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United States Supreme Court

114 U.S. 104

Thomson  v.  Wooster

The appellee in this case, who was complainant below, filed his bill against the appellants, complaining that they infringed certain letters patent for an improved folding-guide for sewing-machines, granted to one Alexander Douglass, of which the complainant was the assignee. The patent was dated October 5, 1858, was extended for seven years in 1872, and was reissued in December, 1872. The suit was brought on the reissued patent, a copy of which was annexed to the bill, which contained allegations that the invention patented had gone into extensive use, not only on the part of the complainant, but by his licensees; and that many suits had been brought and sustained against infringers. The bill further alleged that the defendants, from the time when the patent was reissued down to the commencement of the suit, wrongfully and without license, made, sold, and used, or caused to be made, sole, and used, on or more folding-guides, each and all containing the said improvement secured to the complainant by the said reissued letters be made, sold, and used, one or more folding-guides, great gain and profits from such use, but to what amount the complainant was ignorant, and prayed a disclosure thereof, and an account of profits, and damages, and a perpetual injunction. The bill of complaint was accompanied with affidavits verifying the principal facts and certain decrees or judgments obtained on the patent against other parties, and Douglass' original application for the patent, made in April, 1856, a copy of which was annexed to the affidavits. These affidavits and documents were exhibited for the purpose of obtaining a preliminary injunction, which was granted on notice.

The defendants appeared to the suit by their solicitor, May 3, 1879, but neglected to file any answer, or to make any defense to the bill, and a rule that the bill be taken pro confesso was entered in regular course June 10, 1879. Thereupon, on the second of August, 1879, after due notice and hearing, the court made a decree to the following effect, viz.: (1) That the letters patent sued on were good and valid in law; (2) that Douglass was the first and original inventor of the invention described and claimed therein; (3) that the defendants had infringed the same by making, using, and vending to others to be used, without right or license, certain folding-guides substantially as described in said letters patent; (4) that the complainant recover of the defendants the profits which they had derived by reason of such infringement by any manufacture, use, or sale, and any and all damages which the complainant had sustained thereby; and it was referred to a master to take and state an account of said profits, and to assess said damages, with directions to the defendants to produce their books and papers and submit to an oral examination if required. It was also decreed that a perpetual injunction issue to restrain the defendants from making, using, or vending any folding-guides made as theretofore used by them, containing any of the inventions desc ibed and claimed in the patent, and from infringing the patent in any way. Under this decree the parties went before the master, and the examination was commenced in October, 1879, in the presence of counsel for both parties, and was continued from time to time until November 3, 1880, when arguments were heard upon the matter, and the case was submitted. On November 12th the report was prepared and submitted to the inspection of counsel. On the 18th motion was made by the defendants' counsel, before the master, to open the proofs and for leave to introduce newly-discovered evidence. This motion was supported by affidavits, but was overruled by the master, and his report was filed December 10, 1880, in which it was found and stated that the defendants had used at various times, from January 18, 1877, to the commencement of the suit, 27 folding-guides infringing the complainant's patent, and had folded 1,217,870 yards of goods by their use, and that during that period there was no means known or used, or open to the public to use, for folding such goods in the same or substantially the same manner, other than folding them by hand, and that the saving in cost to the defendants by using the folding-guides was three cents on each piece of six yards, making the amount of profit which the complainant was entitled to recover, $6,089.35; and that during the same period the complainant depended upon license fees for his compensation for the use of the patented device, and that the amount of such fees constituted his loss or damage for the unauthorized use of his invention; and that, according to the established fees, the defendants would have been liable to pay for the use of the folding-guides used by them during the years 1877, 1878, and 1879, (the period covered by the infringement,) the sum of $1,350, which was the amount of the complainant'sdamages. The evidence taken by the master was filed with his report.

By a supplemental report, filed at the same time, the master stated the fact of the application made to him to open the proofs on the ground of surprise and newly-discovered evidence, (as before stated,) and that after hearing said application upon the affidavits presented, (which were appended to the report,) he was unable to discover any just ground therefor. The defendants did not object to this supplemental report, but on the tenth of January, 1881, they filed exceptions to the principal report, substantially as follows: (1) That, instead of the double guide or folder claimed in the complainant's patent being the only means for folding cloth or strips on each edge during the period of the infringement, (other than that of folding by hand,) the master should have found that such strips could have been folded by means of a single guide or folder, and that the use of such guides was known and open to the public long before 1877, and that such guides were not embraced in the complainant's patent; (2) that the amount of profits found by the master was erroneous, because it appeared that folded strips, such as those used by the defendants, were an article of merchandise, cut and folded by different parties at a charge of 25 cents for 144 yards; (3) that the profits should not have been found greater than the saving made by the use of the double guide as compared with the use of a single guide, or greater than the amount for which the strips could have been cut and folded by persons doing such business; (4) that the damages found were erroneous.

Other exceptions were subsequently filed, but were overruled for being filed out of time.

Before the argument of the exceptions the defendants gave notice of a motion to the court to refer the cause back to the master to take further testimony in reference to the question of profits and damages chargeable against them under the order of reference. In support of this motion further affidavits were presented. The exceptions to the report and the application to refer the cause back to the master were argued t gether. The court denied the motion to refer the cause back, voerruled the exceptions to the report, and made a decree in favor of the complainant for the profits, but disallowed the damages. That decree is now brought here by appeal.

J. C. Clayton and A. Q. Keasbey, for appellants.

[Argument of Counsel from pages 108-109 intentionally omitted]


H. Betts, for appellee.



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).