Compco Corp v. Lighting, Inc, DAY-BRITE

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtBLACK
Citation140 USPQ 528,376 U.S. 234,11 L.Ed.2d 669,84 S.Ct. 779
PartiesCOMPCO CORP., Petitioner, v. LIGHTING, INC
Docket NumberDAY-BRITE,No. 106
Decision Date09 March 1964

376 U.S. 234
84 S.Ct. 779
11 L.Ed.2d 669
COMPCO CORP., Petitioner,

v.

DAY-BRITE LIGHTING, INC.

No. 106.
Argued Jan. 16, 1964.
Decided March 9, 1964.
Rehearing Denied April 20, 1964.

See 377 U.S. 913, 84 S.Ct. 1162.

Jerome F. Fallon, Chicago, Ill., for petitioner.

Owne J. Ooms, Chicago, Ill., for respondent.

Mr. Justice BLACK delivered the opinion of the Court.

As in Sears, Roebuck & Co. v. Stiffel Co., 376 U.S. 225, 84 S.Ct. 784, the question here is whether the use of a state unfair competition law to give relief against the copying of an unpatented industrial design conflicts with the federal patent laws. Both Compco and Day-Brite are manufacturers of fluorescent lighting fixtures of a kind widely used in offices and stores. Day-Brite in 1955 secured from the Patent Office a design patent on a reflector having cross-ribs claimed to give both strength and attractiveness to the fixture. Day-Brite also sought, but was refused, a mechanical patent on the same device. After Day-Brite

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had begun selling its fixture, Compco's predecessor1 began making and selling fixtures very similar to Day-Brite's. This action was then brought by Day-Brite. One count alleged that Compco had infringed Day-Brite's design patent; a second count charged that the public and the trade had come to associate this particular design with Day-Brite, that Compco had copied Day-Brite's distinctive design so as to confuse and deceive purchasers into thinking Compco's fixtures were actually Day-Brite's, and that by doing this Compco had unfairly competed with Day-Brite. The complaint prayed for both an accounting and an injunction.

The District Court held the design patent invalid; but as to the second count, while the court did not find that Compco had engaged in any deceptive or fraudulent practices, it did hold that Compco had been guilty of unfair competition under Illinois law. The court found that the overall appearance of Compco's fixture was 'the same, to the eye of the ordinary observer, as the overall appearance' of Day-Brite's reflector, which embodied the design of the invalidated patent; that the appearance of Day-Brite's design had 'the capacity to identify (Day-Brite) in the trade and does in fact so identify (it) to the trade'; that the concurrent sale of the two products was 'likely to cause confusion in the trade'; and that '(a)ctual confusion has occurred.' On these findings the court adjudged Compco guilty of unfair competition in the sale of its fixtures, ordered Compco to

Page 236

account to Day-Brite for damages, and enjoined Compco 'from unfairly competing with plaintiff by the sale or attempted sale of reflectors identical to, or confusingly similar to' those made by Day-Brite. The Court of Appeals held there was substantial evidence in the record to support the District Court's finding of likely confusion and that this finding was sufficient to support a holding of unfair competition under Illinois law. 2 311 F.2d 26. Although the District Court had not made such a finding, the appellate court observed that 'several choices of ribbing were apparently available to meet the functional needs of the product,' yet Compco 'chose precisely the same design used by the plaintiff and followed it so closely as to make confusion likely.' 311 F.2d, at 30. A design which identifies its maker to the trade, the Court of Appeals held, is a 'protectable' right under Illinois law, even though the design is unpatentable.3 We granted certiorari. 374 U.S. 825, 83 S.Ct. 1868, 10 L.Ed.2d 1050.

To support its findings of likelihood of confusion and actual confusion, the trial court was able to refer to only one circumstance in the record. A plant manager who had installed some of Compco's fixtures later asked Day-Brite to service the fixtures, thinking they had been made by Day-Brite....

