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Marine v. Muncie Gear Works Inc.

January 29, 1941

OUTBOARD MARINE & MFG. CO. ET AL.
v.
MUNCIE GEAR WORKS, INC., ET AL.



Appeal from the District Court of the United States for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division; John P. Barnes, Judge.

Author: Evans

Before EVANS and TREANOR, Circuit Judges, and BRIGGLE, District Judge.

EVANS, Circuit Judge.

This appeal involves six patents which the District Court disposed of by consolidating two suits and hearing them together. Of the six patents, plaintiff, Outboard Marine & Manufacturing Company, is the owner of three, Nos. 1,786,835; 1,869,749; 1,875,912; and is the exclusive licensee of the remaining three, which are owned by Johnson Brothers Engineering Corporation, a co-plaintiff. The latter three are Nos. 1,716,962; 1,763,970; and 2,067,533. They all deal with phases of outboard motors in which field plaintiffs appear to be the leaders.

The Outboard M. & M. Co. operates two separate plants, one known as the Evinrude Motors Division, located at Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and the other, the Johnson Motors Division at Waukegan, Illinois. Each has its own separate engineering and production staff, and the output of each plant is large. It asserts responsibility for most of the development of the outboard motor industry and contends that defendants are endeavoring to enter the field by copying plaintiffs' motors and improvements and appropriating the results of its long continued and costly research efforts.

The more specific legal questions raised by the record, to which we must confine our attention, are asserted validity of certain improvement patents and the asserted avoidance of infringement by defendants' structure, wherein it appears defendants have made a studied effort to avoid a narrow patent through a slightly changed mechanism. This situation necessitates an ascertainment of the place of the patent in the art and the correlative inquiry as to the extent of the mechanical equivalents we should allow.

The court found claims 11, 12, 13, and 14 of Johnson patent, No. 1,716,962, were invalid because aggregations and also that claims 11 and 12 of said patent were not infringed and that claims 13 and 14 would be infringed if they were valid.

The court also found claims 3 and 14 of Johnson patent, No. 1,763,970, are invalid because aggregations. It also found them not infringed.

It found claim 19 of the Pierce Reissue patent, No. 18,118, invalid, because of the prior art and also infringed, if valid.

It found claim 16 of No. 1,875,912 was not infringed by defendants' structure. Claims 1, 4, 5, 8, 9, and 10 of Evinrude No. 1,786,835, were held invalid because aggregations. Claims 5 and 10 of said patent were not infringed, and claims 1, 4, 8, and 9 were infringed, if valid.

It also found claims 1 and 2 of the Irgens patnet, No. 1,869,749, to be not infringed. It also held the Johnson patent, No. 2,067,533, invalid.

By separating and dealing with each claim in each patent and making findings both on the validity and the infringement of each claim, the District Court has greatly lessened our burden.

While our purpose is not to avoid writing lengthy opinions, we are convinced that elaboration of views may be unnecessary where specific and direct findings on individual claims by the District Court are in full harmony with like findings by us made, after an independent study, and the issue before both courts is a factual one.

Plaintiffs' counsel call our attention to the relative importance of the various claims, admitting that some patents cover minor and rather unimportant improvements which are narrow in scope. Quite unjustified would we be to devote a great deal of time to them, when we are clearly ...


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