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LAYNE & BOWLER CORPORATION v. WESTERN WELL WORKS

decided: April 9, 1923.

LAYNE & BOWLER CORPORATION
v.
WESTERN WELL WORKS, INC., ET AL.



CERTIORARI TO THE CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE NINTH CIRCUIT.

Author: Taft

[ 261 U.S. Page 388]

 MR. CHIEF JUSTICE TAFT delivered the opinion of the Court.

This is an ordinary patent case. There was no reason for granting the application for a writ of certiorari except upon the ground that the Circuit Courts of Appeals for the Fifth and the Ninth Circuits had differed in respect to the validity and scope of the patent and that uniformity required a decision from this Court. The arguments and the briefs have aroused further inquiry in the minds of the Court as to whether there was in fact any conflict between the decisions of the two circuit courts of appeals, and whether the writ of certiorari was not improvidently granted.

The Layne patent, now owned by the Layne & Bowler Corporation, the petitioner, was for apparatus for drawing water from deep wells, driven or artesian, and especially for adjusting a pump in them. In such wells, it is essential that the adjustment, the alignment and the lubrication should be effected from the top because the bore of the well is so small that the operator can not descend to the pump. The Layne patent covered many

[ 261 U.S. Page 389]

     different devices for assembling the various parts at the top so that they could be thrust down the well hole and be adjusted in place at the bottom, so that the shaft of the rotary pump should be held in proper alignment as it rotated, so that it should not be clogged with sand and water as the pumping went on, and so that the shaft and the bearings in which it moved, placed at intervals from top to bottom, should be lubricated. To effect these objects the inventor used a casing or cylinder surrounding the shaft, divided them both into sections, united one section to another by a sleeve or screw thread and in these sections pushed the apparatus down the well hole. There was a bearing at each end of each section of the casing in which the shaft was to revolve. Layne assembled with this shaft and casing, wedges and spiders to hold the two in place against the sides of the well hole. The rotary pump was held suspended in alignment by the weight of the casing and was closed from the casing by a packed bushing in which the shaft revolved and which prevented water and sand and other detritus from clogging the shaft and its bearings. The water from the pump was carried to the top by a separate pipe. The lubrication was effected by pouring the oil in at the top of the casing, and allowing it to leak through each bearing to the bottom of the casing whence it was drawn at intervals out of the casing by forcing air through an air vent at the top of the casing. The pump with the rotary shaft was old, the use of sections was old generally though it does not seem to have been applied in this particular field before, and the closed casing or cylinder surrounding the shaft was old. In a prior patent to Crannell for a pump in wells large enough to permit a man to go to the bottom, a rotary shaft with a cylindrical casing closed against the pump is shown.

In practice, Layne did not use packing and bushing but relied on a long sleeve to keep water and sand out of the

[ 261 U.S. Page 390]

     casing. Nor did he ever use the wedges and spiders for alignment.

The three claims sued on in this case were Nos. 9, 13 and 20, as follows:

9. In a well mechanism, the combination with a pump casing of a rotary pump of a jointed pump shaft and a closed casing surrounding the pump shaft from the pump to the top of the well.

13. The combination with a pump and its actuating shaft of a sectional casing therefor, provided at each end of each section with a fixed block with bearings for the shaft, the casing being closed at the top and provided with an air vent.

20. The combination of a well casing, a rotary pump therein, and a line shaft for the pump entirely closed ...


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