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U.S. Supreme Court

Cohn v. United States Corset Company, 93 U.S. 366 (1876)

Cohn v. United States Corset Company

93 U.S. 366


1. To defeat a party suing for an infringement of letters patent, it is sufficient to plead and prove that prior to his supposed invention or discovery, the thing patented to him had been patented or adequately described in some printed publication. A sufficiently certain and clear description of the thing patented is required, not of the steps necessarily antecedent to its production.

2. Letters patent No. 137,893, issued April 15, 1873, to Moritz Cohn for an improvement in corsets are invalid, the invention claimed by him having been clearly anticipated and described in the English provisional specification of John Henry Johnson, deposited in the Patent Office Jan. 20, 1854, and officially published in England in that year.

This was a suit for an infringement of the complainant's letters patent, which are as follows:

Page 93 U. S. 367


"To all to whom these presents shall come:"

"Whereas Moritz Cohn, of New York, N.Y., has presented to the Commissioner of Patents a petition praying for the grant of letters patent for an alleged new and useful improvement in corsets, a description of which invention is contained in the specification, of which a copy is hereunto annexed and made a part hereof, and has complied with the various requirements of law in such cases made and provided, and"

"Whereas, upon due examination made, said claimant is adjudged to be justly entitled to a patent under the law,"

"Now therefore these letters patent are to grant unto the said Moritz Cohn, his heirs or assigns, for the term of seventeen years from the fifteenth day of April, 1873, the exclusive right to make, use, and vend the said invention throughout the United States and the territories thereof."

"In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the Patent Office to be affixed, at the City of Washington, this fifteenth day of April in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and seventy-three, and of the Independence of the United States of America the ninety-seventh."



"Acting Secretary of the Interior"


"Commissioner of Patents"

"[L. S.]"


"Improvement in Corsets"

"Specification forming part of letters patent No. 137,893, dated April 15, 1873; application filed Jan. 30, 1873."

"To all whom it may concern:"

"Be it known that I, Moritz Cohn, of New York City, in the State of New York, have invented certain new and useful improvements in corsets, and I do hereby declare that the following is a full and exact description thereof, reference being had to the accompanying drawing making part of this application:"

"Previous to my invention, it has been customary, in the manufacture of corsets, to weave the material with pocket-like openings or passages running through from edge to edge, or all stopped and finished off at a uniform distance from the edge, and adapted to receive the bones, which are inserted to stay the woven fabric, and

Page 93 U. S. 368

which serve as braces to give shape to and support the figure of the wearer. This method of manufacturing the corsets necessarily involves a great deal of hand labor, and consequently expense in stitching up the ends where they are woven with pockets running through from edge to edge to hold the bones in place, or else the upper ends of the bones are necessarily all located at a uniform distance from the edge, resulting in a less perfectly shaped corset than is produced by following out my invention."

"I propose by my invention to overcome the objections just named and produce a corset in which the location or position of the bones endwise shall be predetermined with the accuracy of the Jacquard in the process of weaving the corset stuff or material, while I at the same time effect a great saving of labor and expense and give a more perfect shape. My invention has for its main object, therefore, not only the production of a better article but also a reduction in the cost of manufacture, and, to these ends, my invention consists in having the pocket-like openings or passages into which the bones are put closed up near one end, at that point at which it is designed to have the end of each bone located, as will be hereinafter more fully set forth."

"To enable those skilled in the art to make and perfectly understand my invention, I will proceed to more fully describe it, referring by letters to the accompanying drawing, in which, for the purpose of illustration, I have represented two corsets, one made according to the mode of manufacture heretofore most generally practiced, the other according to my new method."

"It will be seen by reference to Figures 1 and 2, that the bones a are held or secured in place endwise in the pockets b of the corset material C by stitching e, which is done after the insertion of the bone and retains the bone endwise by closing up the passageway or pocket in which it is located. This is in accordance with or illustrates the mode of manufacture originally practiced, and only departed from prior to my invention, as heretofore explained."

"At Figures 3, 4, and 5 is illustrated, in elevation and longitudinal and cross-sections, a corset made according to my improved plan."

"In these figures, A is the woven fabric of the corset, which, in lieu of being made with pocket-like openings or passages running through from edge to edge or up to a uniform distance from the edge, I propose to have woven with pockets or passages which extend from one edge of the fabric toward the other, but stop short

Page 93 U. S. 369

of the latter at such point or locality as is predetermined for the location of the end of each bone, according to the design or shape to be given to the corset, as shown. The fabric is woven with the pockets extending, as seen, from one edge B of the fabric to the points b, c, d, &c., and from these points out to the edge F, the fabric is woven solid or without any passages. f f represent the bones, which are made of the proper length and are inserted from the edge B or at the open ends of the pockets. After their insertion, the bones are pushed 'home' to the bottom of their respective pockets, when the mouths or open ends of the said pockets are closed up by the stitching and binding of the edge B of the corset, and the perfect retention of the bones thus effected."

"It will be understood that by forming the corset as described, with pockets closed at one end, and weaving in such pockets of varying lengths, I am enabled to determine, in the manufacture of the corset fabric, the precise points to which the subsequently inserted bones shall extend, and thus pattern any number of corsets exactly alike, and to the most desirable model."

"Corsets made according to my improved plan, it will be seen, can be made to a perfect and regular pattern, will be more desirable in appearance, and can be produced at less cost than those made according to the mode of manufacture practiced previous to my invention."

"I am aware of, and do not claim, a woven corset with the pockets stopped and finished off at a uniform distance from the edge; I am also aware of, and do not claim, a hand-made corset with pockets of varying lengths stitched on; but what I do claim as new, and desire to secure by letters patent, is:"

"A corset having the pockets for the reception of the bones formed in the weaving, and varying in length relatively to each other, as desired, substantially in the manner and for the purpose set forth."

The defendants, among other defenses, set up that the letters patent granted to the complainant were anticipated by the English provisional specification left by John Henry Johnson, at the Office of the Commissioner of Patents, with his petition, on 20th January, 1854, viz.:

"I., J. H. Johnson, of 47 Lincoln's Inn Fields, in County of Middlesex and of Glasgow, North Britain, gentleman, do hereby declare the nature of said invention for improvements in the manufacture

Page 93 U. S. 370

of stays or corsets, communicated to me by Adolphe George Geresine, of Paris, in Empire of France, manufacturer, to be as follows:"

"This invention relates to the manufacture of what are known as woven corsets, and consists in the employment of the jacquards in the loom, one of which effects the shape or contour of the corset and the other the formation of the double portions of slots for the introduction of the whale bones."

"These slots or double portions are made simultaneously with the single parts of the corset, and, in place of being terminated in a point, they are finished square off and at any required length in the corset, instead of always running the entire length, as is usually the case in woven corsets."

"When the corset is taken from the loom, the whalebones are inserted into these cases and the borders are formed, thus completing the article, which contains all the elegance and graceful contour of sewn corsets made by manual labor."

The court below, upon a final hearing, dismissed the bill, whereupon the complainant appealed to this Court.

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