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Smith v. GOODYEAR DENTAL VULCANITE Co.
ding the teeth and pins in a vulcanizable compound, so that it shall surround them while it is in a soft state, before it is vulcanized, and so that when it has been vulcanized the teeth are firmly and inseparably secured in the vulcanite, and a tight joint is effected between them, the whole constituting but one piece.” It is evident this is much more than employing hard rubber to perform the functions that had been performed by other materials, such as gold, silver, tin, platinum, or gutta percha. A new product was the result, differing from all that had preceded it, not merely in degree of usefulness and excellence, but differing in kind, having new uses and properties. It was capable of being perfectly fitted to the roof and alveolar processes of the mouth. It was easy for the wearer, and favorable for perfect articulation. It was light and elastic, yet sufficiently strong and firm for the purposes of mastication. The teeth, gums, and plate constituting one piece only, there were no crevices between the teeth and their supporters into which food could gather and where it could become offensive, and there could be no such creyices so long as the articles lasted. They were unaffected by any chemical action of the fluids of the mouth. Besides all this, they were very inexpensive as compared with other arrangements of artificial teeth. To us it seems not too much to say that all these peculiarities are sufficient to warrant the conclusion that the device was different in kind or species from all other devices. We cannot resist the conviction that devising and forming such a manufacture by such a process and of such materials was invention. More was needed for it than simply mechanical judgment and good taste. Were it not so, hard rubber would doubtless have been used in the construction of artificial sets of teeth, gums, and plates long before Cummings applied for his patent. To find a material, with a mode of using it, capable of being combined with the teeth in such a manner as to be free from the admitted faults of all other known combinations, had been an object long and earnestly sought. It had been a subject for frequent discussion among dentists and in scientific journals. The properties of vulcanite were well known, but how to make use of them for artificial sets of teeth remained undiscovered and apparently undiscoverable until Cummings revealed the mode. But when revealed its value was soon recognized, and no one seems to have doubted that the resulting manufacture was a new and most valuable invention. The eminent dentists and experts examined in this case uniformly speak of it as such. Not one has ventured to testify that it was not an invention. They speak of it as “ a novel and desirable thing ;” as “ the greatest improvement in dentistry” made in many years, and as an invention which is “a great benefaction to mankind whereby both health and comfort are promoted.” The evidence also shows that it has wrought a revolution in dental practice, and that many thousands of operators are using it in preference to older devices. All this is sufficient, we think, to justify the inference that what Cummings accomplished was more than a substitution of one material for another, - more than the exercise of mechanical judgment and taste, — that it was, in truth, invention. Undoubtedly the results or consequences of a process or manufacture may in some cases be regarded as of importance when the inquiry is whether the process or manufacture exhibits invention, thought, and ingenuity. Vol. IV.]
Smith v. GOODYEAR DENTAL VULCANITE Co.
Webster, on the subject matter of patents, page 30, says: “ The utility of the change, as ascertained by its consequences, is the real practical test of the sufficiency of an invention; and since the one cannot exist without the other, the existence of the one may be presumed on proof of the existence of the other. Where the utility is proved to exist in any degree, a sufficiency of invention to support the patent must be presumed.” We do not say the single fact that a device has gone into general use and has displaced other devices which had previously been employed for analogous uses establishes in all cases that the later device involves a patentable invention. It may, however, always be considered, and when the other facts in the case leave the question in doubt, it is sufficient to turn the scale. .
We have, therefore, considered this branch of the case without particular reference to Hotchkiss v. Greenwood, 11 How. 248. The patent in that case was for an improvement in making door and other knobs for doors, locks, and furniture, and the improvement consisted in making them of clay or porcelain, in the same manner in which knobs of iron, brass, wood, or glass had been previously made. Neither the clay knob nor the described method of attaching it to the shank was novel. The improvement, therefore, was nothing more than the substitution of one material for another in constructing an article. The clay or porcelain door-knob had no properties or functions which other door-knobs made of different materials had not. It was cheaper and perhaps more durable, but it could be applied to no new use, and it remedied no defects which existed in other knobs. Hence it was ruled that the alleged improvement was not a patentable invention. The case does decide that employing one known material in place of another is not invention, if the result be only greater cheapness and durability of the product. But this is all. It does not decide that no use of one material in lieu of another in the formation of a manufacture can, in any case, amount to invention or be the subject of a patent. If such a substitution involves a new mode of construction, or develops new uses and properties of the article formed, it may amount to invention. The substitution may be something more than formal. It may require contrivance, in which case the mode of making it would be patentable, or the result may be the production of an analogous but substantially different manufacture. This was intimated very clearly in the case of Hicks v. Kelsey, 18 Wall. 670, where it was said “the use of one material instead of another in constructing a known machine is, in most cases, so obviously a matter of mere mechanical judgment, and not of invention, that it cannot be called an invention, unless some new and useful result, as increase of efficiency, or a decided saving in the operation, be obtained.” But where there is some such new and useful result, where a machine has acquired new functions and useful properties, it may be patentable as an invention, though the only change made in the machine has been supplanting one of its materials by another. This is true of all combinations, whether they be of materials or processes. In Crane v. Price, 1 Webster's Patent Cases, 393, where the whole invention consisted in the substitution of anthracite for bituminous coal in combination with a hot-air blast for smelting iron ore, a patent for it was sustained. The doctrine asserted was, that if the result of the sub
Smith v. GOODYEAR DENTAL VULCANITE Co.
