PEARCE V. MULFORD, 102 U. S. 112 (1880)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Pearce v. Mulford, 102 U.S. 112 (1880)

Pearce v. Mulford

102 U.S. 112


1. To entitle an improvement to protection under the patent laws, it must be the product of the exercise of the inventive faculties, and involve something beyond what is obvious to persons skilled in the art to which it relates.

2. Reissued letters patent No. 5774, granted Feb. 24, 1874, to "Shubael Cottle, assignor to Mulford, Hale, & Cottle," for an improvement in chains and chain links for necklaces, &c., are void, the first claim for want of patentability in the alleged invention and the second for want of novelty.

3. Quaere whether said first claim is not also void for want of novelty.

This is a suit by Lewis J. Mulford, Seth. W. Hale, Shubael Cottle, and Samuel, P. Baker, doing business under the firm

Page 102 U. S. 113

name of Mulford, Hale, & Cottle, against Thomas D. Pearce. The complainants' bill prays for an injunction to restrain his infringement of reissued letters patent No. 5774, granted to the complainants as assignees of Shubael Cottle, Feb. 24, 1874, for an alleged new and useful improvement in chains and chain links for necklaces, &c., upon the surrender of original letters No. 147,045, granted Feb. 3, 1874. The bill also prays for an account of profits and damages. The defendant's answer admits the manufacture and sale of the chains made in the mode described in the letters, but denies the novelty and patentability of the alleged invention.

The specification forming a part of said reissued letters, together with the drawings therein referred to, is as follows:

"Be it known that I, Shubael Cottle, of the City, County, and State of New York, have invented a new and useful improvement in chains for necklaces, &c., and I do hereby declare that the following is a full, clear, and exact description of the same, reference being had to the accompanying drawing, forming a part of this specification, in which --"

"Figure 1 is a side view of a portion of a chain necklace illustrating my invention. Fig. 2 is a view of the same turned one quarter around. Fig. 3 is a cross-section of the same, taken through the line x x, Fig. 1."

"My invention has for its object to furnish an improved chain for necklaces, &c., having links of peculiar construction, which enable all the links to be finished separate, and then put together to form the chain. The invention consists in an ornamental chain whereof the links are connected together by open spiral links B finished before being connected together, the connection being made by springing the finished links into each other in the manner described."

"I will now describe the chain represented in the drawing to illustrate my invention."

"A and B represent the links of the chain. The links A are round and closed, as shown in Fig. 1, and are made and polished or colored separately from the other links. The links B, which constitute the peculiar feature of my invention, are formed of one or more coils of tubing of the proper length, so as to form a double spring link. Into each end of the tube forming the link B is soldered a small shot, as shown in the drawing, which shot gives a finish to the link. The links B may then be colored or polished,

Page 102 U. S. 114

and the chain is formed by springing the links into each other. The links A B may be made the one kind round and the other oval, or both may be made round, or both oval."

"The first construction is preferred, as producing a more elegant chain. Either kind of the links A B may be polished and the other colored, or both may be polished or both colored, but I prefer to polish the closed links and color the open spiral links as producing a more pleasing effect. By this construction the links may be made and finished in quantities, and the chain formed from the finished links by springing them into each other to produce any desired combination of the links of the same or different kinds. Finishing the separate links in this way enables them to be more perfectly polished or colored, and with a greatly diminished expenditure of labor and time, and enables the links to be put together without injuring them in the least, however highly they may be polished or colored."

"Having thus described my invention, what I claim is --"

"1. An ornamental chain for necklaces, &c., formed of alternate closed links A and open spiral links B, substantially as shown and described."

"2. The open spiral link B formed of coils of tubing, substantially as shown and described."



Page 102 U. S. 115

The court below sustained the validity of the letters, enjoined the defendant from infringing them, and awarded damages to the complainants. Pearce thereupon appealed.

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