Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Hotchkiss v. Greenwood case brief

Hotchkiss v. Greenwood case brief summary
52 U.S. 248 (1851)


CASE SYNOPSIS
Plaintiffs brought a writ of error to a judgment from the Circuit Court of the United States for the District of Ohio, which found for defendant in an action alleging an infringement of plaintiff's patent right for a new and useful improvement in making clay and porcelain door and other knobs. Plaintiffs contended that it was erroneous to give a particular jury instruction.

DISCUSSION

  • The Supreme Court affirmed a judgment finding for defendant after refusing to give a particular jury instruction as requested by plaintiffs in an action alleging infringement of plaintiff's patent right for a new and useful improvement in making door and other knobs of all kinds of clay used in pottery, and of porcelain. 
  • The Court held that the instruction was proper and the patent was invalid. 
  • The Court found that there was no novelty. 
  • The only thing new was the substitution of a knob of a different material. 
  • No new mechanical device or contrivance resulted. 
  • The improvement consisted in the superiority of the material over that previously employed in making the knob; however, this of itself could not be the subject of a patent. 
  • The Court noted that the application of an old machine to some new purpose is not the foundation of a patent; but an improvement of an old machine, in order to apply it to the same purposes more advantageously, is the subject of a patent. 
  • The difference was formal and lacking of ingenuity or invention. 
  • The improvement was the work of the skillful mechanic, not that of the inventor. 
  • Therefore, there was no patent infringement.
CONCLUSION
The judgment, which held for defendant and refused to give a particular jury instruction requested by plaintiffs in an action alleging patent infringement, was affirmed because the patent was invalid, as there was no novelty, no new mechanical device or contrivance resulted, the improvement only consisted of different material, and the difference was destitute of ingenuity or invention.

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