Webber v. Virginia

Decision Date01 October 1880
Citation26 L.Ed. 565,103 U.S. 344
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

ERROR to the Supreme Court of Appeals for the State of Virginia.

This case comes before this court on a writ of error to the Supreme Court of Appeals of the State of Virginia, and arose in this way: In May, 1880, the plaintiff in error, J. T. Webber, was indicted in the County Court of Henrico County, in that State, for unlawfully selling and offering for sale in that county, to its citizens, certain machines known as Singer sewing-machines, which were manufactured out of the State, without out having first obtained a license for that purpose from the authorities of the county, or having paid the tax imposed by law for that privilege.

The indictment was founded upon the forty-fifth and forty-sixth sections of the revenue law of the State, which are as follows:——

'45. Any person who shall sell, or offer for sale, the manufactured articles or machines of other States or Territories, unless he be the owner thereof and taxed as a merchant, or take orders therefor, on commission or otherwise, shall be deemed to be an agent for the sale of manufactured articles of other States and Territories, and shall not act as such without taking out a license therefor. No such person shall, under his license as such, sell or offer to sell such articles through the agency of another; but a separate license shall be required from any agent or employ e who may sell or offer to sell such articles for another. For any violation of this section, the person offending shall pay a fine of not less than fifty dollars nor more than one hundred dollars for each offence.

'46. The specific license tax upon an agent for the sale of any manufactured article or machine of other States or Territories shall be twenty-five dollars; and this tax shall give to any party licensed under this section the right to sell the same within the county or corporation in which he shall take out his license; and if he shall sell or offer to sell the same in any other of the counties or corporations of this State, he shall pay an additional tax of ten dollars in each of the counties or corporations where he may sell or offer their agents, selling articles manufactured in this State, shall pay the specific license tax imposed by this section.' Acts of Assembly 1875 and 1876, p. 184, c. 162, sects. 45, 46.

To the indictment the accused pleaded 'not guilty;' and on the trial it was proved that he had sold and offered to sell sewing-machines in Henrico County, as charged, but that at the time he was acting as agent or employ e of the Singer Manufacturing Company, a corporation created under the laws of New Jersey; that this company had a place of business in Richmond, Va., where it was licensed as a resident mer- chant, for the year beginning May 1, 1880, and had paid the required license tax, and where it kept a stock of machines for sale; that the machines sold by the accused were the property of the company, and were manufactured by it out of the State, and in accordance with specifications of a patent of the United States, granted in 1879, to one W. C. Hicks, and by him transferred to the company. It also appeared that the accused had not taken out a license to sell the machines in Henrico County, and was not himself taxed as a merchant, and had not taken orders for the machines on commission or otherwise.

On the trial his counsel requested the court to instruct the jury, that if they believed the Singer Manufacturing Company had paid for a general merchant's license for the year beginning May 1, 1880, and received such license, or that the machines sold were constructed according to the specifications of the patent held by the company, and that the accused was acting in the sales made only as its employ e, he was entitled to a verdict of acquittal. The court refused to give these instructions, and, at the request of the attorney for the Commonwealth, instructed the jury, in substance, that if they believed the accused had, at different times within the year, previous to the indictment, sold or offered to sell in Henrico County to its citizens Singer sewing-machines manufactured beyond the State, and at the time he was neither the manufacturer himself nor the owner of them, and was not taxed as a merchant in the county, and had not taken orders therefor on commission or otherwise, and had not obtained a license to sell the same in the county, and had not paid to the proper officer the tax imposed by law for selling the same in that county, they should find him guilty.

The jury found the accused guilty, and he was sentenced to pay a fine of fifty dollars and costs. On appeal to the Circuit Court of the county this judgment was affirmed, and on further appeal to the Supreme Court of Appeals of the State the judgment of the Circuit Court was affirmed. To review the latter judgment the case is brought here on writ of error.

Mr. C. V. Meredith for the plaintiff in error.

Mr. James G. Field, Attorney-General of Virginia, contra.

MR. JUSTICE FIELD, after stating the case, delivered the opinion of the court.

In the county court where the accused was tried, the only defence presented by his instructions was, that he was acting as the agent of the Singer Manufacturing Company, which had a license from the State as a resident merchant in Richmond to sell the machines, and also held a patent of the United States, authorizing it to manufacture and sell them anywhere in the United States. To this defence the answer is obvious. The license, being limited to the city of Richmond, gave no authority to the company to sell the machines elsewhere, and of course gave none to its agent. Besides, the question as to the extent of the territorial operation of the license depended upon the construction given by the Court of Appeals of the State to the statute, and its decision thereon is not open to review by us. And the right conferred by the patent laws of the United States to inventors to sell their inventions and discoveries does not take the tangible property, in which the invention or discovery may be exhibited or carried into effect, from the operation of the tax and license laws of the State. The combination of different materials so as to produce a new and valuable product or result, or to produce a well-known product or result more rapidly or better than...

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147 cases
  • Hunton v. Commonwealth
    • United States
    • Virginia Supreme Court
    • January 16, 1936
    ...themselves? * * * "True it is, that these authorities Welton State of Missouri, 1 Otto, 91 U.S. 275, 23 L.Ed. 347; Webber Virginia, 13 Otto, 103 U.S. 344, 350, 26 L.Ed. 565; Murray Charleston, 90 U.S. 432, 24 L.Ed. 760; and other cases cited by Maury do establish the proposition that a tax ......
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    ... ... A. 184; Adams v. Lumber Co., 84 Miss ... 23; Newport v. Wagner (Ky.), Annotated Cases, 1917A, ... 964; Welton v. Mo., 91 U.S. 275; Webber v ... Va., 103 U.S. 344; Sonneborn Bros. v. Cureton, ... 262 U.S. 516; Atlantic Refining Co. v. Trumbull, 43 F.2d 159 ... We take ... ...
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  • The Patent Office meets the poison pill: why legal methods cannot be patented.
    • United States
    • Harvard Journal of Law & Technology Vol. 20 No. 2, March 2007
    • March 22, 2007
    ...the patent law.... [T]he franchise which the patent grants ... consists altogether in the right to exclude."). (39.) Webber v. Virginia, 103 U.S. 344, 347-48 (40.) See, e.g., Method for Introducing a Powdered Substance into a Nostril, U.S. Patent No. 6,811,543 (filed May 10, 2002); Compact ......
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    ...2011 SUP. CT. REV. 253,263. (8) Id. at 264. (9) See Feldman, Federalism, supra note 1, at 56-72. (10) See, e.g., Webber v. Virginia, 103 U.S. 344, 347-48 (1880) (finding state tax not preempted as applied to the sale of patented products. And in the area of healthcare, a state may directly ......

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