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U.S. Supreme Court

Deering v. Winona Harvester Works, 155 U.S. 286 (1894)

Deering v. Winona Harvester Works

No. 54

Argued November 5-6, 1894

Decided December 3, 1894

155 U.S. 286


The first claim in letters patent No. 223,812, issued January 27, 1880, to William F. Olin for an improvement in harvesters, describing a swinging elevator, located upon the grain (or ascending) side of the plain belt, pivoted at its lower end and movable at its upper end, is not infringed by a similar device, located upon the stubble side, pivoted at its upper end, and swinging at its lower end.

When an inventor who may be entitled to a broader claim than he makes describes and claims only a part of his invention, he is presumed to have abandoned the residue to the public.

Oral testimony, unsupported by patents or exhibits, tending to show prior use of a patented device is open to grave suspicion.

Unsuccessful and abandoned experiments do not affect the validity of a subsequent patent.

The 20th claim in letters patent No. 272,598, issued February 20, 1883, to John F. Steward for an improvement in grain binders is valid and was infringed by the appellees.

The 21st claim in those letters patent was not infringed by the appellees.

This was a bill in equity for the infringement of letters patent No. 223,812, issued January 27, 1880, to William F. Olin, for an improvement in harvesters, and patent No. 272,598, issued February 20, 1883, to John F. Steward, for an improvement in grain binders. The original bill was founded upon five different patents, but appellant acquiesced in the

Page 155 U. S. 287

decree of the circuit court dismissing his bill as to all but the two patents above named.

In the patent to Olin, for an improvement in harvesting machines, the patentee stated in his specification as follows:

"In that class of harvesting machines where the grain is received upon a carrier platform and elevated over the drive wheel by an elevator and deliverer to the binders or an automatic binder, it is desirable that there shall be no stoppage in the flow of the grain in its passage to its place of delivery; that the butts of the grain shall be carried up parallel, or nearly so, with the heads of the grain, so as to deliver the grain in proper shape for binding purposes, and that the grain shall be delivered to the receiving table so that it can be bound at or near the middle."

"The object of this invention is to provide devices for attaining all of these results, and it consists in interposing a roller between the lower end of the elevator and the inner end of the grain carrier to facilitate elevating the grain and prevent clogging at that point and prevent the grain from being carried down or falling through between the elevator and carrier; in providing a belt or chain at the grain side of the machine for elevating the butts of the grain, supported on a swinging bar, so that it can be adjusted, according to the length of grain being elevated, to deliver the grain so that it can be bound at the middle; in devices for operating and adjusting the elevator for the butts; in the peculiar construction of the cover; in arranging and operating the belt for the butts so that it prevents any clogging by short grain at the heel of the sickle; in arranging the device for elevating the butts so that it will bear against the butts of the grain, and crowd or move the grain back on the elevator toward the center for the purpose of straightening the grain in its passage up the elevator and delivering it so that it can be clasped or bound near the middle to facilitate the ease of binding, and in the several parts and combination of parts hereinafter described as new."

Here follows at great length a description of the device claimed to be novel.

The specification concludes as follows:

Page 155 U. S. 288

"The butts of grain are heavier than the heads, and consequently lag behind unless some means are provided to make them move faster than the heads. In order to elevate the butts even with the heads, the belt or elevator, Q, is so arranged that the teeth, b, will engage with the butts of the grain on the roller, I, and carry them up while the heads are being carried up by the elevator belts, M. The lower pulley, c, is to be so arranged that it will permit the teeth, b, on the elevator, Q, to clear the end of the roller and engage the butts, and this pulley, c, is located as close to the main frame as is possible and permit the operation of the butt elevator, which location of the pulley brings the butt elevator in position to enable it to catch any short grain, which short grain is liable to fall down and be caught by the heel of the sickle and clog the sickle. By locating the lower pulley, c, of the belt, Q at the proper distance above the main frame, A, the teeth, b, on the elevator will come in contact with such short grain and force it forward on to the carrier platform, thus keeping the heel of the sickle clear at this point."

The following drawing exhibits the "swinging elevator" feature of the patent:


Page 155 U. S. 289

The plaintiff claimed an infringement of the first claim of the patent, which reads as follows:

"1. In combination with a harvester elevator, a swinging elevator pivoted at its lower end, and suitable devices for shifting its upper end, whereby swinging elevator forms a means for elevating the butts of the grain and delivering grain of different lengths at the same point, substantially as specified."

In the patent to Steward for improvements in grain binders the patentee stated:

"The object of my invention is to provide means that, combined with an automatic grain binder, shall make it automatically regulate the position of the band on the gavel -- that is, shall automatically place the band upon the gavel in its proper position, relative to the length of the grain, without any aid or attention from the operator, and its nature consists in locating, in such a position as to be influenced by the heads of the incoming grain, or gavel, or bundle, a device to be moved thereby, the said device connected with means for adjusting the relative positions of the said grain and the binding mechanism."

The following drawing exhibits the patented device:


Page 155 U. S. 290

The plaintiff claimed an infringement of the twentieth and twenty-first claims of the Steward patent, which read as follows:

"20. The combination, in a grain binder, of moving butt-adjusting mechanism and the board, d^1, substantially as described."

"21. The combination of the swinging butt adjuster, the arms, d^2, d^3, d^4, and the board, d^1, pivoted to the swinging butt adjuster, substantially as described."

Upon a hearing upon pleadings and proofs, the court below dismissed the bill upon the ground that the Olin patent was not infringed, and that the Steward patent was invalid by reason of a certain device theretofore used, which was held to have anticipated the patent. From this decree plaintiff appealed to this Court. The opinion of the circuit court is reported in 40 F.2d 6.

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