Blanchard v. Putnam

Court Documents
Dissenting Opinion

United States Supreme Court

75 U.S. 420

Blanchard  v.  Putnam

ERROR to the Circuit Court for the Southern District of Ohio, the case being thus:

The 15th section of the Patent Act enacts, that whenever the defendant relies in his defence on the fact of a previous invention, knowledge, or use of the thing patented, 'he shall state in his notice of special matter, the names and places of residence of those whom he intends to prove to have possessed a prior knowledge of the thing, and where the same had been used,' and if he does not comply with that requirement no such evidence can be received under the general issue.

With this statute in force, Alonzo Blanchard and others, being owners by assignment of a patent for an improvement in bending wood, granted to Thomas Blanchard, December 18th, 1849, reisssued to him November 15th, 1859, and extended for seven years from December 18th, 1863, brought suit at law against Putnam and others for infringement. The defendants pleaded the general issue, but so far as the transcript of the general record showed, gave no notice of any special defence.

On the trial, the plaintiffs gave in evidence the original patent, the reissue, the certificate of renewal and extension, the assignment, and facts tending to prove the alleged infringement, and rested.

The defendants, who were licensees under a patent granted March 11th, 1856, and reissued May 22d, 1862, to one Morris, for an improvement in wood-bending machines, offered in evidence the reissue.

The plaintiff objected to the admission of that evidence, but the court overruling the objection, admitted it, and the plaintiff excepted.

The defendants called as a witness one W. Mitchell, and offered to prove by him, that in A.D. 1858, he saw in use at a factory of one Andrews, in Grand Detour, in the State of Illinois, a machine for bending plough handles, similar to a model then shown to the witness, and asserted by the defendants to be the same in its mode of operation as the plaintiff's patented machine; the defendants' counsel promising thereafter to connect the said evidence with other testimony, showing such a machine to have been in public use anterior to Blanchard's said invention. To 'which evidence,' said the bill of exceptions, 'the plaintiff objected as not competent or proper.' But the court overruled said objection and admitted the evidence. Other testimony was introduced by the defendants tending to prove that the machine described by the witness, or others like it, were in public use at that place before the date of the invention claimed and owned by the plaintiffs.

The court charged the jury at length. It told them that the defences to the action were:

1st. That the Blanchard machine was void for want of novelty.

2d. That the machine constructed under Morris's patent did not infringe.

On the first defence, while stating that it was not the intention of the court to go into an analysis of the testimony on the question of anticipation, the learned judge, nevertheless, enumerated the machines set up as prior inventions, leaving it for the jury to pass on the question of novelty, or the want of it.

The case was now here on exceptions.

Mr. G. M. Lee, by brief, for the plaintiff in error, observed that the machine of the defendants, in appearance, was somewhat unlike that patented by Blanchard, and that the defendants assert that it worked on a different principle from Blanchard's; while the plaintiffs assert it to be the same in principle and mode of operation as Blanchard's, and that it is covered by Blanchard's patent and claim; that the real question was, therefore, what construction should be given to Blanchard's patent; and that there was little else in the case.

The learned counsel then went into an examination of 'what the Blanchard patent and invention was; of its parts and office;' of the 'parts and office of Morris's patent and the defendant's machine;' and having shown, as he assumed, the errors of the charge upon a true view of the case, merely glanced at other errors, of these specifying five; the fourth being thus:

'We claim that William Mitchell's evidence was improperly admitted on the promise of defendant's counsel to afterwards so connect it with other evidence as would make it admissible. There is nothing to show it was ever so connected, and upon its face it was inadmissible.'

After specifying the five errors, the counsel added, towards the conclusion, that it was not necessary to argue the effect of the defendant's evidence showing the existence of prior machines, though really none of them showed any want of novelty in Blanchard; that this question became immaterial, because the jury were not called to pass upon it; that the court blotted out the question of novelty or state of the art by its charge, and in substance ordered the jury to find for defendants, because Blanchard's patent did not cover the stationary form used by defendants as the court held.

Mr. Fisher, contra, stated that the machine of the plaintiffs was what was known in the art as a 'rotating form machine,' and the machine of the defendants what was known in the art as the 'stationary form of machine,' and that the struggle of the parties in the case was upon the question of infringement, and the issue was finally resolved to the single point, whether in view of the state of the art, the plaintiffs' patent could be fairly construed to cover machines for bending wood in which stationary forms were employed.

So far as the reporter perceived, the plaintiff in error nowhere alleged nor alluded to, nor asked a reversal for error in receiving evidence of want of novelty, because proper notice in writing had not been given to the plaintiff as required by the 15th section of the Patent Act, quoted at the beginning of the statement of the case.

Mr. Justice CLIFFORD delivered the opinion of the court.


This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).