CRAMP & SONS CO. V. CURTIS TURBINE CO., 246 U. S. 28 (1918)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Cramp & Sons Co. v. Curtis Turbine Co., 246 U.S. 28 (1918)

Cramp & Sons Ship & Engine Building Company v.

International Curtis Marine Turbine Company

No. 393

Argued January 29, 30, 1918

Decided March 4, 1918

246 U.S. 28


The Act of June 25, 1910, c. 423, 36 Stat. 851, providing, in part, that, when patented inventions are used by the United States without license from the owner or lawful right, the owner may recover reasonable compensation for such use in the Court of Claims, is not to be construed as automatically conferring a general license on the government to use such inventions and as thereby authorizing their use at the will of private parties in the manufacture of things to be furnished under contracts between them and the United States.

Page 246 U. S. 29

Where, therefore, a company entered into a contract with the United States to build certain vessels which was based on specifications, submitted or approved by the Navy Department, covering in detail the structure, engines, etc., but which contract expressly provided for protecting the government against any claims which might arise from the infringement by the contractor of the rights of any patentee, and, in constructing the vessels, installed therein certain patented engines without the consent of the patent owners, held that the Act of June 25, 1910, supra, did not operate to relieve the contractor from liability to account for the damages and profits arising from the infringement.

The purpose of the statute is to give further security to the rights of patentees by permitting suit and recovery of compensation in the Court of Claims in those cases where their inventions are availed of for the benefit of the United States by officials of the government, in dealing with subjects within the scope of their authority, but under circumstances not justifying the implication of contract with the patentees. Aside from exceptional cases where the authority of the United States to take under eminent domain may be said to be exerted in reliance upon this provision for compensation, the act contemplates the possibility of official error or mistake in the invasion of such rights; it does not contemplate the deliberate and wrongful appropriation of such constitutionally protected property by official authority, much less does it intend that mere contractors with the government may make such appropriations without compensation, in the work under their contracts, upon the assumption that the United States ultimately will be liable under the statute for the rights so elected to be taken.

Crozier v. Krupp, 224 U. S. 290, explained and distinguished.

238 F.5d 4 affirmed.

The case is stated in the opinion.

Page 246 U. S. 35

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