Elec. Fittings Corp. v. Thomas & Betts Co.

3 F.R.D. 256 (D.N.J. 1943)



The rule on summary judgment does not vest in the court the jurisdiction to summarily try the factual issues on the affidavits and depositions of the parties, but vests in the court the limited authority to enter summary judgment only if it clearly appears that "there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." The complete absence of any genuine issue must be apparent and all doubts thereon must be resolved against the moving party.


Defendant patentee entered into an exclusive licensing agreement with defendant licensee. Pursuant to said agreement, the licensee  granted to certain manufacturers a license to manufacture and sell the invention upon terms and conditions prescribed in the license agreement. The license agreement, however, by express provision restricted the sale of the patented device to "purchasers" (distributors and dealers) included by the licensor on a "list of approved purchasers."  Plaintiff brought an action for treble damages against the defendants regarding the unlawful use of a patent. The complaint alleged that the defendants conspired and entered into agreements for conspiracy in the unlawful use of a patent to restrain trade, to establish and maintain a monopoly in the manufacture and sale of electrical fittings, to lessen competition in the manufacture, sale, jobbing and distribution of electrical fittings, and to fix prices in the sale of electrical fittings in violation of anti trust laws. The action is predicated upon the alleged unlawful use of a patent which was presumptively valid during the period of the alleged conspiracy but which has since been declared invalid. Defendants moved for summary judgment.


Was summary judgment proper in this case?




The district court observed that the present record is devoid of any evidence on the principal issue raised by the allegation that the patent was unlawfully used to restrain trade, to lessen competition, and to create a monopoly, on this issue the defendants rest on the license agreement, several provisions of which are ambiguous. The district court ruled that that judgement can only be had upon a trial of the action on the merits.

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