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Barry v. Studebaker Corp.

May 8, 1940


Appeal from the District Court of the United States for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division; James H. Wilkerson, Judge.

Author: Treanor

Before MAJOR, TREANOR, and KERNER, Circuit Judges.

TREANOR, Circuit Judge.

Plaintiffs-appellants have appealed from a decree dismissing, for want of equity, their bill alleging infringement of letters patent and praying for damages, accounting, and injunctive relief.

Plaintiffs are the owners of Barry pattent No. 1,422,167, which relates to a claimed improvement in wheels intended primarily for use in the automotive industry. The patent treats the wheel as a combination of three structural untis described by plaintiffs as follows: "The hub structure, by which the wheel is rotatably supported upon an appropriate axle; the felly or rim structure, which cears a tire; and the intervening supporting or 'spoke body structure', as the patent calls it." The patent claims alleged to be infringed by defendants' accused device relate only to the "spoke body structure" of the wheel.

The "spoke body structure" is composed of two telescoped complementary members, each of which is formed from a sheet metal blank by two operation: (1) a cutting process which forms each metal blank into a series of radial spokes extending from the central, or hub portion, of the spoke body structure; and (2) a drawing operation which forms a flange around the outermost edge of each of the two complementary plate members, such flange being continuous and "somewhat undulatory in its progress around the body drawn substantially at right angles and integrally from the respective body plate * * * as the case may be." The undulating flange on one of the complementary members is so drawn that the body size, including the spoke bar width, etc., is sufficiently smaller than the other complementary blank to enable the two sides of the spoke body ot be telescopically shrunk or forced together, with one of the undulating flanges directly under or within the other. As indicated by the foregoing description the flange follows the outer edge of each complementary side of the spoke structure without interruption, so that the top or end of each hollow boxlike spoke is covered by the telescoped flanges.

The purpose of plaintiffs' patent was to provide a metal spoke body structure which would be relatively light in weight and also strong and durable. Plaintiffs' device has not been used commercially.

Defendants' accused device is a one piece spoke body structure formed from a single metal blank. It has been put to practical use and has been commercially successful. Defendants' device has fourteen short spoke-like stubs emanating from a main central body. A wheel with defendants' form of spoke body structure is known as a single conical disk wheel. The central disk and the hub structure area allowed for therein occupy the major portion of the area inclosed by the rim structure. Plaintiffs' device, as illustrated, has six long spokes emanating from the central portion and is known as a spoke-type wheel, the spoke area in plaintiffs' device occupying the major portion of the area inclosed by the rim structure. The single concial disk, which comprises the "spoke body structure" of defendants' device, has a flange which follows the outer edge of the central portion of the disk and of the stub-spokes, and which, therefore, is properly described as undulatory. This flange is not at right angles to the central body and spokes as in plaintiffs' device. In defendant' device the surface of the metal of the central body and spokes curves uniformly inwardly and as a result the inside surface of both the central portion and of each spoke is an open concavity. The end of each channeled spoke is covered by a flat surface which is part of the single metal blank from which the entire spoke body structure is stamped. In general the form of plaintiffs' spoke structure may be described as undulating, and may be said to have a curved flange which follows the outer edge of the central portion and of each spoke without interruption so that the top, or end, of each spoke bears a covering flange.

The validity of claims 5, 6, 7, and 9 of the Barry patent was put in issue and the District Court held that the claims were all anticipated and therefore invalid. If the District Court was correct in holding those claims invalid all questions presented on appeal must be decided against appellant. We shall first consider the question of validity.

Plaintiffs insist that the distinctive element of invention is supplied by the flanging method used. The prior art discloses spoke structures with flanges but plaintiffs maintain that their device is unique in carrying the flange over the top of each spoke and thereby inclosing it. It is contended that this feature is novel and is of utility in providing greater support strength.

A flange is defined by plaintiffs' witnesses as a "metal ortion extending at an angle to a plate or sheet." Plaintiffs' device, as drawn, is a hollow, flat structure with box-like spokes, since the flange of each complementary member extends at right angles to the surface plane of the spokes and central portion and the two stampings are "telescopically shrunk or forced together." The spokes in defendants' device are U-shaped and form open concave channels. The use of flanging in the art of metal working is old and there is no novelty in the use of flanges for the purpose of joining, or combining, complementary members to form hollow metal structures. Such structures may be formed by "telescoping" or welding together the complementary members or by combining the telescoping and welding methods.

The patent disclosures of the prior art of metal wheel making includes, among others, the following:

Lefler, No. 775,831, discloses a wheel with sheet metal spokes, each spoke having an end flange integral with side flanges. The spokes are not formed as an integral part of the "spoke body structure", but are bolted to the hub element and riveted to the rim structure. While Lefler, therefore, does not show a unitary spoke body structure with a continuous flange, it does show that it is old to employ a flange over the end of a spoke, the end flange being integral with the side flanges.

Johnston and Kraner, No. 1,382,089, discloses a spoke structure having spokes with flanges extending at right angles from a central body along the sides and over the ends of the spokes. The patent claim states it thus: "the edges * * * about said spokes and between said spokes being flanged at right angles to the plane of said member." The Johnston device, as manufactured, departs from the above claim by bending or doubling the side flanges against the spoke, which is in form a flat solid metal strip. There is a slit or cut between the top of the ...

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