Hogg v. Emerson (52 U.S. 587)/Dissent Catron

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Dissenting Opinion

United States Supreme Court

52 U.S. 587

Hogg  v.  Emerson

Mr. Justice CATRON.

To the opinion just delivered I dissent. I think the letters patent are for a single improvement on the steam-engine, and that the schedule has added two distinct inventions in addition; the one on the paddle to a wheel propelling machinery or a vessel of any kind in the water; and the second in applying the power of the shaft to turning a capstan by means of a cogwheel. These two claims are entirely independent of the improvement claimed in the letters patent actually granted; this is for inventing a piston and shaft which turn a wheel without employing a crank. And as this controversy depends on a supposed infringement of the improved paddle (which, in my judgment, is not covered by the letters), I therefore think that the suit cannot be maintained on the face of the letters.

Secondly, if these three distinct improvements had been claimed and granted in the letters, and described in the schedule, then the patent would be void, as I think, because no more than one invention, distinct and disconnected from others, can be granted in the same letters. Such is the construction that has been given to the legislation of Congress at the Patent-Office, and is supposed by me to be the correct one. If three independent inventions can be patented and monopolized together, so any number may be; by this means, the grant may cover many fictitious claims, with some valid ones, which latter will stand protected; so that little or no risk will be run by obtaining a grant for that which is not new; and by this mode of proceeding at the Patent-Office, fictitious claims may cover and assume to monopolize the ordinary implements now in use on the farm and in the workshop, and, yet more than is now the case, harass the public with fictitious and ill-founded claims to make and sell exclusively things in daily and extensive use. Although the claim may be fictitious, still this does not protect the public from harassment, as usually men using cheap implements cannot afford to litigate in the United States courts. It would be far better to allow the claim, unjust as it is, and pay the patentee his fraudulent demand, than incur the expense of a suit, which the patentee or his assignee may well afford to prosecute.

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).