This fall, I recommended that the Boston Public Library look into scanning the case files (pleadings, evidence, etc) of major case files in copyright law held by the National Archives location for New England, located in Waltham, MA. In collaboration with the Internet Archive they did so, and I highlighted these results in a series of blog posts.
In response to the success of this project I sent the BPL and Archives a list of 19th century patent cases from New England, and they’ve scanned the case files for these as well. The length of these files varies dramatically – some are a few dozen pages long, some are hundreds of pages long. The link on the case name goes to the case file, while the link of the citation goes to the reported decision. It’s really cool to see these case files, both to see how patent litigation was conducted in the nineteenth century, and to see how famous early patent cases came to be decided.
- Lowell v. Lewis, 1 Robb, Pat. Cas. 131, Circuit Court, D. Massachusetts. May Term.1817 (“usefulness” in the IP clause of the Constitution is satisfied so long as the invention is not “frivolous or injurious to the well-being, good policy, or sound morals of society”)
- Richardson v. Noyes, 20 F. Cas. 723 (C.C. D. Mass. 1876) (priority of invention where plaintiff owns the rights to both patents)
- Collender v. Came, 6 F. Cas. 102 (C.C. D. Mass. 1876) (finding a device infringing even where it did not use the exact same mechanism) – more of the casefile here.
- Bowker v. Dows, 3 F. Cas. 1070 (C.C. D. Mass. 1878) (finding liability for sale of noninfringing items where intended for infringing use)
- Wyeth v. Stone, 30 F. Cas. 723 (C.C.D. Mass. 1840) (No. 18,107) (patent was for “abstract principle,” not discrete machine – lots of important stuff in this opinion about claiming under patent law).
- Woodcock v. Parker, 30 F. Cas. 491 (C.C.D. Mass. 1813) (No. 17,971) (patent gives priority, but not to anything more than what was actually invented)
- Whittemore v. Cutter, 29 F. Cas. 1120 (C.C.D. Mass. 1813) (No. 17,600) (making a machine that infringes a patent is infringing)
- Barrett v. Hall, 2 F. Cas. 914 (C.C.D. Mass. 1818) (different inventions require different patents)
- Stone v. Sprague, 23 F. Cas. 161 (C.C.D.R.I. 1840) (limiting vague language to only cover actual machine invented)
- Howe v. Abbott, 12 F. Cas. 656 (C.C.D. Mass. 1842) (allowing case to go to jury, but commenting that appears to be old machinery/process applied in new way, and thus not patentable)
- Bean v. Smallwood, 2 F. Cas. 1142 (C.C.D. Mass. 1843) (same – application of existing machine to new purpose not patentable)
- Safeguard Account Co. v. Wellington, 86 F. 146 (C.C.D. Mass. 1898) (holding that perforating paper is not patentable, but a specific pattern in a blank book can be)
- Norrington v. Merchants’ Nat’l Bank, 25 F. 199 (C.C.D.R.I. 1885) (finding an improvement to a checkbook patentable)