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U.S. Supreme Court

United States v. Dubilier Condenser Corp., 289 U.S. 178 (1933)

United States v. Dubilier Condenser Corp.

Nos. 316, 317, and 318

Argued January 13, 16, 1933

Decided April 10, 1933

289 U.S. 178


1. One who is employed to invent is bound by contractual obligation to assign the patent for the invention to his employer. P. 289 U. S. 187.

Page 289 U. S. 179

2. Where the contract of employment does not contemplate invention, but an invention is made by the employee during the hour of his employment and with the aid of the employer's materials and appliances, the right of patent belongs to the employee, and the employer's interest in the invention is limited to a nonexclusive right to practice a "shop right." P. 289 U. S. 188.

3. These principles are settled as respects private employment, and they apply also as between the United States and its employees. P. 289 U. S. 189.

4. No servant of the United States has by statute been disqualified from applying for and receiving a patent for his invention, save officers and employees of the Patent Office during the period for which they hold their appointment. P. 289 U. S. 189.

5. Scientists employed by the United States in the Radio Section of the Electric Division of the Bureau of Standards, while assigned to research concerning use of radio in airplanes, made discoveries concerning the use of alternating current in broadcast receiving sets -- a subject not within their assignment and not being investigated by the Section -- and, having with the consent of their superior perfected their inventions in the Bureau laboratory, obtained patents. Held, upon the facts, that there was no employment to invent and no basis for implying a contract to assign to the United States, or a trust in its favor, save as to shop rights. P. 289 U. S. 193.

6. The proposition that anyone who is employed by the United States for scientific research should be forbidden to obtain a patent for what he invents is at variance with the policy heretofore evidenced by Congress. P. 289 U. S. 199.

7. If public policy demands such a prohibition, Congress, and not the courts, must declare it. Pp. 289 U. S. 197, 289 U. S. 208.

59 F.2d 387 affirmed.

Certiorari, 287 U.S. 588, to review the affirmance of decrees dismissing the bills in three suits brought by the United States to compel the exclusive licensee under certain patents to assign all its right, title, and interest in them to the United States, and for an accounting.

Page 289 U. S. 182

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