decided: March 11, 1889.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA.
APPEAL FROM THE SUPREME COURT OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA.
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MR. CHIEF JUSTICE FULLER delivered the opinion of the court:
Was a wood pavement "composed of blocks, each side having a single plain surface and one or more of the sides being inclined, and the blocks being so laid on their larger ends as to form wedge-shaped grooves or spaces to receive concrete or other suitable filling," patentable April 5, 1870, in view of the state of the art?
Chambers had, in 1824, described a pavement of pyramidal stones, twelve inches square at the base, eight inches square at the apex, and ten inches high, placed with their larger end downward, and the interstices filled with loose materials insoluble in water.
Lindsay's invention, in 1825, comprised stones made of a wedge-shaped form, laid with their broadest ends downwards, leaving a considerable space between them to be closed with smaller wedge-formed stones, with fine gravel or grout worked between them.
Nicholson's pavement was composed of blocks of wood laid in rows across the street, with spaces obtained by interposing narrow wooden strips between the blocks, to be filled with concrete or other suitable filling.
Cowing disclaimed "a wood pavement composed of wedge-shaped blocks when the blocks are laid alternately on larger and smaller ends, so as to form a continuous surface of wood," but claimed the arrangement of the blocks so as to leave wedge-shaped spaces to receive filling to act as a key to bind the blocks together. But reference to these prior patents clearly shows that the formation of wedge-shaped spaces to receive concrete or other filling by laying blocks with one or more inclined sides with their larger ends downwards, the filling acting as a key, and the use of wooden blocks in that way, were well known at the time of the alleged invention under consideration.
The blocks of the Lindsay patent are of the same shape as those of Cowing, but are of stone, while the latter are of
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wood, but this was nothing more than the substitution of one material for another without involving a new mode of construction, or developing anything substantially new in the resulting pavement. Hotchkiss v. Greenwood, 11 How. 248; Hicks v. Kelsey, 18 Wall. 670; Smith v. Goodyear Dental Vulcanite Co., 93 U.S. 486; Phillips v. Detroit, 111 U.S. 604.
The filling under Lindsay's patent was with small stones, fine gravel, or grout, while Cowing names a filling of earth, gravel, or some other similar substance, but Nicholson used broken stones, gravel and tar, or other like material, being the same filling for the same purpose and with substantially the same result, while the material of the Nicholson block was the same as that of Cowing.
It is argued that gravel and similar substances cannot be forced into the stone blocks of the Chambers and Lindsay patents, and that in ramming gravel between wooden blocks it of necessity indents the blocks, and the filling must adhere much more firmly than would be the case if they were stone. There is nothing said about this by Cowing in his specification, but he is entitled, if this is an advantage directly following from the alleged invention as described, to the benefit of it, whether he perceived it or not. Stow v. Chicago, 104 U.S. 547, 550. The same effect, however, would be obtained in ramming filling between the blocks of any wooden pavement, and the same liability of the filling "to extend laterally into the fibre of the wood and seat itself therein" is found in the Nicholson pavement.
In the Chambers patent the blocks had four inclined sides, which would make the filled space run lengthwise as well as crosswise. In the Cowing patent the crevices run lengthwise "across the direction of the street or road."
As Cowing's combination simply embraces blocks of the same shape and material, and similar filling, applied in substantially the same way and producing substantially the same results as in the prior patents referred to, it cannot be regarded as possessing patentable novelty.
The first claim of patent No. 94,062 covers, as an article of manufacture, "wedge-shaped blocks having the grain running
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parallel to one and oblique to the other of their bevelled sides, and produced substantially in the manner referred to."
The second is "a wooden street pavement constructed substantially as hereinbefore described, of wedged-shaped blocks with the grain running and produced in the manner and for the purposes set forth."
