Open main menu

Court Documents

United States Supreme Court

51 U.S. 99

Wilson  v.  Sanford

THIS was an appeal from the Circuit Court of the United States for the District of Louisiana.

The appellant had filed his bill in the court below, setting forth a patent to William Woodworth, dated December 27th, 1828, for a planing machine; also an extension, in 1842, of said patent for seven years, granted to William W. Woodworth, administrator of the patentee; an assignment of all right and interest in said extended patent throught the United States (except Vermont) to complainant, Wilson; and a license from Wilson to the defendants to use one machine upon payment of $1400, as follows, viz., $250 in cash, and the remainder in nine, twelve, eighteen, and twenty-four months, for which promissory notes were given, dated 23d April, 1845, one for $150, and four for $250 each.

The license was made an exhibit in the case, which, after setting forth the consideration of $1400 above mentioned, and the promissory notes for part thereof, contained the following provision:-'And if said notes, or either of them, be not punctually paid upon the maturity thereof, then all and singular the rights hereby granted are to revert to the said Wilson, who shall be reinvested in the same manner as if this license had not been made.'

The first two of said notes were not paid when they fell due, payment having been demanded and refused before the filing of the bill. The bill further insisted, that the license was forfeited by the failure to pay the notes, and that the licensor was fully reinvested at law, and in equity, with all his original rights. That the defendants, nevertheless, were using the machine, and thus were infringing the patent. Prayer for an injunction, pendente lite, for an account of profits since the forfeiture of the license, for a perpetual injunction, for a reinvestiture of title in complainant, and for other and further relief.

The defendants demurred to the whole bill, and also (saving their demurrer) answered the whole bill. They admitted all the facts alleged; and averred, on their part, that the contract set forth in the bill had been modified and varied by a new contract, which the complainant had broken, and that the respondent, being in the lawful use of a planing-machine at the expiration of the patent, had the right to use such machine without license, and consequently that the notes were without consideration.

There was a general replication, and the cause was heard first on bill and demurrer, and afterwards (the demurrer having been overruled) on bill, answer, and replication. Whereupon the bill was dismissed, with costs, and an appeal to this court taken.

The cause was argued by Mr. Seward, for the appellant, no counsel appearing for the appellees. As, however, the appeal was dismissed for want of jurisdiction, the argument of Mr. Seward, which was wholly upon the merits, is not inserted.

Mr. Chief Justice TANEY 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).