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Law School Case Brief

Lowell v. Lewis - 15 F. Cas. 1018, 1817 U.S. App. LEXIS 169

Rule:

When any person or persons shall allege, that he or they have invented any new and useful art or machine, he or they may, on pursuing the directions of the act, obtain a patent. Neither the oath required by the second section, nor the special matter of defense allowed to be given in evidence by the sixth section of the act, contains any such qualification or reference to general utility, to establish the validity of the patent. Nor is it alluded to in the tenth section as a cause, for which the patent may be vacated. In the court's judgment the argument is utterly without foundation. All that the law requires is that the invention should not be frivolous or injurious to the well-being, good policy, or sound morals of society. The word "useful," therefore, is incorporated into the act in contradistinction to mischievous or immoral.

Facts:

The present action is brought by the plaintiff for a supposed infringement of a patent-right, granted, in 1813, to Mr. Jacob Perkins (from whom the plaintiff claims by assignment) for a new and useful improvement in the construction of pumps. The defendant asserts, in the first place, that the invention is neither new nor useful; and, in the next place, that the pumps used by him are not of the same construction as those of Mr. Perkins, but are of a new invention of a Mr. Baker, under whom the defendant claims by assignment. 

Issue:

Was there an infringement of the plaintiff’s patent-right for a new and useful improvement in the construction of pumps?

Answer:

No

Conclusion:

If the plaintiff is entitled to recover, the patent act gives him treble the actual damages sustained by him; and the rule for damages is, in this case, to allow the plaintiff treble the amount of the profits actually received by the defendant, in consequence of his using the plaintiff's invention. The jury are to find the single damages, and it is the proper duty of the court to treble them in awarding judgment. And let the damages be estimated as high, as they can be, consistently with the rule of law on this subject, if the plaintiff's patent has been violated; that wrong doers may not reap the fruits of the labor and genius of other men. In order to prevail, the plaintiff had to show his machine was a new and useful invention, that his patent application was definite and stated enough information so other persons of competent skill could construct plaintiff's machine, and that a mere change in form could not be deemed a new invention. The jury returned a verdict for the defendant.

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