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LUDLOW MFG. & SALES CO. v. DOLPHIN JUTE MILLS

June 14, 1943

LUDLOW MANUFACTURING & SALES CO.
v.
DOLPHIN JUTE MILLS, Inc.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: SMITH

This is a suit under the patent laws for the infringement of claims 1 and 6 of Patent No. 1,893,809, issued on the application of Malcolm B. Stone and William P. Williamson, who, prior to the issuance thereof, assigned all right, title and interest therein to the plaintiffs. The invention, in the language of the patent, "relates to the manufacture of yarn from long fibers, such, for example, as bast fibers including jute, hemp and flax, and is concerned more particularly with a novel method for drawing and spinning fibers and apparatus by which this method may be advantageously practiced." (Emphasis by the Court). The claims in issue, however, cover only the "method of making yarn from bast and similar long fibers." This suit is directed to a method admittedly practiced in the mills of the defendant, the essential features of which are inherent in a "sliver drawing mechanism" designed and constructed for its practice, and covered by a patent to Malcolm Hain, No. 2,197,638. The defendant denies infringement and challenges the validity of the claims.

It is difficult to comprehend the nature of the purported invention without some knowledge of the art to which it pertains. The manufacture of yarn from bast fibers, such as jute, hemp, and flax, is a multiple process consisting of three successive operations which are common to both the methods of the prior art, which are hereinafter discussed, and the method of the claims in suit. These operations are identified in the industry as carding, drawing, and spinning. The nomenclature is descriptive of both the operations and the apparatus by which they are performed.The claims of the patent, and particularly the claims in suit, are expressly limited to the final operations, drawing and spinning.

 There were, prior to the introduction of the method of the claims in suit, but two recognized methods of drawing and spinning bast fibers. The one, commonly known as rove spinning, consists of three successive operations: First, drawing, in which the raw material, which has been previously combed and reduced to sliver *fn1" in the carding operation, is subjected to draft, the fibers of the sliver thereby attenuated, the slivers of two independent but synchronous operations doubled, and the doubled sliver compressed and delivered to containers; second, roving, in which the sliver is again subjected to draft, the fibers thereof further attenuated, the attenuated fibers loosely twisted and reduced to rove, *fn2" and the rove wound on bobbins; and third, spinning, in which the fibers of the rove are finally twisted and reduced to yarn. The other, commonly known as gill spinning, although essentially similar to rove spinning, consists of but two successive operations: First, drawing, in which the raw material, which has been previously combed and reduced to sliver in the carding operation, is treated in the manner described; and second, spinning, in which the sliver is again subjected to draft, the fibers thereof further attenuated and the attenuated fibers twisted and reduced to yarn without having been first reduced to rove. The drawing operations of the respective methods are identical and may be carried out in the same apparatus. The former method differs from the latter only in the final operation, spinning. It should be noted that the method of the purported invention has not supplanted the methods of the prior art; it is conceded that the methods of the prior art are still in common use.

 It is obvious that the described operations of the respective methods, as practiced commercially, are the characteristic functions of the elements of the apparatus by which these operations are performed. The apparatus utilized in the operations, although structurally complex, are identical in their basic construction. The drawing frame consists of three elements: A drawing mechanism, which comprises a set of retaining rolls and a set of drawing rolls so arranged, constructed, and operated, as to attenuate the fibers which pass through and between them; a gill bed between the said sets of rolls, which comprises a series of mechanically operated gill bars so arranged, constructed, and operated, as to support and comb the fibers while conveying them from the retaining rolls to the drawing rolls; and, a doubling plate between the drawing rolls and the delivery rolls, which, as the name implies, comprises a fixed surface so constructed as to double the slivers, the products of two independent but synchronous operations. The roving frame is identical in construction except for the doubling plate; there is substituted for this element a flyer which imparts a loose twist to the fibers of the sliver, reducing it to rove. The gill spinning frame is identical in construction with the roving frame, but in the spinning operation the flyer is operated in such a manner and at such a speed as to impart to the fibers a hard twist. The rove spinning frame is identical in construction with the gill spinning frame except for the gill bed; there is substituted for this element a breastplate which is so arranged and constructed as to support and control the fibers of the rove. The drawing mechanism is an essential element of each of the described frames, and in this device the retaining rolls and the drawing rolls are so spaced that the reach exceeds the length of the longest fiber.

