Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Patent case law: decisions and implications from 19th Century

WHITTEMORE v. CUTTER (29 F. Cas. 1120 [May 1813]): Experimental use of a patented invention for scientific ["philosophical"] research purposes is exempt from patent infringement - a fair use. WHEATON v. PETERS (33 U.S. 591 [January 1834]) Question: "In what respect does the right of an author differ from that of an individual who has invented a most useful and valuable machine? The result of their labours may be equally beneficial to society, and in their respective spheres they may be alike distinguished for mental vigour." If there isn't a difference, Answer: "It would seem therefore that the existence of a principle [term of protection] which operates so unequally, may well be doubted." Dissent: The "and" of "authors and inventors" is distributive, the subjects distinct in the mind of Congress. JACOBS v. BAKER (74 U.S. 295 [December 1868]): Novel architectural plans could be patentable or copyrightable. COCHRANE v. DEENER (94 U.S. 780 [March 1877]): Process is as patentable as machinery, independent of form of instruments used, if new and useful. MACHINE CO. v. MURPHY (97 U.S. 120 [October 1877]): Two devices doing the same work in the same way with the same results, are the same, even if they differ in name, form or shape. BAKER v. SELDEN (101 U.S. 99 [October 1879]): Methods (of bookkeeping) not copyrightable, but potentially patentable. Artistic methods potentially patentable. TELEPHONE CASES (AMERICAN BELL TELEPHONE) (126 U.S. 1, 533 [March 1888]): An art - a process which is useful, is as patentable as a machine, manufacture, or composition of matter. Descriptions of means in the patent is only necessary to show that the process can be used. BRISTOL v. EQUITABLE LIFE ASSURANCE SOCIETY (5 N.Y.S. 131 [March 1889]): Method of soliciting insurance neither patentable nor copyrightable as idea.

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