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HOOVER COMPANY v. COE

decided: April 30, 1945.

HOOVER COMPANY
v.
COE, COMMISSIONER OF PATENTS



CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA.

Stone, Roberts, Black, Reed, Frankfurter, Douglas, Murphy, Jackson, Rutledge

Author: Roberts

[ 325 U.S. Page 80]

 MR. JUSTICE ROBERTS delivered the opinion of the Court.

The question presented is whether a District Court has jurisdiction of a suit under R. S. 4915*fn1 to review the refusal of a claim for patent as not reading on the application. The court below answered in the negative.

The respondent confesses error. The language of the Act, its legislative history, administrative practice, and judicial construction, constrain us to hold that the District Court had jurisdiction of the suit and that the Court of Appeals should have reviewed its decision upon the merits.

January 10, 1941, the petitioner's assignor filed application for a reissue of a patent granted November 7, 1939, on an original application of August 8, 1936. The alleged invention is for improvements in a refrigerating system. A number of claims included in the application for reissue were copied, or substantially copied, from several later patents, in order to provoke interferences therewith and a contest as to priority of invention.

The Primary Examiner finally rejected four of the claims, stating that they were rejected "as not reading on applicant's disclosure." The Board of Appeals of the Patent

[ 325 U.S. Page 81]

     Office affirmed the Examiner's decision. The petitioner then brought suit against the Commissioner of Patents under R. S. 4915 in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, to compel him to allow the four claims, to the end that interference proceedings might be instituted. The case was heard on the Patent Office record and additional evidence. The court entered findings of fact and conclusions of law and dismissed the complaint on the ground that the claims did not read on, that is, did not accurately describe, the disclosure in the application.

On appeal the court below on its own motion raised the question "whether [R. S. 4915] confers jurisdiction on the District Court to enter a decree which does not determine the right of the applicant to receive a patent but which instead directs the examiner to allow claims for the purpose of provoking subsequent interference proceedings." The parties were heard upon this question and the court decided that the District Court lacked jurisdiction of the suit, and on that ground affirmed its judgment of dismissal.*fn2

R. S. 4915 is in part:

"Whenever a patent on application is refused by the Board of Appeals or whenever any applicant is dissatisfied with the decision of the board of interference examiners, the applicant, unless appeal has been taken to the United States Court of Customs and Patent Appeals, and such appeal is pending or has been decided, in which case no action may be brought under this section, may have remedy by bill in equity, if filed within six months after such refusal or decision; and the court having cognizance thereof, on notice to adverse parties and other due proceedings had, may adjudge that such applicant is entitled, according to law, to receive a patent for his invention, as specified in his claim or for any part thereof, as the facts

[ 325 U.S. Page 82]

     in the case may appear. And such adjudication, if it be in favor of the right of the applicant, shall authorize the commissioner to issue such patent on the applicant filing in the Patent Office a copy of the adjudication and otherwise complying with the requirements of law. In all cases where there is no opposing party a copy of the bill shall be served on the commissioner; and all the expenses of the proceedings shall be paid by the applicant, whether the final decision is in his favor or not."

The court below held that in conformity to the general rule, a court of equity ought not to afford piecemeal relief pending completion of the administrative process, and consequently ought not to entertain a suit under the statute unless its adjudication ...


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