 There are intrinsic in each of the methods of the prior art, both of which are generally regarded as efficient, advantages and disadvantages not found in the other. It seems unnecessary, however, to consider any except those which are pertinent; these affect particularly the economy of operation, the desideratum in the jute industry. Rove spinning permits the final attenuation and spinning of the fibers under high draft and at high speed, which contributes to the efficiency of the operation, but it prohibits the handling of the fibers except in small packages, the rove, which impairs the uniformity and quality of the yarn and increases the labor costs. Gill spinning permits the handling of the fibers in large packages, the sliver, which contributes to the efficiency of the operation and improves the uniformity and quality of the yarn, but it prohibits the final attenuation and spinning of the fibers under high draft and high speed, which reduces the rate of production. The principal disadvantage of gill spinning is ascribable to the gill bed.

 It is obvious that when Stone and Williamson entered the field they sought not a new method of drawing and spinning bast fibers but a device or mechanism which would successfully perform all of the functions of the gill bed.Their search led to the prior art and particularly to the patents cited by the defendant, which are hereinafter discussed. These findings are amply supported by the testimony of Malcolm B. Stone, who frankly admitted the resort to the prior art and the experimentation with numerous devices there disclosed. The resultant advance over the prior art, although a tribute to their mechanical ingenuity, will not support their claim to invention.

 The claims to apparatus, although not in issue here, must be considered because they clearly embrace, as the characteristic and peculiar functions of the elements of the apparatus therein defined, the successive steps of the purported method of the claims in issue. The apparatus conceived by Stone and Williamson, to which claims 9 to 13, inclusive, are directed, is defined in claim 10, which is comprehensive and typical, as follows: "In a frame for drawing fibrous products, the combination of a pair of retaining rolls for a single fibrous strand, a pair of drawing rolls for said strand, and a slip control device for said strand between said pairs of rolls, said device comprising a pair of rolls between which said strand passes, the upper roll of said pair being mounted to move freely toward and away from the lower roll in accordance with inequalities in said strand, and both rolls being fluted and having their ribs meshing during operation, the upper roll having its ribs partially cut away between its ends and said lower roll being in fixed bearings and positively driven, said device permitting fibres gripped by said drawing rolls to slip through it, while holding back other fibres." (Emphasis by the Court). The only element of the combination which may be regarded as novel is the "slip control device"; the other elements of the combination are concededly old. The "slip control device" in the combination is a substitute for the gill bed and performs a similar function; it supports the long fibers and retards and controls the vagrant fibers, and thereby prevents "gulping." It should be noted that the apparatus defined in the quoted claim, like the gill frame of the prior art, may be used in either the drawing or spinning operation, or both.

 It is apparent that the successive operations embodied in the method of the claims in issue, 1 and 6, are the characteristic and peculiar functions of the elements of the apparatus depicted in the specifications of the patent and recommended therein as the means by which the method may be practiced. These operations are defined in claim 1, which is typical, as follows: "A method of making yarn from bast and similar long fibres which comprises subjecting sliver to a drawing operation," (the operative function of the drawing mechanism of a drawing frame) treating the drawn sliver of said drawing operation without twisting it to increase its ability to undergo a lengthwise pull without being broken," (the operative function of any of the usual expedients, such as a bellmouthed conductor followed by a pair of pressure delivery rolls, a doubling plate followed by a pair of pressure delivery rolls, or a crimping mechanism) "subjecting the treated sliver to a single final drawing operation reducing it to yarn size," (the operative function of the drawing mechanism of the frame defined in the quoted claim) "an extended length of the sliver being supported and subjected to dragging control without the use of gills, during the said single drawing operation," (the operative function of the "slip control device" of the said frame) "and twisting the product of said single drawing operation and winding it into a yarn package." (Emphasis by the Court).The final operation, which is admittedly old, is common to both the methods of the prior art and the method of the claims in issue.

