The court accepts, then, the first patents in suit as setting out an invention of which the subsequent patents show only different exemplifications. Therefore, the devices shown by several cited patents, which were disclosed at a later date, given no consideration.
At this point, it may be well to clear the ground. The first patent is valid as to the claims in suit. These are broadly stated and are not limited by the particular cross-tube mechanism therein specified. The second patent, which has the method claims, is concurrent with the first and is valid. Patent No. 1,971,960, as to Claim 6, which is in suit, is valid and sets forth a particular exemplification of the broad claims contained in the first patent. The third patent in suit, No. 1,971,959, is also a different exemplification of the first patent as to Claims 1 and 2, which are in suit. It is valid, but the claims thereof are limited by the prior art to the extent that it forms a direct connection between the snubbing device and the torque bar. The remaining two patents deserve little attention. The first of these, No. 2,089,263, is an ordinary mechanical means for making the torque bar easily dismountable, and the other, No. 2,107,183, is simply an improvement upon linkage.
But it is contended that Huntman and plaintiff have been guilty of laches. This defense divides itself into two parts, laches which affects the interests of the public and that which affects defendant alone. Huntman made application for his first patents within a reasonable time after he perfected the device. The fact that these were not allowed until 1934 should not be held against plaintiff. There was an interference proceeding and the court is unable to tell from the record that the delay was the fault of applicant or plaintiff. So far as the public is concerned, its rights have not been prejudiced by this delay in the issuance of the patents.
Laches which might affect defendant is another thing. At best that is a defense which should be applied upon equitable principles. As far as defendant is concerned, some of its conduct unexplained would justify not only the waiving of expense caused by delay but even the application of punitive measures. The failure to bring suit does not prejudice the public. The contest between a gigantic institution, such as defendant, and Huntman at best is unequal. The defendant, according to the record, failed to follow equitable principles and, therefore, is not entitled to urge the defense of laches.
No vindictive approach should be made, however, to the problem of whether there was infringement.
Huntman was the inventor of a device, therefore, which established a direct physical and functional connection between two shock absorbers on opposite sides of an automobile. Such principles are clearly outlined, broadly claimed and exemplified in various models. The use of these devices was intended to transmit shock from one wheel to the other and there dampen it, and to maintain lateral stabilization on curves.
Defendant, by the familiar method of calling attention to an alleged prototype of its instrumentalities in the prior art, fixes upon the Adex stabilizer. The prime purpose of this rod is to establish lateral stability in an automobile on curves. Attention is called to the fact that the use of such a bar on automobiles, where there were also shock absorbers, appeared prior to Huntman. However, as one of defendant's experts testified, under such circumstances, the absorber did not know where the shock came from, whether from the wheel to which it was connected, or by transmission from the troque rod. This indicates no functional relationship. The Huntman devices establish just such a functional co-ordination.
It is true that generally speaking this maintenance of the lateral equilibrium by the stabilizing bar also did tend to transmit a portion of vertical shock sustained by one wheel to the opposite side. In the event shock absorbers were upon the car, each dampened the recoil of its respective spring in the same manner as if the depression thereof had been caused by force applied to the wheel on that side.
But the salient point of difference is that there was no direct functional relationship between the shock absorbers upon the respective sides. So far as the patents in suit embody that functional relationship, they exemplify invention. As a corollary, so far as defendant's devices show that relationship, the infringement is established.
An attempt will now be made to discover how far infringement has been established.
If attention be directed to the apparatus used by defendant, it will be found that the stabilizer on the Oldsmobile car has hydraulic shock absorbers connected by linkage to the sprung and unsprung parts of the rear assembly. Attached to the horizontal arm of the linkage on each side is one end of a bar which runs transversely across the rear of the car. This physical connection constrains the respective shock absorbers to move in unison and thereby establishes the functional relationship between them which is necessary to infringement.
There was a stipulation relating to the three forms of apparatus used by defendant. That in use on the Oldsmobile is shown therein, while that in use on the Chevrolet and Buick is also explained. The stipulation as to the method of operating throws no sufficient light upon any of these forms of stabilization alone to establish infringement. However, the court has found infringement exists with respect to the Oldsmobile by examination of the drawings and of the bar with the attached shock absorbers.
No differentiation is made by the stipulation nor by other testimony between this form and those used on the other two cars, respectively. However, neither the device on the Buick nor that on the Chevrolet shows a direct physical connection between the shock absorbers.
No suggestion is made in the stipulation that there is any difference in function between the stabilizer on the Oldsmobile and either of the other types. But it is obvious that there is a direct physical connection in the Oldsmobile which appears in neither of the other two. The stabilization rod on the Buick transmits force from one side of the car to the other, but distributes it behind the axle between the sprung side sills of the chassis above and the unsprung strut rods below, while the shock absorbers are located in front of the axle mounted on the unsprung brake backing pad, below and bracketed to the forward part of the side sills of the chassis in front of the springs. A similar arrangement is shown on the Chevrolet.
It is true that this construction is physically parallel to that shown in Huntman Patent No. 1,971,959, but as has been pointed out above, that patent is only valid insofar as it embodies a direct functional relationship between the shock absorbers on the opposite sides of the car. The transmission of force applied to one wheel, to the opposite side of the frame or through the opposite spring is not an infringement.
The court did not have before it a model of either of these devices mounted on a car. Neither the pictures nor the stipulation nor the portions of the device in evidence is sufficient in the light of the supporting testimony to establish a functional connection between the shock absorbers without intervention of some other member. Plaintiff has the burden of proof as to infringement. As to the installations on the Buick and Chevrolet, the burden has not been carried. It is possible that the requisite relationship could be shown by additional proof. It has not been shown here.
Appropriate findings and judgment may be prepared.
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