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405 practice notes
  • Kimble v. Marvel Entm't, LLC, No. 13–720.
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • June 22, 2015
    ...Thunder Craft Boats, Inc., 489 U.S. 141, 152, 167–168, 109 S.Ct. 971, 103 L.Ed.2d 118 (1989) ; Compco Corp. v. Day–Brite Lighting, Inc., 376 U.S. 234, 237–238, 84 S.Ct. 779, 11 L.Ed.2d 669 (1964). By virtue of federal law, we reasoned, "an article on which the patent has expired," like an u......
  • Carson v. Here's Johnny Portable Toilets, Inc., No. 80-1720
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)
    • February 1, 1983
    ...84 S.Ct. 784, 11 L.Ed.2d 661, rehr'g denied, 376 U.S. 973, 84 S.Ct. 1131, 12 L.Ed.2d 87 (1964); Compco Corp. v. Day-Bright Lighting, Inc., 376 U.S. 234, 84 S.Ct. 779, 11 L.Ed.2d 669, rehr'g denied, 377 U.S. 913, 84 S.Ct. 1162, 12 L.Ed.2d 183 (1964). The federal copyright statute only protec......
  • Zauderer v. Office of Disciplinary Counsel of the Supreme Court of Ohio, No. 83-2166
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • May 28, 1985
    ...the [advertiser] to label or take other precautions to prevent confusion of customers." Compco Corp. v. Day-Brite Lighting, Inc., 376 U.S. 234, 238-239, 84 S.Ct. 779, 782, 11 L.Ed.2d 669 (1964). Whether or not Ohio may properly impose the disclosure requirements discussed above, it failed t......
  • Plasticolor Molded Products v. Ford Motor Co., No. CV 85-3863-AK (Tx).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Central District of California
    • April 28, 1989
    ...with Sears, Roebuck & Co. v. Stiffel Co., 376 U.S. 225, 84 S.Ct. 784, 11 L.Ed.2d 661 (1964), and Compco Corp. v. Day-Brite Lighting, Inc., 376 U.S. 234, 84 S.Ct. 779, 11 L.Ed.2d 669 (1964), where the Supreme Court held that state unfair competition law cannot prohibit the copying of an unpa......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
403 cases
  • Kimble v. Marvel Entm't, LLC, No. 13–720.
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • June 22, 2015
    ...Thunder Craft Boats, Inc., 489 U.S. 141, 152, 167–168, 109 S.Ct. 971, 103 L.Ed.2d 118 (1989) ; Compco Corp. v. Day–Brite Lighting, Inc., 376 U.S. 234, 237–238, 84 S.Ct. 779, 11 L.Ed.2d 669 (1964). By virtue of federal law, we reasoned, "an article on which the patent has expired," like an u......
  • Carson v. Here's Johnny Portable Toilets, Inc., No. 80-1720
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)
    • February 1, 1983
    ...84 S.Ct. 784, 11 L.Ed.2d 661, rehr'g denied, 376 U.S. 973, 84 S.Ct. 1131, 12 L.Ed.2d 87 (1964); Compco Corp. v. Day-Bright Lighting, Inc., 376 U.S. 234, 84 S.Ct. 779, 11 L.Ed.2d 669, rehr'g denied, 377 U.S. 913, 84 S.Ct. 1162, 12 L.Ed.2d 183 (1964). The federal copyright statute only protec......
  • Zauderer v. Office of Disciplinary Counsel of the Supreme Court of Ohio, No. 83-2166
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • May 28, 1985
    ...the [advertiser] to label or take other precautions to prevent confusion of customers." Compco Corp. v. Day-Brite Lighting, Inc., 376 U.S. 234, 238-239, 84 S.Ct. 779, 782, 11 L.Ed.2d 669 (1964). Whether or not Ohio may properly impose the disclosure requirements discussed above, it failed t......
  • Plasticolor Molded Products v. Ford Motor Co., No. CV 85-3863-AK (Tx).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Central District of California
    • April 28, 1989
    ...with Sears, Roebuck & Co. v. Stiffel Co., 376 U.S. 225, 84 S.Ct. 784, 11 L.Ed.2d 661 (1964), and Compco Corp. v. Day-Brite Lighting, Inc., 376 U.S. 234, 84 S.Ct. 779, 11 L.Ed.2d 669 (1964), where the Supreme Court held that state unfair competition law cannot prohibit the copying of an unpa......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
2 books & journal articles
  • Should a Trade Secrets Misappropriation Claim Lie in the Procrustean Antitrust Bed?
    • United States
    • Antitrust Bulletin Nbr. 22-1, March 1977
    • March 1, 1977
    ...77 Harv. 1. Rev. 888, 932-42 (1964).171 Sears Roebuck &Co. v.StiffelCo., 376 U.S. 225 (1964).172Compco Corp. v. Day-Brite Lighting, Inc., 376 U.S. 234 (1964).173Columbia Broadcasting Sys. v. DeCosta, 377 F.2d 315 (1st Cir.), cert.denied, 389 U.S. 1007 (1967); Cable Vision, Inc. v.KUTV,Inc.,......
  • United States Law and the Proposed Code of Conduct on the Transfer of Technology
    • United States
    • Antitrust Bulletin Nbr. 23-4, December 1978
    • December 1, 1978
    ...OF CONDUCT ON TECHNOLOGY TRANSFER 853sold by whoever chooses to do so." 376 U.S. 225, 231(1964);accord CompcoCorp.v. Day-Brite Lighting, 376 U.S. 234(1964).(c)Unlike a patent, the value and protectibility of a tradesecret inheres in its secrecy. See 1 R. Milgrim,TradeSecrets§2.03(1977);ALI,......

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