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U.S. Supreme Court

Continental Paper Bag Co. v. Eastern Paper Bag Co., 210 U.S. 405 (1908)

Continental Paper Bag Company v.

Eastern Paper Bag Company

No. 202

Argued April 15, 1908

Decided June 1, 1908

210 U.S. 405


The previous decisions of this Court are not to be construed as holding that only pioneer patents are entitled to invoke the doctrine of equivalents, but that the range of equivalents depends upon the degree of invention, and infringement of a patent not primary is therefore not averted merely because defendant's machine may be differentiated.

Under § 4888, Rev.Stat., the claims measure the invention, and while the inventor must describe the best mode of applying the principle of his invention, the description does not necessarily measure the invention.

Where both of the lower courts find that complainant did with his machine what had never been done before and that defendant's machine infringed, this Court will not disturb those findings unless they appear to be clearly wrong.

Patents are property, and entitled to the same rights and sanctions as other property.

Page 210 U. S. 406

An inventor receives from a patent the right to exclude others from its use for the time prescribed in the statute, and this right is not dependent on his using the device or affected by his nonuse thereof, and, except in a case where the public interest is involved, the remedy of injunction to prevent infringement of his patent will not be denied merely on the ground of nonuser of the invention.

150 F.7d 1 affirmed.

This is a bill in equity to restrain the infringement of letters patent No. 558,969, issued to William Liddell for an improvement in paper bag machines, for making what are designated in the trade as self-opening square bags. The claims in suit do not include mechanism for making a complete bag, but only mechanism for distending one end of a tucked or bellows-folded paper tube made by other mechanism, and folding it down into a form known in the art as the "diamond fold." This fold is flattened and pasted by other mechanism and forms a square bottom to the bag.

The bill is in the usual form, and alleges infringement of the claims by the Continental Paper Bag Company, hereafter called the Continental Company, and prays for an accounting and an injunction.

The answer interposed the defense of nonjurisdiction of a court of equity, noninfringement of the Liddell patent by defendant (Continental Company), and want of invention.

The allegation of the answer as to the jurisdiction of the court is as follows:

"The defendant says, on information, advice, and belief, that a court of equity has no jurisdiction to grant any prayer of the bill of complaint, even if the said Liddell patent, No. 558,969, were valid, and even if the defendant's paper bag machines were to be held to infringe that patent; because the said patent, No. 558,969, is a mere paper proposition which the complainant has never put into effect or use, and because it is contrary to equity to suppress a useful and established business, like that which the defendant is prosecuting with its paper bag machines at the request of a complainant which simply owns one paper bag machine patent that has never been employed by

Page 210 U. S. 407

that complainant in any way in any paper bag machinery, and because the complainant in this case has a plain, adequate, and complete remedy at law for any infringement which may have been done upon Liddell letters patent, No. 558,969."

The circuit court adjudged the patent valid as to the first, second, and seventh claims thereof; that the Eastern Paper Bag Company was the owner of the letters patent; that Liddell was the original and first inventor of the improvements described in the claims, and that the Continental Company had infringed the same. It was also adjudged that the Eastern Company recover of the Continental Company the profit the latter had made or received by the infringement. An account was ordered and a perpetual injunction decreed. 142 F.4d 9. The decree was affirmed by the circuit court of appeals. 150 F.7d 1. This certiorari was then granted.

Page 210 U. S. 413

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