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U.S. Supreme Court

Hollister v. Benedict & Burnham Mfg. Co., 113 U.S. 59 (1885)

Hollister v. Benedict and Burnham Manufacturing Company

Argued November 11-12, 1884

Decided January 5, 1885

113 U.S. 59


Novelty and increased utility in an improvement upon previous devices do not necessarily make it an invention.

A device which displays only the expected skill of the maker's calling, and involves only the exercise of ordinary faculties of reasoning upon materials supplied by special knowledge and facility of manipulation resulting from habitual intelligent practice, is in no sense a creative work of inventive

Page 113 U. S. 60

faculty, such as the Constitution and the patent laws aim to encourage and reward.

The third claim in the specification and claims of the patent issued to Edward A. Locke, August 3, 1869, for an improvement in revenue stamps, although new and useful, is not such an improvement upon the devices previously in use, as entitles it to be regarded as an invention.

While it would seem clear that a suit may be maintained in the Court of Claims against the United States to recover for the use of a patented invention by an officer of the government for its benefit, if the right of the patentee is acknowledged; semble that it may even be maintained when the exclusive right of the patentee is contested.

This was a bill in equity brought by the assignees of a patent granted to Edward A. Locke, August 3, 1869, for an "improvement of a revenue stamp for barrels, and identifying marks, stamps, or labels, for revenue purposes," against a collector of internal revenue. The bill alleged infringements by the defendant, and prayed for a temporary injunction, a perpetual injunction, an accounting, and damages. The answer set up the official position of the defendant in the use of the stamps alleged to be infringements; denied that he had infringed; denied that the alleged invention was new or useful, or that it was patentable, and averred that so much of it as related to the cancellation, affixing, and removal of stamps, and identification of packages was not patentable.

The court below sustained the patent, and found that the defendant had infringed it, and decreed a perpetual injunction, and an accounting, and the payment of what might be found due as profits. From this decree the collector appealed.

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