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October 16, 1933

HOFMANN et al.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: AVIS

The bill of complaint in this cause alleges that the plaintiff is the owner of a certain patent, No. 1,713,628, issued to Richard E. Schletter on May 21, 1929, covering an attachment for flat knitting machines for the making of hosiery of full-fashioned type, especially adapted for making clocks, reinforcing, split seam work, splicing, etc.; that defendants have infringed the patent by the use of the appliances patented in an attachment sold and marketed by them; and prays for relief by injunction and accounting.

The answer admits the issuance of the patent, but denies that Schletter was the inventor of the improvements in the attachments for flat knitting machines, described in the letters patent and the other claims set forth in the bill of complaint, and affirmatively avers that Schletter had abandoned his invention, and did not assert any claim thereto until after others had independently made large investments in connection with the manufacture and sale to the public in the United States of attachments embodying his claimed invention; that plaintiff was and is barred by his abandonment of a prior application; that Schletter was not the inventor, and was barred by anticipation in sundry other patents, and by prior use by others. The answer further sets up various patents issued in the United States, Great Britain, Germany, and France, various publications and users, claiming them to be a complete bar to plaintiff's right to an exclusive use of the attachment.

 Based on these various allegations of fact, the answer claims that because of the state of the art as known at the time and prior thereto, the alleged invention or discovery did not involve invention, but exhibited nothing more than the exercise of mere mechanical skill.

 At the opening of the trial, the bill of complaint against Alfred Hofmann, as an individual, was dismissed on motion of defendant's counsel, and with the consent of counsel for plaintiff.

 The claimed invention is a machine which can be attached to, or built with, a flat or straight hosiery knitting machine, used for the purpose of making full-fashioned stockings.

 The basic knitting machine is constructed under the original "Cotton" invention, with such changes and improvements as have been made from time to time. The knitting is accomplished by a battery of straight needles operating with sinkers, dividers, etc., and by various forms of mechanism provided with power through arms, gears, slur cocks, carrier bars, shafts, rollers, clutches, cams, etc., and actuated by power transmitted from what is known as the cam shaft. Attached to these machines is a mechanical contrivance, called a narrowing device, by which the full-fashioned stocking is made.

 A full description of the operation of this full-fashioned knitting machine, as detailed by the witnesses, does not appear to the court to be necessary in the decision of the question at issue. It is sufficient to say that the operations of the machine are complicated, and by co-operation of all of its parts turns out a perfect product.

 For the purpose of laying the thread for contact with the needles and attachments required to tie the knots and do the knitting, longitudinal reciprocating yarn guide carrier bars are arranged on the machines, their movements in both directions controlled by stops, so that the thread will be laid and knitted the required width of the material to be produced. The width of the main material is controlled by stops arranged at either end of the plurality of knitting sections, in which form the machines are usually assembled in practical operation. For the purpose of narrowing the fabric as desired, and prior to plaintiff's claimed invention, reversely threaded spindles were attached to each end of the plurality of machines, which operated by a pattern chain and buttons connected therewith, caused the stops to move inward toward each other, and in conjunction with a device which removed the threads from the outer needles, replacing them on the immediately adjoining needles, accomplished the narrowing and thus formed the full-fashioned stocking, made to conform to the natural shape of the leg.

 As new styles of hosiery were demanded by the purchasing public, the art advanced to meet the demand, and new attachments were added to accomplish split seam work, selvage reinforcement, splicing, onyx and pointed heels, shadow clock work, etc.

 The attachments were so contrived as to lay threads from the yarn carrier bars, on the needles, with a stroke less than those carrying threads for the main material, and in co-operation with the main thread carriers, to accomplish the splicing, clock work, reinforcing, etc.

 These various attachments, invented and used prior to the attachment represented by the patent in suit, have been demonstrated and described by sundry witnesses.

 By manual manipulation of some character, they produced nearly or fully the same result as can be produced by plaintiff's attachment.

 The plaintiff's patent describes a claimed new development, which consists of a connected reversely threaded screw spindle, which may be located on a knitting machine individually or at some point in a plurality of machines, with nuts mounted thereon, being stationed one on the right side and one on the left side of the screw, and spaced apart at such distance as may be desired; upon the rotation of the spindle in one direction, the nuts are brought closer together, and when operated in the other direction the distance between the nuts is widened. Attached to the nuts are tiltable stops, intended to limit the stroke of certain of the yarn carrier bars, by means of certain stationary lugs fastened to the bars, thus laying the additional thread on the needles at such point within the length or width of the material being knitted as may be desired, and producing splicing, reinforcing, clocks, or other insets.

 In addition, the patent contemplated the automatic control of movement of the reversely threaded spindle, so that by means of levers, pattern chains, pawls and ratchets, mechanically connected with the main cam shaft, the spindle may remain stationary or be revolved in either direction, causing the ...

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