United States v. SINGER MANUFACTURING COMPANY

Decision Date11 May 1962
Citation205 F. Supp. 394
PartiesUNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff, v. The SINGER MANUFACTURING COMPANY, Defendant.
CourtU.S. District Court — Southern District of New York

Lee Loevinger, Asst. Atty. Gen., Dept. of Justice, Washington, D. C., for plaintiff (Lewis Bernstein, Washington, D. C., John J. Galgay, Richard B. O'Donnell, John D. Swartz, William J. Elkins, New York City, Les J. Weinstein, Washington, D. C., Edward F. Corcoran, James J. Farrell, Jr., New York City, of counsel).

Winthrop, Stimson, Putnam & Roberts, New York City, for defendant (Arthur E. Pettit, Allen T. Klots, Edwin J. Wesely, Terence H. Benbow, Neil F. Twomey, Edward A. Miller, Richard J. Riker, New York City, Chester A. Williams, Jr., New York City of counsel).

RYAN, Chief Judge.

This civil antitrust suit was filed by the United States of America under Section 4 of the Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C.A. § 4 to prevent and restrain alleged violations by the defendant of Sections 1 and 2 of the Act, 15 U.S.C.A. §§ 1, 2. The suit concerns only the United States trade and commerce arising from the importation into the United States of a particular type of household sewing machine known as the "machine-carried multicam zigzag machine." Many of the relevant and material facts were stipulated by the parties prior to trial following extensive informal hearings held with counsel. The very competent senior attorneys and the junior associates appearing both for the Government and for the defendant gave evidence of their great ability, conscientious application and industry, and zealous advocacy. They were most cooperative and helpful; for this, they have the thanks of the Court.

I. THE ISSUES PRESENTED.

The complaint alleges that, beginning in at least 1956 and continuing up to December 22, 1959, the date of the filing of the complaint, the defendant and the alleged co-conspirators had been engaged in an unlawful combination and conspiracy to restrain and monopolize; and that the defendant had unlawfully attempted to monopolize interstate and foreign trade and commerce in the importation, sale and distribution of household automatic zigzag sewing machines.

The acts alleged to have been committed by the defendant pursuant to the alleged conspiracy and attempt are: (1) the acquisition by the defendant from the alleged co-conspirator Gegauf of two United States patent applications covering automatic zigzag sewing machines; (2) the making of separate agreements with the alleged co-conspirators Gegauf and Vigorelli to insure the granting, with respect to specified patents, of the broadest possible patent claims to each other for the purpose of excluding foreign automatic zigzag sewing machines; (3) the filing of infringement suits and proceedings before the Tariff Commission by the defendant asserting the patent rights assigned to it by Gegauf in conjunction with its own patent rights to exclude the importation into the United States of automatic zigzag sewing machines of foreign manufacture; (4) the action by defendant, in conjunction with the alleged co-conspirators, determining what European manufacturers would be permitted to export foreign made automatic zigzag sewing machines to the United States; and (5) the making by the defendant of a non-aggression cross-licensing agreement with Messerschmitt and the subsequent acquisition by the defendant of the United States Messerschmitt patent application which was the subject of the cross-license agreement, for the purpose of excluding foreign made automatic zigzag sewing machines.

The Government does not charge that the acquisition by Singer of three other United States patents — the Harris reissue, Johnson, and Perla, which are later discussed — was unlawful. On the contrary, it concedes that they were lawfully acquired. It is the acquisition of these two Gegauf United States patents, known as Gegauf No. 1 and No. 2, which is claimed by the Government to be unlawful. It is contended that they were acquired by Singer pursuant to the alleged conspiracy and with a purpose to use them in conjunction with the above three lawfully acquired patents to exclude competition. The Government also contends that the Singer "401" machine was fully protected under a Gegauf license and the Johnson patent.

From these acts, it is alleged, have flowed the following results: (1) United States importers, distributors and retailers, dealing in household automatic zigzag sewing machines of foreign manufacture, have been precluded from importing, distributing and selling these machines in a market free from unlawful restraints; (2) defendant has been able to acquire and maintain a position of domination and control in the manufacture, sale and distribution of household automatic zigzag sewing machines in the United States; and (3) consumers have been deprived of the opportunity of purchasing household automatic zigzag sewing machines in a free and competitive market. To dissipate these effects, the Government prays that the defendant be enjoined from continuing to carry out the alleged conspiracy and attempt to monopolize and from using its patents and patent rights to effectuate the alleged conspiracy.

The main thrust of the defense lies in the contention that all the complained-of activities of Singer were lawful and were done to accomplish a lawful purpose. Defendant maintains that they were initiated and carried out solely to insure Singer's ability to lawfully protect the manufacture and sale of its "401" sewing machine in the United States and of its "319" sewing machine outside the United States.

