Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Great A. & P. Tea Co. v. Supermarket Equipment Corp. case brief

Great A. & P. Tea Co. v. Supermarket Equipment Corp. case brief summary
340 U.S. 147 (1950)

On certiorari, petitioner, an alleged patent infringer, challenged a judgment of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, which affirmed the district court's holding that three patent claims of respondent patent owner were valid and that they had been infringed.

The owners asserted claims that they had invented a particular type of cashier's counter. The district court held that each element of the device was known to prior art; however, it found that the device was a novel feature constituting a new and useful combination. The district court ruled against the alleged infringer, and the judgment was affirmed by the court of appeals, which regarded the district court's finding of invention as one of fact that was sustained by substantial evidence and held that the finding of invention was not clearly erroneous.


  • On further appeal, the Court stated that the device did not amount to an invention and that the lower courts did not apply the correct standard of invention for a combination patent. 
  • The Court stated that the standard pertaining to combinations was that the mere aggregation of a number of old parts or elements, which, in the aggregation, performed or produced no new or different function or operation than that previously performed or produced, was not a patentable invention. 
  • In reversing the judgment, the Court concluded that the combination at issue only united old elements with no change in the respective functions.


The Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals.

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