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Aro Mfg. Co. v. Convertible Top Replacement Co.

Supreme Court of the United States

October 13, 17, 1960, Argued ; February 27, 1961, Decided

No. 21

Opinion

 [356]  [*337]  [***594]  [**600]     MR. JUSTICE WHITTAKER delivered the opinion of the Court.

On April 17, 1956, respondent, Convertible Top Replacement Co., Inc., acquired a "Territorial Grant" (coextensive with "the Commonwealth of Massachusetts") of all rights in Letters Patent No. 2,569,724, commonly known as the Mackie-Duluk patent, and 10 days later commenced this action against petitioners, Aro Manufacturing Co., Inc., and several of its officers, to enjoin the alleged infringement and contributory infringement of the patent and for an accounting of profits.

The patent -- one for a "Convertible Folding Top with Automatic Seal at Rear Quarter" -- covers the combination, in an automobile body, of a flexible top fabric, supporting structures, and a mechanism for sealing the fabric against [****4]  the side of the automobile body in order to keep out the rain. Tops embodying the patent have been installed by several automobile manufacturers  [***595]  in various models of convertibles. The components of the patented combination, other than the fabric, normally are usable for the lifetime of the car, but the fabric has a much  [*338]  shorter life. It usually so suffers from wear and tear, or so deteriorates in appearance, as to become "spent," and normally is replaced, after about three years of use. The consequent demand for replacement fabrics has given rise to a substantial industry, in which petitioner, Aro Manufacturing Co., is a national leader. It manufactures and sells replacement fabrics designed to fit the models of convertibles equipped with tops embodying the combination covered by the patent in suit.

After trial without a jury, the court held that the patent was valid, infringed and contributorily infringed by petitioners. It accordingly enjoined them from further manufacture, sale or use of these replacement fabrics, and appointed a master to hear evidence concerning, and to report to the court on, the matter of damages. The Court of Appeals affirmed,  [****5]   270 F.2d 200, and we granted certiorari, 362 U.S. 902.

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365 U.S. 336 *; 81 S. Ct. 599 **; 5 L. Ed. 2d 592 ***; 1961 U.S. LEXIS 1944 ****; 128 U.S.P.Q. (BNA) 354

ARO MANUFACTURING CO., INC., ET AL. v. CONVERTIBLE TOP REPLACEMENT CO., INC.

Prior History:  [****1]  CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FIRST CIRCUIT.

Disposition:  270 F.2d 200, reversed.

CORE TERMS

patent, infringement, replacement, top, fabric, contributory, reconstruction, machine, repair, invention, unpatented, cases, patented combination, combination patent, patentee's, manufacture, purchaser, supplying, patent infringement, courts, band, Hearings, decisions, fastening, monopoly, worn-out, patented invention, constitutes, Duplicator, folding

Patent Law, Claims, Claim Language, Combination Claims, Infringement Actions, Claim Interpretation, General Overview, Business & Corporate Compliance, Infringing Acts, Indirect Infringement, Intent & Knowledge, Repair & Replacement, Offers to Sell & Sales, Use, Utility Patents, Product Patents, Machines, Ownership, Conveyances, Licenses, Exclusive Rights