Bantz v. Frantz/Opinion of the Court
We are clearly of opinion that the reissued patent is void.
It is evident on a cursory reading of the specification and claim of the original patent that it was meant to cover a combination of the several contrivances therein described, and not to cover the several elements of the combination as distinct inventions. No claim is made for the several parts of which the furnace is constructed, but for the 'arrangement embracing, for united use in the manner and for the purposes specified, the following features,' &c.
If the claim had been for the several distinct contrivances of which the furnace is composed, as claimed in the reissue, the original patent would not have been granted, because the evidence in the record shows that at least the sixth claim in the reissued patent, for dead-chambers over the arches of the fire-chambers, was distinctly covered by the patent of Moses Thompson, dated April 10, 1855, for an improvement in burning tan-bark, bagasse, sawdust, or other kinds of fuel in a wet state, for the purpose of creating heat to generate steam, &c. This the drawings accompanying the specification of Thompson's patent clearly show.
It is evident, therefore, that if the appellant had, in his application for the original patent, claimed as his own invention all the distinct devices described in the specification, he could not have obtained his patent in its present form. It could have been only on the ground that his claim was for a combination that it was allowed and the patent issued. Prouty v. Draper, 1 Story, 568; Pitts v. Whitman, 2 id. 609; Prouty v. Ruggles, 16 Pet. 336.
If the reissued patent is valid the appellant could maintain an action against the infringer of any one of the separate claims covered by it. Under the original patent, suit could be maintained only against those who employed the combination embracing all the distinct contrivances described in the reissued patent. The reissue is, therefore, broader than the original patent, and is, under the circumstances of this case, void.
The act of July 8, 1870, c. 230 (16 Stat. 198), was in force when the reissue was granted. Section 53 (Rev. Stat., sect. 4916) declares 'that whenever any patent is inoperative or invalid by reason of a defective or insufficient specification, or by reason of the patentee claiming as his own invention or discovery more than he had a right to claim as new, if the error has arisen by inadvertence, accident, or mistake, and without any fraudulent or deceptive intention, the commissioner shall, on the surrender of such patent and the payment of the duty required by law, cause a new patent for the same invention, and in accordance with the corrected specification, to be issued to the patentee.'
In this case the original patent bears date June 22, 1858. The reissue bears date Feb. 6, 1872, more than thirteen years and six months after the date, and less than five months before the expiration, of the original patent. If the specification in the original patent was defective or insufficient in claiming a combination of several devices instead of making a distinct claim for every device which entered into the combination, the fact was instantly discernible, even to an unpractised eye, as soon as the patent was read. Therefore, as said by Mr. Justice Bradley in delivering the opinion of this court in a similar case, Miller v. Brass Company (104 U.S. 350), if any correction was desired it should have been applied for immediately; the right to have the correction made was abandoned and lost by unreasonable delay. That case is apposite and is conclusive of this.
MR. JUSTICE HARLAN did not sit in this case, nor take any part in deciding it.