, Second Circuit.

April 30, 1934.

Blair, Curtis & Dunne, of New York City (Robert S. Blair, Edward F. Dunne, Jr., William T. Kniesner, and Milton C. Weisman, all of New York City, of counsel), for appellant.

Ward, Crosby & Neal, of New York City (Joseph Lorenz, Kenneth S. Neal, and Martin W. Littleton, all of New York City, of counsel), for appellee.

Before MANTON, L. HAND, and CHASE, Circuit Judges.

MANTON, Circuit Judge.

After the affirmance of an interlocutory decree entered below granting an injunction and an accounting, and holding the Aronson patent, No. 1,673,727, for a lighter, valid and infringed Art Metal Works, Inc., v. Abraham & Straus, Inc. (C. C. A.) 61 F.(2d) 122, the court permitted the appellant to file an amended answer. This answer set forth allegations of inequitable conduct by the appellee in misrepresenting to the trade, including appellant's customers, the scope and effect of the decision rendered by this court. The various methods of accomplishing this result have been set forth.

In granting the appellant's motion for permission to apply to the District Court for leave to file an amended answer, we said:

"We are satisfied from the affidavits presented that there has been misrepresentation both by salesmen and written communications to customers of the manufacturer as well as by advertising in the trade papers." Art Metal Works, Inc., v. Abraham & Straus, Inc. (C. C. A.) 62 F.(2d) 79, 80.

In granting leave to file the answer, the District Judge, after a review of the affidavits and exhibits, stated:

"The defendant makes by far the more impressive showing, and indeed the Circuit

70 F.2d 642
Court of Appeals was so convinced. If there were any question open in that regard, it would be dissipated by a consideration of the plaintiff's advertising matter. It seems to me that the misrepresentations, which apparently were deliberate, though they may have resulted from overzealousness on the part of plaintiff's executives, adds strength to the defendant's contentions that the misrepresentations of the salesmen were not innocent. * * *

"The probable effect of the foregoing was to mislead the trade in respect to the scope and effect of this litigation.

"The plaintiff's conduct was reprehensible.

"To what extent it has damaged the Evans Company is, of course, a matter that cannot be decided on this motion, but that some damage resulted seems obvious." Art Metal Works, Inc., v. Abraham & Straus, Inc. (D. C.) 2 F.Supp. 292, 293.

After a hearing, the relief prayed for was denied by the court below because the appellant had failed to establish bad faith on the part of the appellee and a decree was entered accordingly. Art Metal Works, Inc., v. Abraham & Straus, Inc. (D. C.) 4 F. Supp. 298. This appeal seeks a review of that decision.

Patent No. 1,673,727 was for a cigar lighter, and this court held that it was infringed by the lighters, "Evans Automatic" and "Evans Roller Bearing," manufactured by the Evans Case Company and sold by the appellant. We did not hold, in that decision, that all automatic lighters, or that the Evans new Trig-a-lite infringed. The Evans Case Company, manufacturers of the lighters, are openly defending this suit.

After this court's decision, the president of the Evans Case Company interviewed the appellee's president and suggested a compromise, stating, "I think we would be better off making lighters than fighting," to which answer was made, "Further, I want to say to you that there isn't room for two of us in the lighter business * * * I have found out in my business experience if you make competition expensive enough the competitor won't stay in business very long." Although this was said in the presence of another officer of the appellee, that witness was not called, and, while the version of the appellee's president is given by him, the threat of the statement above quoted is not denied. With an apparent determination to eliminate the Evans Case Company as a competitor in the manufacture and sale of lighters, the appellee proceeded and went beyond reasonable limits or rights acquired by its patent litigation and entered upon a campaign of misrepresentation in circulars, in advertisements in trade papers, and through its salesmen and representatives. We think it forfeited its right to the protection of a court of equity. Gerosa v. Apco Mfg. Co., 299 F. 19 (C. C. A. 1); Perfection Mfg. Co. v. B. Coleman Silvers Co., 270 F. 576 (C. C. A. 7). An owner of a patent has a right to protect his patent in accordance with the statute under which he is granted a monopoly. He may protect his business under the patent from the attacks of infringers. He may, to this end, advertise truthfully and in good faith the extent to which the courts have granted him protection against an infringer. He may proceed against other infringers and say in advance that he intends to do so. But no court should continue to protect patent rights while the patent owner is representing to his customers, and to his competitor's customers, that he has been awarded more rights or protected to a greater extent than the court has actually decreed. Courts cannot permit unfair practices to go on to harass or obstruct a rival in business. Panay Horizontal Show Jar Co. v. Aridor Co., 292 F. 858 (C. C. A. 7); Luten v. Wilson Reinforced Concrete Co., 263 F. 983 (C. C. A. 8). Attacks inspired by a desire to unlawfully intimidate purchasers, who might lawfully buy other than the patented article, which results in substantial loss to the infringer, places the patent owner in the class of suitors with unclean hands.

After the decision of this court, the appellee on August 23, 1932, sent a telegram to its salesmen and representatives announcing a "sweeping victory" against the Evans Case Company, expressed their delight, and said it was "okay to advise your trade but be careful not to indulge in any threats until definite plan of campaign for damages is completely worked out." The next day instructions were sent by letter to salesmen which, among other things said:

"It must be borne in mind by you that this decision naturally covers not only the pocket form of lighters but also their combinations, whether in sets or as units imitating our Tuxedo. It covers also their table lighters.

"Steps will be taken by us immediately to notify all trade by means of letters, also through full page announcements in the trade papers. We will also take steps without delay to proceed against the manufacturers of the Marathon lighter and the Golden Wheel

70 F.2d 643
lighter, with a view to obtaining injunctions preventing their further infringement of our adjudicated patent. * * *

"The Evans Case Co., also their customers are now liable to us for all the tremendous damage which they have done to us during the past years in their sale of infringing products. Naturally, we are keenly alert to the necessity of recovering every possible penny of this damage so that the trade may understand it is not desirable for them to push the sale of infringements even where they can buy and sell them at low prices."

The decision did not cover cigarette case and lighter sets. Thus portraying the plan of campaign to the salesmen, they proceeded to write to the trade, and, on August 24, 1932, they sent to many of the Evans Case Company customers a telegram referring to their "sweeping victory on every point involved in our suit against the Evans Case Company," and announced that further details would follow this telegram and promptly convey this information to them. The telegram was followed on August 25th and 26th with circular letters advising the trade that "Evans lighter and others of similar construction constitute infringements of our patent" and that it was their purpose to proceed with an accounting for profits made by the infringers and substantial damages would be asked for past infringements to which they had been subjected.

"Furthermore, we must advise the trade that any further sale of these Evans lighters or others of similar construction now becomes illegal according to the decision of the Court of Appeals."

This reference to others of similar construction had its intended effect upon the trade as testified to by witnesses. In substance it conveyed to members of the trade and they understood, so they testified, that the decision covered all other automatic lighters and not merely the Evans automatic lighter and roller bearing lighter. Witnesses who bought lighters, questioned as to their understanding of this statement and its effect, said they believed that all automatic lighters would infringe and that they could no longer handle any automatic lighters except those made by the appellee or otherwise made under the patent. One witness said a representative of the appellee told him, after showing him a circular letter, that not only must he not sell the Evans lighters which he had on hand, but he could not sell the Golden Wheel lighter for the patent rights covered "any automatic lighters, Evans or Golden Wheel or any automatic lighters." While some witnesses said they were not misled, still there was ample evidence that this...

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