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HUNTMAN STABILIZER CORP. v. GMC

August 23, 1943

HUNTMAN STABILIZER CORPORATION
v.
GENERAL MOTORS CORPORATION



The opinion of the court was delivered by: FEE

This is an action for infringement of six United States patents relating to stabilizing shock absorbing apparatus in automobiles. The basic patent, No. 1,971,957, was applied for August 24, 1925, and issued August 28, 1934. By this, there was a disclosure of a combination of hydraulic shock absorbers on each side of an automobile, the connection between the two being by means of tubes. It is specified that the invention involved the transmission of the shock and consequent relative movement of the wheel with respect to the frame on one side, directly to a shock absorber on the opposite side of the car, by which action the relative position of regular suspensions maintaining the axle and frame absorbed or resisted the action on the opposite side. Thus, it is specified the springs and shock absorbers on the opposite sides tend to move in unison, on with the other, and a shock on one wheel tends to constrain the wheel on the other side to move in conformity. While this was stated in specification and claim in language laying down general principles, the specific device of this first application, shown in the drawings and in other portions of the patent, shows that the result was to be accomplished by having the chambers of the usual hydraulic shock absorbers of the recoil check type on one side of the car interconnected with a like shock absorber on the other side. It was claimed that when the vane of one shock absorber is moved, through its connection with the wheel, by the shock received by the latter, the fluid in the chamber of that shock absorber will be driven through the connection to the chamber of the opposite shock absorber. This inflowing fluid will then move the vane on that shock absorber and so produce an action on the wheel on that side, corresponding to the action caused by the shock on the first wheel. The shock will, thus, also be dampened and dissipated.

The second patent in suit, No. 1,971,958, was applied for the same date and was granted also August 28, 1934. The apparatus specifically disclosed is similar to that of the first application, but the claims cover this method of stabilization of automobiles, and not the particular device.

 The proof indicates that this exemplification of the principles of the patent was only one form of the device, and that Huntman, who made all these applications, had, in 1922, experimented also with another form thereof, consisting of a bar which was attached to the shock absorbers on the respective sides.

 Plaintiff pursued his applications through the Patent Office, and, on May 2, 1934, made application for the third patent in suit, No. 1,971,959. Therein, it is specifically claimed that the device shown is an application of the principles of, and another embodiment of, the invention described in the first patents.

 Here, for the first time, a mechanical means of connection between the opposite axles and springs is shown. A bar is attached to the springs on each side and connected by linkage near the axles. Shock absorbers of the snubber type are disclosed attached below, near to the axle, and at the top of the spring, in the usual manner. The same results by the same means are claimed as in the earlier applications.

 The fourth patent in suit, No. 1,971,960, was filed May 8, 1934. This, likewise, is claimed to be a form of application of the general idea of the first patent. Here are disclosed hydraulic shock absorbers of the recoil check type on each side of the car. There is shown a torque bar which is connected on each side directly with the shock absorbers. The shock absorbers on each side are attached to the frame members and the torque bar is journaled in them, so that when the bar turns, the vanes, which are fastened thereto, turn with it, and so transmit force from one side of the car to the other. The stabilizer and hydraulic shock absorbers, and their action in modifying the relative movement between the axle and the body or frame member, and the transfer of shocks from one side to the other, are set out broadly in the single claim in suit.

 All these patents so far mentioned were allowed August 28, 1934.

 The fifth patent, No. 2,089,263, was filed May 14, 1934, but did not issue until August 10, 1937. This patent is substantially the same in all features as No. 1,971,960. However, the torque bar has means whereby it can be easily dismounted so that the shock absorbers can act either as a unit or independently according to whether the cross-bar is detached or not.

 The sixth patent in suit was filed May 1, 1934, and is No. 2,107,183, and issued February 1, 1938. It is claimed to be a continuation of the basic patent, but it is notable that no shock absorbers are shown or mentioned in the claims or specifications. It is simply a supposed improvement on the method of linkage of the torque bar.

 During the pendency of these patent applications, the defendant backed an interference action in the Patent Office from which, according to the stipulation, it subsequently withdrew. The applicant and the plaintiff had considerable correspondence and negotiation with defendant for the purpose of allowing the latter to acquire the rights to these devices after Huntman had filed his first applications, but the negotiations failed. About the month of June, 1933, the defendant made the first drawings for installations similar to the stabilizers here accused. These were completed and the installations made upon the 1934 models of cars which were manufactured during the latter part of the year 1933. During this time, the secretary and legal adviser of plaintiff, who was conducting negotiations with defendant for sale of these interests, was employed by the latter as a member of its legal staff, whereupon his representation of plaintiff ceased. These devices of defendant were known to the plaintiff prior to the applications for any patents, except those relating to the basic patents. For some years thereafter, applicant, and later plaintiff, from time to time gave notice to defendant of intention to bring action, but this step was never taken until May, 1941, when the complaint herein was filed.

 The first questions to be dealt with relate to validity of these patents.

 The Ezell Patent, No. 260,960, July 11, 1882, described an equalizing bar which connected full elliptic springs on opposite sides of a vehicle. The ends of the bar were connected on each side by linkage, which could be adjusted to regulate the play of the springs. It is unquestionably this device which Huntman's bar devices most resemble. But Ezell had no combination which includes shock absorbers. It is true the mechanical ...


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