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U.S. Supreme Court

Western Elec. Mfg. Co. v. Ansonia Brass & Copper Co., 114 U.S. 447 (1885)

Western Electric Manufacturing Company v. Ansonia Brass and Copper Company

Argued April 2, 1885

Decided April 20, 1885

114 U.S. 447


The invention claimed in reissued patent No. 6,954 granted February 29, 1876, to Joseph Olmstead, assignor by mesne assignments to the appellants, was substantially anticipated by the invention described in letters patent in Great Britain granted to the Earl of Dundonald July 22, 1852, and also by letters patent granted there to Felig M. Baudouin, April 3, 1857.

A claim in a patent for a process does not cover a condition in the material used in the process which is not referred to and described in the specification and claim, within the requirements of Rev.Stat. § 4888.

Reissued patent No. 6,954 for a process in insulating telegraph wires being void, it follows that reissued patent No. 6,955 for the product of the process is also void.

The case was a suit in equity, brought by the appellant, the Western Electric Manufacturing Company, against the Ansonia Brass and Copper Company to restrain the infringement of two reissued letters patent, numbered 6,954 and 6,955 respectively, granted to the appellant as the assignee of Joseph Olmstead, both dated February 29, 1876, for improvements in

Page 114 U. S. 448

insulating telegraph wires. The reissues are divisions of original letters patent No. 129,858, dated July 23, 1872. The descriptive specifications of the two patents were identical. They differed only in the claims, the first being for a process, and the second for the product of the process.

The specification of both patents, after stating that Olmstead had invented a new and useful improvement in insulating telegraph wires, proceeded as follows:

"The method of insulating now in use consists in braiding over the wires a fibrous covering, after which it is dipped in wax, for the purpose of filling and closing its pores, and, after a subsequent scraping to remove the surplus wax, it is ready for use. This method is, however, objectionable inasmuch as it leaves the covering in a very rough and soft condition, and fails to secure perfect insulation."

"In my improved method, after the wire has received its coating, I dip it in paraffine or wax, after which, instead of scraping off the surplus coating, I pass the whole through a suitable machine which compresses the covering and forces the paraffine or wax into the pores and secures perfect insulation. By so compressing, the covering the paraffine or wax is forced into the pores, and the surface becomes and appears polished. Wire insulated in this manner is entirely impervious to the atmosphere, of greater durability, and less cumbersome than any heretofore made."

The claim of the process patent No. 6,954 was as follows:

"The method of insulating telegraph wire by first filling the pores of the covering and subsequently compressing this covering, and thereby polishing its surface, substantially as described."

The claim of the product patent No. 6,955 was "an insulated telegraph wire, the covering of which has its pores filled and its surface polished, substantially as described."

The defendant denied in its answer that Olmstead was the first and original inventor of the improvement described in the patents or of any substantial or material part thereof or that the same was patentable or the subject matter of invention, and

Page 114 U. S. 449

that the alleged invention had been previously patented by letters patent of Great Britain, granted to Thomas Earl of Dundonald, dated July 22, 1851, and by letters patent of Great Britain, granted to Felix M. Baudouin, dated April 3, 1857. The defendant also denied infringement.

The circuit court, on final hearing, dismissed the bill, and the plaintiff appealed.

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