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U.S. Supreme Court

Office Specialty Mfg. Co. v. Fenton Metallic Mfg. Co., 174 U.S. 492 (1899)

Office Specialty Manufacturing Company v.

Fenton Metallic Manufacturing Company

No. 258

Argued April 20, 1899

Decided May 15, 1899

174 U.S. 492


Every element of the combination described in the first and second claims of letters patent No. 450, 124, issued April 7, 1891, to Horace J. Hoffman for improvements in storage cases for books is found in previous devices, and, limiting the patent to the precise construction shown, none of the defendant's devices can be treated as infringements.

This was a bill in equity filed in the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia by the Fenton Metallic Manufacturing Company against the appellant to recover for the infringement of letters patent No. 450,124, issued April 7, 1891, to Horace J. Hoffman for improvements in storage cases for books.

In the specification, the patentee declares that

"the object of my invention is to facilitate the handling, and prevent the abrasion and injury, of heavy books, etc. It consists essentially,

Page 174 U. S. 493

of the peculiar arrangement of the guiding and supporting rollers, and of the peculiarities in the construction of the case and shelves, hereinafter specifically set forth."

The following drawing of one of the shelves exhibits the peculiar features of the invention. The drawing explains itself so perfectly that no excerpt from the specification is necessary to an understanding of the claims.


The two claims alleged to have been infringed are as follows:

"1. In a storage case for books, etc., the combination of a supporting rack or shelf composed of metallic strips, and having a reentrant bend or recess in its front edge, and rollers journaled in said rack, and projecting above and in front of the same, on each side of said bend or recess, substantially as described."

"2. In a bookshelf, the combination of a supporting frame, a series of horizontal rollers, the front roller in two separated sections, the intermediate part of the frame being carried back to permit the admission of the hand between said roller sections, substantially as described."

The defendant, the Office Specialty Manufacturing Company, was the assignee, through mesne assignments, of Jewell and Yawman, whose application for a patent, filed November 6, 1888, was put in interference in the patent office with the application of Hoffman, filed February 12, 1887, and the interference proceedings on behalf of Jewell and Yawman were

Page 174 U. S. 494

conducted by the parties who subsequently formed the Office Specialty Manufacturing Company. The Examiner of Interferences, the Board of Examiners in Chief, and the Commissioner of Patents successively decided in favor of Hoffman, to whose assignees the letters patent were subsequently issued. During the pendency of the interference, the Hoffman application was divided, as permitted by the rules of the Patent Office, to secure a patent for certain features not involved in the interference.

Upon a hearing on pleadings and proofs, a decree was entered adjudging the patent to be valid and the first and second claims thereof to have been infringed by the defendant, and the case was sent to the auditor to determine and report the profits and damages resulting from the infringement.

After certain proceedings taken with respect to several infringing devices, not necessary to be here set forth, a final decree was entered in favor of the plaintiff which, so far as respects the validity of the patent, was affirmed by the court of appeals, with an allowance for damages, which had been rejected by the Supreme Court, 12 App.D.C. 201, whereupon the defendant appealed to this Court.

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