WEIR V. MORDEN, 125 U. S. 98 (1888)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Weir v. Morden, 125 U.S. 98 (1888)

Weir v. Morden

No. 182

Argued February 13, 1888

Decided March 19, 1888

125 U.S. 98


The second claim in reissued letters-patent No. 8914, dated September 30, 1879, to Frederick W. Weir for an improvement in railroad frogs (the original patent being No. 215,548, dated May 20, 1879), whether construed by itself or with reference to the state of the art at the time of the alleged invention, is a claim for a combination of parts, viz.: (1) two center rails B B' joined to form the V-shaped point, (2) the outside diverging or wing rails, (3) the channel irons of a U shape uniting the center rails together, and also to the outside or wing rails, so that the whole shall constitute a frog with the characteristics imparted by the features of this combination, and no invention was required to divide the U iron, shown in patent No. 173,804 issued to William J. Morden, February 22, 1876, into two so as to connect the center rails with the outer rail.

This was a bill in equity to restrain the alleged infringement of reissued letters patent No. 8914, dated September 30, 1879, for an improvement in railroad frogs, the original patent, No. 215,548, dated May 20, 1879, having been issued on an

Page 125 U. S. 99

application filed February 4, 1879, to Frederick C. Weir, the complainant. In his specification, the patentee describes the invention generally as follows:

"My invention relates to the class of frogs made by the bending of the overlapping ends of the rails themselves, and the junction of the same with the central rail constituting the point by rivets or bolts through separating pieces, and my invention consists first in such a formation and connection of the two rails which make up the angular point as that one of the rails extends unbroken and uncut directly across the path of the other, and in itself makes a solid end to the point, with a full-width flange, which is overlapped by the flange of the other rail, and thus a flange of double thickness is afforded at a point where strength is particularly needed, and the cutting away of the flanges (as in the usual custom) is avoided entirely; second, in an improved manner of connecting the two rails of the point together and to channel iron pieces, to which the outer rails are connected."

"One of the objects of this invention is to furnish a firm lateral support upon each side of the V-shaped rails by means of channel irons, which at the same time unite and hold the center rails forming the V to the wing rails firmly, uniting and holding all the parts in their proper relative position."

The drawings accompanying the specification were as follows:

Page 125 U. S. 100


Page 125 U. S. 101

The specification explains the drawings as follows:

"In the accompanying drawings, Fig. 4 is a plan of a frog embodying my improvements. Fig. 5 is a cross-section of the same on line x x. Fig. 3 is a plan of the under side of the frog, showing the continuations of the main point rail with a full-width flange throughout, also showing the riveted extension of the flanges of the channel irons beyond the points. It will not be necessary to describe the devices shown in Figs. 1 and 2, as they are fully described in division B of this reissue. A A' are the outer or wing rails of the frog, and B B' are the two rails which compose the acute angle, or point."

"In place of cutting away both the flanges of the rails B B', so as to make a joint between the two rails midway between the lines of the angle of the frog, as is common now, and, I may say, usually practiced, I continue the flange of the rail B, of full width, intact clear along the junction of the two rails to the point where it strikes the flange of the outer rail, as shown in Fig. 3, which is almost immediately under the point X' of the frog, and I swage up the flange b' of rail B' on one side, as shown in Figs. 5 and 3, so that it lies over the flange of rail B, this flange of rail B' being cut away angularly on the edge to properly meet the line of the web b' of the rail B."

"I connect the point rails, B B', together by rivets, C, which, while they secure these rails together, also secure pieces of channel iron, D, to said point rails, the channel iron making the separating medium between the point rails, B B', and wing rails, A A', and giving a means for attaching said wing rails."

"The adjacent flanges of the channel irons of the point may be extended beyond the point and riveted, as shown in Fig. 3."

"With channel iron, I attach the wing rails in the manner shown in Fig. 5, the outer flanges of the iron being notched at d for the passage, before the outer rails are attached, of the long rivets, C, the bolts, E, which connect the outer rails, being placed between the notches d. "

Page 125 U. S. 102

The claims are as follows:

"1. A frog having one of its point rails extending with a full-width flange along the junction of the two rails, and the flange of the other point rail overlying the flange of the first-mentioned one, substantially as, and for the purpose, specified."

"2. A frog composed substantially of the two center rails, B B', joined to form the V-shaped point, united to outside diverging or wing rails by means of two channel or U irons, D D, one wing of which channel or U iron is shaped to fit the web of the abutting rails combined to form the point of the frog, and upon the other side fitting the web of the wing or diverging rail, respectively, and secured by bolts or rivets passing through the webs of the rails and the sides of the channel bars, substantially as shown."

"3. In combination with the point rails, B B', fitted to each other as described, the channel pieces, D, extending, and bolted or riveted together, beyond the point of the frog and connecting rivets, C, which extend entirely through the two point rails and the channel pieces, substantially as, and for the purpose, specified."

The only claim involved in this suit is the second, no infringement being alleged of either the first or third. Separate answers were filed by the defendants respectively, which were, however, in substance the same. The defenses are that the reissued letters patent are null and void as not being for the same invention as set forth and described in the original letters patent; that the defendants do not infringe, and that the alleged invention of the complainant was not a patentable novelty, in view of the state of the art at the time of the alleged invention, as shown in certain prior letters patent specifically mentioned. The answer of Morden, adopted by the others, also sets out the following:

"And this defendant, further answering, says on information and belief that he is the original and first inventor of a U-shaped plate in combination or connection with a railroad frog, and that said invention was secured to him by said letters patent of the United States No. 173,804 and No. 205,496, and that, by virtue of said letters patent, he has the sole

Page 125 U. S. 103

and exclusive right to said U shape in a railroad frog, and that while the complainant is engaged in the manufacture and sale of railroad frogs, he uses a V-shaped plate so secured to your defendant, as before stated, and in said manufacture and sale has copied from defendant's invention in substantial and material parts secured to defendant by his letters patent aforesaid, and in infringement of the same, and this defendant, in this connection, would state that prior to the filing of complainant's bill, he (the defendant) filed a bill in this honorable court against said complainant for infringement of his said letters patent No. 173,804, and said wrongful acts, and praying relief on account of said wrongful acts by the complainant, which said bill is now pending against him in this court. Some days after this defendant filed his bill as aforesaid, the said complainant filed his bill, seeking thereby, as defendant is advised and states on information and belief, to harass and annoy defendant in his said suit, and to delay accounting to defendant for said wrongful acts of him, the said complainant."

On final hearing, a decree was rendered dismissing the bill for want of equity, to reverse which the present appeal has been taken.

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