WILSON V. SANDFORD, 51 U. S. 99 (1850)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Wilson v. Sandford, 51 U.S. 10 How. 99 99 (1850)

Wilson v. Sandford

51 U.S. (10 How.) 99


The seventeenth section of the act of 1536 gives the right of appeal to this Court. when the sum in dispute is below the value of two thousand dollars,

"in all actions, suits, controversies on cases arising under any law of the United States, granting or confirming to inventors the exclusive right to their inventions or discoveries,"

provided the court below shall deem it reasonable to allow the appeal.

But a bill filed on the equity side of the circuit court to set aside an assignments upon the ground that the assignee had not complied with the terms of the contract is not one of these enumerated cases, and the value in dispute being less than two thousand dollars, this Court has no jurisdiction over the case.

The appellant had filed his bill in the court below setting forth a patent to William Woodworth dated December 27, 1828, for a planing machine, also an extension, in 1842, of said patent for seven years, granted to William W. Woodworth, administrator of the patentee, an assignment of all right and interest in said extended patent throughout the United States except Vermont to complainant, Wilson, and a license from Wilson to the defendants to use one machine upon payment

Page 51 U. S. 100

of $1400, as follows, viz., $250 in cash and the remainder in nine, twelve, eighteen, and twenty-four months, for which promissory notes were given, dated 23 April, 1845, one for $150, and four for $250 each.

The license was made an exhibit in the case, which, after setting forth the consideration of $1,400 above mentioned, and the promissory notes for part thereof, contained the following provision:

"And if said notes or either of them be not punctually paid upon the maturity thereof, then all and singular the rights hereby granted are to revert to the said Wilson, who shall be reinvested in the same manner as if this license had not been made."

The first two of said notes were not paid when they fell due, payment having been demanded and refused before the filing of the bill. The bill further insisted that the license was forfeited by the failure to pay the notes, and that the licensor was fully reinvested at law and in equity with all his original rights. That the defendants nevertheless were using the machine, and thus were infringing the patent. Prayer for an injunction pendente lite, for an account of profits since the forfeiture of the license, for a perpetual injunction, for a reinvestiture of title in complainant, and for other and further relief.

The defendants demurred to the whole bill, and also, saving their demurrer, answered the whole bill. They admitted all the facts alleged and averred on their part that the contract set forth in the bill had been modified and varied by a new contract, which the complainant had broken, and that the respondent, being in the lawful use of a planing machine at the expiration of the patent, had the right to use such machine without license, and consequently that the notes were without consideration.

There was a general replication, and the cause was heard first on bill and demurrer, and afterwards the demurrer having been overruled on bill, answer, and replication. Whereupon the bill was dismissed with costs and an appeal to this Court taken.

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