Novelty Glass Mfg. Co. v. Brookfield

Decision Date01 June 1909
Docket Number6-1908.
Citation170 F. 946
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Third Circuit

[Copyrighted Material Omitted] [Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Joseph C. Fraley and Walter H. Bacon, for appellant.

John G Johnson and Robert N. Kenyon, for appellees.

Before GRAY and BUFFINGTON, Circuit Judges, and ARCHBALD, District judge.

ARCHBALD District Judge.

The patent in suit-- or at least the one with which we are particularly concerned-- was issued to Seraphin Kribs, July 9, 1895, for a press for making screw insulators for use on telegraph and other electric lines to support and insulate the wires. These insulators are of glass, with an interior central screw thread impressed upon them while in a molten state, by which they are secured in place on screw pins affixed to the crossarms of the supporting poles. The patent was sustained and found infringed by Judge Bradford ((C.C.) 124 F. 551); and, upon an account being taken profits, realized by the defendants, amounting to $29,910.48, were allowed to the complainants by Judge Lanning, but damages, additionally claimed to the extent of $54,701.08, were refused ((C.C.) 170 F. 830); and there is an appeal in consequence by both parties.

Infringement is conceded, and the liability of the defendants depends, therefore, on the validity of the patent. Its validity is denied on the ground that the device covered by it is a mere aggregation of old and familiar elements, which it involved no invention to put together; or if, notwithstanding this, invention be found, that the credit of it belongs not to Kribs but to Jordan, or to perhaps no one person in particular, being the combined idea of different parties at the Brookfield factory, where the patentee was a workman.

The making of glass insulators is beset with some difficulty, and requires considerable observation and careful management, due in large measure to the fact that the molten glass must be at just the right temperature at different stages of the operation; and the particular difficulty experienced in the production of the kind in question consists, while shaping them accurately, in keeping them free from superficial cracks and 'shrends,' where water will lodge and form a conducting path for the escape of the electric fluid, which is liable to occur with the powerful currents at present carried. The object of the invention was to improve the character and quality of such insulators in this respect, and at the same time to increase and thus cheapen the output. And the success in both directions which it attained, which was quite marked, having completely monopolized the field until the introduction in 1903 of the Duffield improvement, is one, if not the main, reason urged in its behalf.

The device consists substantially in a rotary table or movable support carrying a suitable number of molds in which the insulators are formed; a detachable screw plunger, which, by a single downward thrust, is forced into the molten glass, by means of an actuating rod to make the screw thread, the rim or petticoat of the insulator being at the same time pressed into shape by a former and follower above the plunger, on the end of the actuating rod; a rotary spindle to withdraw the plunger, after it has remained a sufficient time to set the glass, the plunger being so arranged as to be easily and quickly brought into engagement with and attached to the actuating rod, and be easily detached therefrom and brought into engagement with the rotary spindle, by which it is removed; the different parts being so further coordinated and assembled that the molds shall be carried from the screw pressing mechanism to the removing spindle and back within a certain time, and in a fixed and predetermined path, so as to produce definite and desirable results.

The operation of the machine conforms to the mechanism employed, and so proceeds that at every step the several workmen at each machine are simultaneously engaged upon different points in the process, the insulators, in consequence, being turned out with a minimum of imperfections, expeditiously and in complete form. Thus the gathering boy measures out the glass and pours it into the mold. The presser sees that it is brought under the actuating rod, and by means of a lever brings down the screw plunger, which he detaches and leaves in the glass, the edge of the insulator being at the same time, and by the same act, pressed into form by the former and follower, which are promptly withdrawn, so as not, by too long contact, to over-cool and crack the glass. The mold with the screw plunger is then passed on by the revolution of the table to the boy at the rotary spindle, which is located a sufficient number of molds off to have the glass properly set, and the plunger is then screwed out, and, with another partial revolution of the table, the mold goes to another boy, who opens it and takes out the completed insulator, which brings the operation around to the beginning to be gone over again. This, however, is the mere mechanical side of the process, which calls for judgment as well, and can only be carried to a successful issue where due regard is had at all times to the relative temperature of the glass and the plunger at different points, which has therefore to be carefully watched. This varies not only on different days, but at different times of the same day, and necessitates the use of a greater or less number of plungers to correspond. And it is in the adaptability of the machine to this requirement that its chief merit, if not its real claim, to invention consists.

But as is well said in Brookfield v. Elmer Glass Works (C.C.) 144 F. 418, 421, a suit on the same patent against another defendant, the novelty as well as the virtue of the invention depends on the machine as a whole, or at least on its predominant features, no one of which can be spared in the account. Invention does not reside, for instance, in the detachable screw plunger, however that may be an essential and distinguishing part (Brookfield v. Elmer Glass Works, 154 F. 197, 83 C.C.A. 180); nor in the actuating rod by which the screw thread is formed with a single downward thrust, although undoubtedly a point of great merit; nor in the separate rotary spindle, by which the plunger is screwed out after the glass has set; nor yet in the molds adapted to travel from the one to the other in a carefully timed course, nor in the movable support by which this is brought about; but in the combination or united effect of them all in the one conjoined mechanism, with such additional incidental appliances as are necessary to produce efficient work.

We are not prepared, in view of this, to sustain any broad claim; nor, on the other hand, to sanction any which are merely differentiated by simple mechanical expedients which any one could supply, or by elements necessarily implied. But these things aside, taking the device as a whole, according to which it is entitled to be judged, invention, as we think, is disclosed.

Admittedly there is nothing which exactly anticipates it in the prior art. The separate features of it may be there, but not brought together into one machine. In the Brookfield (1871) patent, for instance, taken out by the original complainant assignee of the patent in suit, a detachable plunger was used, which was pressed, as here, into the molten glass, in a single downward thrust, by means of an actuating lever or rod. The screw plunger, being then detached, was also left in the mold until the glass had set, and was subsequently removed by any suitable means, as it is said, a screw spindle being among those named. Three distinctive features of the present invention thus appear: A detachable screw plunger impressed into the glass by an actuating lever to make the screw thread; movable molds in which the plunger remains until the glass is set; and a rotary spindle by which, after a proper interval, the plunger is removed. The use of two or more plungers, which was thus made possible, is also recognized, and as many molds as were found necessary to dispense with screwing out the plunger until the glass had cooled. But there was no rotary table or movable support, by which the insertion and removal of the plunger could be effected by the same machine; nor any correlation of the two operations by separating them a certain number of molds apart, by which the glass could be allowed to cool and set to just the right extent. The failure to appreciate the advantage of this necessitated the use of two machines, one at which the plunger was inserted and the other at which it was taken out, the molds being carried from one to the other by hand, a by no means easy job, the molds weighing from 40 to 60 pounds apiece. This step in the process not being able, therefore, to be accurately timed, the insulators were liable to be spoiled if it happened at any time to be either too long or too short. The Brookfield was thus never a successful machine, and, after repeated efforts to improve upon it at the Brookfield factory, it was given up, and the process which had previously prevailed under the Homer Brooke (1870) patent was resumed and continued down to that of the patent in suit. According to the practice under the Brooke patent and the modification of it known as the 'Brookfield process,' a plain plunger, actuated by a lever, was first forced down into the glass by a single quick thrust, the end of it being so shaped as to form a countersink as well as a small hole in advance of that where the screw thread was to be subsequently made. The mold was then taken to a second machine, and, by means of a screw press or rotary spindle, a second plunger, having a screw tap extension, was screwed into the...

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