stitution was a new, a better, or a cheaper article, the introduction of the substituted material into an old process was patentable as an invention. This case has been doubted, but it has not been overruled, and the doubts have arisen from the uncertainty whether any new result was obtained by the use of anthracite. In Kneass v. The Schuylkill Bank, 4 Wasb. C. C. 9, the use of steel plates instead of copper for engraving was held patentable. So has been the flame of gas instead of the flame of oil to finish cloth. These cases rest on the fact that a superior product has been the result of the substitution, — a product that has new capabilities and that performs new functions. So in the present case the use, in the manner described, of hard rubber in lieu of the materials previously used for a plate, produced a manufacture long sought but never before obtained : a set of artificial teeth, light and elastic, easily adapted to the contour of the mouth, flexible, yet firm and strong ; consisting of one piece, with no crevices between the teeth and the plate; impervious to the fluids of the mouth, unaffected by the chemical action to which artificial teeth and plates are subjected when in place, clean and healthy, - peculiarities which distinguish it from everything that had preceded it. These differences, in our opinion, are too many and too great to be ascribed to mere mechanical skill. They may justly be regarded as the results of inventive effort, and as making the manufacture of which they are attributes a novel thing in kind, and consequently patentable as such.
A second objection urged by the defendant against the validity of the complainant's patent is alleged want of novelty of the invention, and a strenuous effort has been made to convince us that, although hard rubber had not been used in the manner described for the production of the manufacture, equivalent materials and processes had been, and that a plate substantially the same as that of Dr. Cummings had been made before his improvement. We are not, however, convinced. The patent itself is primâ facie evidence that the patentee was the first inventor, at least it casts upon him who denies it the burden of sustaining his denial by proof. We do not find such proof in the case. Though the patent was not granted until June 7, 1864, the invention was completed at least as early as April 12, 1855, when the application for a patent was made. Indeed, as we have noticed, a caveat to protect it was filed on the 11th of May, 1852, which clearly foreshadowed the invention. Yet, taking the spring of 1855 as the time when it was completed, we find nothing in the proofs to justify a conclusion that Dr. Cummings was not the first inventor. It would answer no good purpose to review the voluminous evidence supposed to bear upon this branch of the case. We shall refer only to that which is deemed most important, and which has been most pressed upon us in this argument. Of the English patent of Charles Goodyear it is enough to say that, though the provisional specification was filed March 14, 1856, the completed specification was not until the 11th of September following. It was, therefore, on the last-mentioned date that the invention was patented.
The experiments made by George E. Hawes, it must be admitted, closely resembled the process described in the reissued patent to the complainants. He cast in molds sets of teeth on a tin base, in a manner very like that in which the vulcanite plate is formed by the Cummings procSmith v. GOODYEAR DENTAL Vulcanite Co.
ess. But the experiments resulted in nothing practical. Hawes cast sets of teeth for the lower jaw only, the weight of the metal making the plate unfit for the upper. In consequence of the shrinkage of the metal in cooling, a tight joint could not be obtained between the teeth and the base. The sets were, therefore, liable to become offensive in consequence of deposits of food and the secretions of the mouth in the crevices. The shrinkage also prevented a close fitting of the plate to the roof of the mouth, and the tin base was affected by the chemical action of the secretions. In consequence of these and other objections the manufacture was soon abandoned, and it may properly be considered an abandoned experiment. It not only was not the same manufacture as that of Cummings, but it was not suggestive of it; and Dr. Hawes, who cast the tin plates, testifies that the use of vulcanite for dental purposes is the greatest improvement in his profession that he knew of in twenty-five years. He adds “that vulcanite may be used by dentists in many ways which could not be accomplished by tin or platinum." In his opinion, therefore, the cast tin base was not substantially the same thing as the Cummings manufacture. So, also, Dr. Royce, who cast plates of tin for artificial teeth in a manner very similar to that of Dr. Hawes, testifies that the solid tin base was found practically unfit for the purpose, except in rare instances. He made but a few sets, none after 1850, and adopted the vulcanite, agreeing to pay for a license to use it in manufacturing dental plates.
