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Ajax Hand Brake Co. v. Superior Hand Brake Co.

January 6, 1943


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

Author: Sparks

Before SPARKS and MAJOR, Circuit Judges, and LINDLEY, District Judge.

SPARKS, Circuit Judge.

Plaintiffs, Ajax Hand Brake Company and Richard W. Burnett, charged defendant, Superiof Hand Brake Company, with infringement of six patents to Burnett.*fn1 After a hearing the District Court dismissed the bill of complaint for want of equity, holding that all the claims in each patent were invalid for lack of invention under the prior art. Some of the contested claims were held to be infringed and others were held not to be infringed. These will be designated under the discussion of the particular patent to which they apply.

For the sake of brevity, the patents will be referred to by the last three digits of their numbers.All of the patents in suit relate to hand brakes for railway cars, or to parts thereof, and disclose mechanisms operable by hand, separate from the usual air brake applying apparatus. They are commonly used on all types of cars having comparatively high end walls. They are known to the trade as vertical brakes because the hand wheel usually used to operate them is placed in a vertical position parallel with the end wall of the car. The housing supporting the winding parts, the holding and release means, and the operating wheel, is usually mounted on one of the end walls of the car just below the roof line, at one side of the center of the end, with a narrow platform or step mounted on the car and directly below the operating wheel, on which the trainman stands, usually with one foot on the step and the other on the rung of an ladder at the end of the car.

The operating parts of these hand brake mechanisms usually consist of a housing, a brake wheel shaft, on which a hand wheel is mounted outside the housing, a small gear and a ratchet gear on the brake wheel shaft inside the housing, a larger gear wheel in mesh with the small one, a winding drum alongside the large wheel and sometimes a part of it, a shaft mounted in the housing wheel serving as an axle for the large gear wheel and the drum, a short length of chain which is wound upon the drum, and a pawl combined with some form of operating means, usually a small lever, by means of which the trainman moves the pawl into and out of engagement with the ratchet gear.

All of these patents are improvement patents, and a reading of the record convinces us that the court was right in stating that none of them were entitled to a broad construction in view of the prior art patents and the other prior art relied upon in the present record.

Patent No. '651.

This patent was applied for about a week after the application for the first patent was filed. It was the last to issue and has a file wrapper hisory of more than ten years. In this patent plaintiffs rely on claims 1, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 14, 15, 18, 19, 21, and 23 to 29, inclusive. It covers a general combination common to all vertical brakes, and in addition is limited to particular elements. All the claims in issue, except claim 19, are limited either to the combination of a specific form of bell crank, or an oscillating member, a specific form of winding drum, or a combination of the two, the contour of the winding surface of the drum being of such form and shape that power and speed of takeup exerted upon the winding shaft is in relation to the power transmitted by the bell crank.

The bell crank has an elongated power arm which is slotted at its outer end so that when the bell crank is turned to a point where the power arm is slightly beyond the horizontal, the connection in the outer end of the bell crank slips outward, thereby materially increasing the effective length of the power arm.

Claim 19 relates to the bell crank only. Other claims are limited to a winding drum in a single plane, and also to a winding drum having an outer winding surface sufficiently long to accommodate the chain without overlap. Hence the brakeman, by spinning the brake wheel, is able to take the slack out of the foundation rigging of the car and the connections from the winding member to the brake rigging and bring the brake shoes into engagement with the outer periphery of the wheels very quickly.

The defendant's accused device consists of a spider or frame having an opening therein to receive a shaft upon which the drake wheel, a small pinion, and a ratchet are mounted. The frams also has another opening to receive one end of the hub of the winding drum. A housing is adapted to be fitted over the frame and riveted thereto to form a complete enclosure for the operating parts of the brake. A brake shaft is employed which has a small gear wheel mounted thereon and also a ratchet wheel and means on the outer end thereof for mounting the hand wheel. A large gear is mounted in the housing which meshes with the small gear on the brake shaft. A chain is anchored to the hub by means of a pin, and the hub constitutes the winding drum in the housing. The gear is concentric. A pawl is provided having a tooth thereon which engages the ratchet wheel to hold the brakes in set position. It is mounted upon the crank portion of a shaft which extends through an elongated opening in the pawl, this pawl being sufficiently long to permit the crank portion of the shaft to be inserted in the pawl.

An operating lever is mounted on the outer end of the crank, which has a lost motion connection with the outer end of the crank, by means of which the pawl is brought into engagement with the ratchet wheel on the shaft and is allowed to drop out of engagement with the ratchet wheel by gravity when the lever is turned to release position. There are four lugs projecting inward from the inner face of the outer housing. Two of these form stops for the crank shaft to limit its rotation, while another receives the end of the pawl and holds it out of engagement away from the ratchet. Another lug performs the function of operating as a fulcrum if it becomes necessary to force the tooth on the pawl out of engagement with the ratchet whell. This last lug is rarely used because the travel of the tooth is away from the ratchet, and when the crank is rotated into release position the force of the brake mechanism, which is under tension in set position of the brake, forces the pawl clear of the ratchet wheel.

The winding durm of the defendant's present type of brake consists of an elongated hub of the gear wheel and three fillets against which some of the links of the chain lie. One end link of the chain is anchored by means of a pin to the winding drum, this end link being angularly positioned at approximately 45 degrees, to the axis of the winding drum, and also to the verticial plane of the winding drum so that the chain winds around the drum with each of the links at a 45 degree angle, with the side of each link lying upon the hub. Surrounding the hub are fillets of metal cast integral with the hub and spokes, the tops of these fillets extending at a 45 degree angle both to the horizontal and vertical, these fillets being progressively longer and higher around the periphery of the drum to hold the chain at a 45 degree angle, and also to wind the chain on the drum spirally, so that a comparatively small hub well take up the necessary length of chain, with some side-lap of the length of chain. Each of the links of the chain engages upon the hub, with the alternate links lying against the fillets at a 45 degree angle, with the intermediate links also lying on the hub but at an angle of about 90 degrees to the plane of the links lying upon the fillets, or at an angle of 45 ...

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