The original application of Ballard was filed June 15, 1869, and rejected by Examiner Spear upon the ground that the claim was essentially the same as that in No. 94,063, which was for a mode of cutting blocks. It was then amended and again rejected, the examiner saying: "It is admitted that there is no difference between the blocks of applicant and those of Miller and Mason in configuration, nor is any difference claimed of functions. These blocks and those of the patent referred to, once laid, would be indistinguishable, serving, under the same conditions, precisely the same purposes and wearing equally as long. The difference lies in the mode of cutting, by which not a different block is produced, but the same block is cut with a minimum of waste of material." From this decision an appeal was taken to the examiners in chief, who affirmed the ruling, holding that "the trouble with the present application appears to be that the specification and claim merely set forth and embrace a paving block and the use thereof, having a certain form and being so cut that the grain will run in certain angles with the sides, or parallel thereto, and without any reference to the mode and manner of manufacturing. Blocks having all the peculiarities set forth may be manufactured without resorting to the method by which it seems the ones described in the application were made; and it does not follow, therefore, that the block described and claimed is the new article of manufacture produced by the new invention, nor is it at all material whether the grain runs as set forth or the blocks have the precise form described. Therefore these peculiarities are not the patentable features of the invention; they merely result from the invention."
The application was then renewed by Ballard and Waddell with the result before us, the it is plain that the patent was granted for novelty in the method of making the block and
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not in the block itself, nor in a wooden street pavement so constructed. It is not denied that the Ballard block is identical in shape with those set forth in the Cowing, Chambers, Lindsay and Miller and Mason patents, but it is claimed that a difference exists between it and that of Miller and Mason in the arrangement of the grain, namely, running parallel with one and oblique to the other of its bevelled sides.
We can discover nothing materially different in the practical result of having the grain run in this way, and no material difference is disclosed by the evidence.
The specification asserts that the gravel in the filling is not so liable to jam and leave the lower portion of the space loosely or entirely unfilled, where the blocks have one perfectly smooth side, and that "only one corner of the base is at all likely to become broken off by transportation and rough handling, whereas in the ordinary block both corners are liable to such accidents;" but, as appears from the evidence, "if the blocks are cut with the grain in the manner described in said patent, although one side is not so likely to break off as the other, yet the side that has the grain oblique to it is twice as likely to be broken off as the blocks made in the ordinary way, that is, with the grain vertical," and "the effect of the smooth side of one block, if there were such an alleged advantage in said side, would be fully recompensed by the additional roughness of the other side;" and it would seem that the durability of the block is less where the grain is inclined than where it is vertical. It is fully shown in an elaborate report upon wood paving, quoted from in the evidence, and which, it is testified, agrees with general experience, that vertical fibre blocks have far greater power of resistance than blocks with fibres horizontal, and with fibres at various degrees of inclination.
The manner of laying the blocks is substantially the same as in prior pavements.
The process of making the block is given in patent 94,063, the claim of which is "the herein-described method of cutting blocks for wooden pavement, so as to form by two cuts, or one cut and one splitting, two finished blocks with top and bottom level, or in parallel planes, and the sides bevelled, one side being
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inclined with the fibre, and without waste of material, substantially as set forth."
From what we have said it will be perceived that this claim and the first claim of patent No. 94,062 must be considered together. The manner of producing these blocks is described as cutting them from lumber by means of guides so as to cut the blocks of certain bevels, by which a block is produced having two of its sides inclined and with the grain running parallel to one and oblique to the other of the bevelled sides; but the essential features of the apparatus described in this patent appear in many of the defendant's exhibits. Instead of having table parallel with the shaft of the saw or at right angles with the saw itself, the patent in question uses a rest or guide in presenting the material to the saws, but the use of such guides is shown in Holtzapffel's "Turning and Mechanical Manipulation," and Crosby's patent and others.
The prior existence of the method of cutting blocks without waste by severing a large block by a cross-cut from a long stick and then dividing that block into two similar blocks by a splitting cut is satisfactorily established, as also the same result reached in the same way in the treatment of stone. In the case of the Ballard block, the splitting cut is made in a direction parallel with the grain; but that is because the object of having the grain run in a particular way controls the action of the mechanic, who makes the cut as he desires the fibre to run.
Complainant's expert admits that the patentee in the McBird patent, by the first cut he makes, produces a block of rhomboidal form, and, by a second oblique cut, divides his block into two equal wedge-shaped blocks, produced without waste of material; and the difference he points out between that and the Ballard and Waddell patent is, so far as the cutting operation is concerned, that in the former the cut which divides the rhomboid into two wedge-shaped blocks is made across the grain, while in the latter it is made in the general direction of the grain.
To cut the block so as to get the grain in a particular way, and so as to avoid waste, requires simple mechanical skill, without involving invention.
The result is that none of these claims can be sustained, and the decree of the court below is
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