The specific issues presented are: (1) Was there an unlawful conspiracy among the alleged conspirators to restrain or exclude competition in the trade and commerce involved?; (2) Did Singer attempt to monopolize this trade and commerce?; and (3) Were the agreements entered into between the parties or any of their provisions per se violations of Sections 1 or 2 of the Sherman Act?

The Government did not call any witnesses on its case in chief; it called four witnesses on rebuttal; it offered in evidence 210 exhibits, documentary and physical, during the trial. Defendant called ten witnesses on its case in chief and two in rebuttal; it offered 202 documentary and physical exhibits. After consideration of all this evidence, we make the following findings of fact.

II. FINDINGS OF FACT.
A. Description of defendant and of others.

The sole defendant named is The Singer Manufacturing Company (hereinafter Singer), a New Jersey corporation with its principal place of business in this district. Singer manufactures household sewing machines, including machine-carried multi cam zigzag sewing machines, which are particularly involved in this suit. It sells these machines in the United States through a wholly-owned subsidiary, the Singer Sewing Machine Company, and in various foreign countries through independent distributors.

The alleged co-conspirators named in the complaint are:

Fritz Gegauf, A. G., Bernina Nahmaschinen Fabrik (hereinafter Gegauf), a Swiss corporation with its principal place of business in Steckborn, Switzerland. Gegauf manufactures household sewing machines in Switzerland, including automatic zigzag sewing machines, and exports some of these machines to various countries including the United States.

Arnaldo Vigorelli, S. p. A. (hereinafter Vigorelli) is an Italian corporation, with its principal place of business in Pavia, Italy. Vigorelli manufactures household sewing machines in Italy, including automatic zigzag sewing machines, and exports some of these machines to various countries, including the United States.

Although not named as an alleged co-conspirator, there was some evidence presented concerning Messerschmitt, A. G. with whom Singer at times had patent negotiations and dealings. Messerschmitt is a German corporation, engaged in the manufacture and sale of household sewing machines, including zigzag sewing machines.

B. A brief description of household zigzag sewing machines and their operation.

Some sewing machines are designed and sold for use principally by housewives for personal and family sewing needs; other machines are produced to meet the requirements of industrial and commercial use. The straight stitch type of household sewing machine comprises three basic devices, namely, a thread-carrying needle which reciprocates in a vertical direction but does not move transverse to the direction of the work feed; a looptaker which, cooperating with the needle, forms a straight line of stitches; and a mechanism which feeds the work to be stitched between such needle and looptaker. These three devices are driven in synchronism by an electric motor or by an operator using a treadle, handcrank, or similar mechanism. The speed of the machine, the length of the stitches and the direction of the feed may be varied by the operator.

The zigzag stitch machine has all of the features and functions of a straight stitch machine and may be operated as a straight stitch machine. In addition, the needle may be shifted back and forth laterally of the normal direction of the work feed, from zero to maximum, within the field of lateral throw of the needle, from a fixed neutral position of nonvibration in the center of such field of throw, so as to produce stitches that follow a zigzag path. The size and shape of the pattern of the zigzag stitch may be altered by varying the amplitude of the lateral needle movements and the amplitude and/or direction of the work-feeding movements. Mechanism may be provided for fixing a neutral position of nonvibration of the needle at either the center or at either side of the field of the lateral throw of the needle and for controlling the lateral throw of the needle within such field, from zero to maximum, either across a center line through such field or from either side of such field. Mechanism may also be provided, whereby the needle can be laterally vibrated through predetermined...

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3 cases
  • United States v. Johns-Manville Corporation
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Eastern District of Pennsylvania
    • 16 Abril 1964
    ...to monopolize under 15 U.S.C. § 2: Cameron Iron Works v. Edward Valves, Inc., 175 F.Supp. 423 (S.D.Tex. 1959); United States v. Singer Mfg. Co., 205 F.Supp. 394 (S.D.N.Y.1962). The Report of the Attorney General's National Committee to Study the Antitrust Laws (1955) uses this language at p......
  • United States v. Singer Manufacturing Company
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    • 17 Junio 1963
    ...of the Court. This is a direct appeal from the judgment of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, 205 F.Supp. 394, dismissing a civil antitrust action brought by the United States against the Singer Manufacturing Company to prevent and restrain alleged viola......
  • Mannington Mills, Inc. v. Congoleum Industries, Inc.
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    ...v. Krasnov, 143 F.Supp. 184, 199-202 (E.D.Pa.1956), Aff'd, 355 U.S. 5, 78 S.Ct. 34, 2 L.Ed.2d 21 (1957); United States v. Singer Mfg. Co., 205 F.Supp. 394, 430 (S.D.N.Y.1962), Rev'd on other grounds, 374 U.S. 174, 83 S.Ct. 1773, 10 L.Ed.2d 823 (1963) (dictum) ("The Court has clearly condemn......
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