We need go no farther into a consideration of the various devices and publications offered to show that the manufacture patented was known before Cummings invented it. Suffice it to say, that none of them, in our opinion, suggest or exhibit in substance such a manufacture. The defence of want of novelty is, therefore, not sustained.
It is further insisted by the defendant that the reissued patent on which this suit is founded is not a patent for the same invention which was described in the specification of the original patent, and, therefore, that the reissue is unauthorized and void. To sustain this position the defendant must overcome the presumption against him arising from the decision of the commissioner of patents in granting the issue, and this he can do only by showing from a comparison of the original specification with that of the reissue that the former does not substantially describe what is described and claimed in the latter. This must plainly appear before we can be justified in pronouncing the reissued patent void. But this, in our judgment, does not appear. The first specification describes a set of artificial teeth having a hard-rubber plate made by a process substantially the same as that indicated in the later patent. The description of the process is not quite so minute, but it is sufficiently full to be understood and to enable an operator to make the manufacture. Certainly it is not another process, and as its result is the same, it is impossible to hold that the reissued patent is for a different invention from the one protected by the original patent. It is true the specification of the reissue describes also another process not described in the specification of the first, namely, a mode of making the molds, but that is not claimed as a part of the invention.
The remaining defences to the bill rest mainly on the assumption that the new petition presented to the patent office in 1864 cannot be regarded
Smitu v. GOODYEAR Dental VULCANITE Co.
as a continuation of the application made for a patent on the 12th of April, 1855. But this cannot be conceded. The history of the application, as we have given it, forbids such an assumption. No act of Cummings amounted to a withdrawal of his first petition or to an acquiescence in its rejection. It is true, he filed a second petition in 1864, but he accompanied it with substantially the specification that remained in the office, and with the same drawings. It was a mode of procuring another consideration of his rejected claim, and the commissioner regarded it as such. The Act of March 2, 1861, gave him authority thus to regard it. He replied to the application, that his claim was embraced in an application filed by him in 1855, and rejected for want of novelty, admitted that it bad been improperly rejected, and suggested an amendment to make it correspond with his former amended claim.' It is impossible, in view of these facts, to regard the effort to obtain a new patent in 1864 as a new and independent application, disconnected from the application made in 1855. It was but one stage in a continuous effort. In Godfrey v. Eames, 1 Wall. 317, the first application was actually withdrawn and a new petition was presented at the time of the withdrawal, with a different description of the invention ; but as the thing patented under the second might have been engrafted as an amendment of the first, it was ruled that all the proceedings constituted one application. This court said : “ If a party choose to withdraw his application for a patent, and pay the forfeit, intending at the time of such withdrawal to file a new petition, and he accordingly does so, the two petitions are to be considered parts of the same transaction, and both as constituting one continuous application.” We are not aware that filing a second petition for a patent, after the first has been rejected, has ever been regarded as severing the second application from the first, and depriving the applicant of any advantage he would have enjoyed bad the patent been granted without a renewal of the application. The contrary was decided by the circuit court for the Southern District of Ohio, in Bell v. Daniels, 1 Fisher, 372, and in Blandy v. Griffith et al. 3 Fisher, 609. And these decisions are founded in justice and sound reason.
If then, as we think it must be held, the proceeding to obtain the patent was a continuous one from 1855 until it was granted ; if the application of 1855 is not severable from the proceedings of 1864, there is no foundation whatever for the allegation that the invention was abandoned to the public, and that it was in public use or on sale for more than two years before the inventor's application. The first use of it proved, by any other than Dr. Cummings, was in 1859, and there is no evidence that this was with his consent. And the truth respecting his health and pecuniary condition, together with his constant efforts to obtain the necessary means to prosecute his right, rebuts all presumption that he ever abandoned, actually or constructively, either his invention or his application for a patent. That he never intended an abandonment of his invention is perfectly clear, and it was not his fault that granting the patent was so long delayed.
The conclusion of the whole matter is, that the patent is a valid one, and, therefore, that the decree of the circuit court should be affirmed.
The decree of the circuit court is affirmed.