 It is our firm conviction that the claims in issue do not define a patentable method but define the peculiar and characteristic functions of the elements of the apparatus recommended for its practice, and appropriately illustrated and described in the specifications of the patent. There is no suggestion in either the patent or the evidence that the method may be practiced by any other means. It seems reasonably clear from a reading of the patent in its entirety that the essence of the invention, if any, resides not in the method but in the apparatus, and particularly in the elements thereof defined in claim 10, hereinabove quoted.The successive operations of the purported method, as hereinabove stated, are inherent in the elements of the apparatus as the peculiar and characteristic functions thereof. It necessarily follows that the claims in issue are invalid. Oxford Varnish Corp. v. General Motors Corp., 6 Cir., 120 F.2d 44; Risdon Iron & Locomotive Works v. Medart, 158 U.S. 68, 15 S. Ct. 745, 39 L. Ed. 899; Bauer Bros. Co. v. Bogalusa Paper Co., 5 Cir., 96 F.2d 991; Thordarson Electric Mfg. Co. v. General Transformer Corp., 7 Cir., 93 F.2d 36; Detroit Gasket & Mfg. Co. v. Fitzgerald Mfg. Co., 2 Cir., 89 F.2d 178; Black-Clawson Co. v. Centrifugal Engineering & Pat. Corp., 6 Cir., 83 F.2d 116; Continental Can Co. v. Cameron Can Machinery Co., 7 Cir., 76 F.2d 173; Interstate Folding Box Co. v. Empire Box Corp., 7 Cir., 68 F.2d 500; Smith Engineering Works v. Nordberg Mfg. Co., 7 Cir., 68 F.2d 492; Chisholm-Ryder Co. v. Buck, 4 Cir., 65 F.2d 735; American Lava Co. v. Steward, 6 Cir., 155 F. 731.

 When the claims in issue are read and construed in the light of the prior art, as they must be, the absence of patentable invention seems to be clearly demonstrated. The successive operations of the purported method are inherent in devices of the prior art, several of which were admittedly in common use and others of which were disclosed by patents of the prior art. It is particularly significant here that these devices, and the elements of which they are comprised, are not only adaptable to the said operations, but the said operations are inherent in them as their normal and intended functions. It follows that the claims in issue, since they define the peculiar and characteristic functions of the apparatus recommended for the practice of the purported method, are anticipated by the devices of the prior art in which these functions are inherent. Saranac Automatic Mach. Corp. v. Wirebounds Patents Co., 282 U.S. 704, 51 S. Ct. 232, 75 L. Ed. 634; Goodman v. Paul E. Hawkinson Co., 9 Cir., 120 F.2d 167; Gamble-Skogmo, Inc., v. Paul E. Hawkinson Co., 8 Cir., 98 F.2d 37; Claude Neon Lights, Inc. v. E. Machlett & Son, 2 Cir., 27 F.2d 702; In re Watson, 44 F.2d 868, 18 C.C.P.A., Patents, 712. However, claims which are so drafted as to embrace the functions of earlier apparatus are void, not because they are anticipated, but because they are functional. Carnegie Steel Co. v. Cambria Iron Co., 185 U.S. 403, 423, 424, 425, 22 S. Ct. 698, 46 L. Ed. 968.

 The final step of the purported method comprises two concomitant operations. These operations, as hereinabove stated, are inherent in the elements of the apparatus defined in claims 9 to 13, inclusive, as the peculiar and characteristic functions of the said elements. The first operation, as defined in the quoted claim, consists of "subjecting the treated sliver to a single final drawing operation reducing it to yarn size." This operation, the normal function of the drawing mechanism of a drawing frame, is carried out, according to the patent, in either the drawing frame defined in claims 9 to 13, inclusive, or a drawing frame of similar construction. The second operation, as defined in claim 6, consists of "subjecting the sliver being acted on to slipping control throughout a substantial portion of its length undergoing draft without the use of gills." (The expression of claim 6 is here adopted because it more clearly defines the operation). The stated objects of this operation are the retardation and control of the vagrant fibers and the ...


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