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FIFE MANUFACTURING CO. v. STANFORD ENGINEERING CO.

March 31, 1961

FIFE MANUFACTURING COMPANY, AN OKLAHOMA CORPORATION, PLAINTIFF,
v.
STANFORD ENGINEERING CO. (ALIAS STANFORD MACHINE CO.), AN ILLINOIS CORPORATION, AND W.T. STANFORD, AN INDIVIDUAL, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Juergens, District Judge.

This is an action for infringement of United States Letters Patent No. 2,797,091, relating to a web shifting apparatus, issued to Mr. Irwin L. Fife on June 25, 1957 (hereinafter referred to as the Fife patent), and is presently owned by assignment by the Fife Manufacturing Company.

The complaint charges that the Stanford Engineering Co. (alias Stanford Machine Co.) and W.T. Stanford committed acts infringing the Fife patent.

Plaintiff Fife Manufacturing Company is a corporation organized and existing under the laws of the State of Oklahoma and has its principal place of business in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and is in the business of manufacturing and selling automatic guide equipment.

The defendant Stanford Engineering Co. (alias Stanford Machine Co.) is a corporation organized and existing under the laws of the State of Illinois and has its principal place of business in Salem, Illinois.

The complaint alleges that within the last six years the defendants, and each of them, have been and are now infringing the Fife patent and are using and selling or offering to the trade for sale web shifting apparatus known as the "Stanford Model 110 Automatic Web Guide" and others embodying the Fife patent; that plaintiff has placed the required statutory notice on all web guiding apparatus manufactured and sold by it under the Fife patent and has given notice to the defendants of their infringements.

The defendants filed their answers denying any acts of infringement and assert that the Fife patent was not duly and legally issued. The defendant Stanford Engineering Co. admits making the Stanford Model 110 automatic web guide and other devices but denies that any of the devices made and sold since the issue of the Fife patent infringe the patent.

The defendants have also filed counterclaims against the plaintiff, charging that the Fife patent is invalid because of anticipation and/or lack of invention over the prior art; that the subject matter of the patent was not novel at the time of its alleged invention and no invention was required to devise and perfect the alleged invention and the subject matter as a whole would have been obvious at the time the invention was made to a person having ordinary skill in the art; that claims 10, 11 and 12 of the Fife patent are broader in scope than those originally submitted and that the claims were added by amendment on July 6, 1956, more than six years after the filing of the original application of April 28, 1950, and more than twenty-three months after the filing of application on August 5, 1955, and that claims 10, 11 and 12 are not properly supported by the required authority and are, therefore, not valid; that the Fife patent is invalid for the further reason that the subject matter covered thereby was in use in this country more than one year before the claims were introduced by amendment on July 6, 1956.

The counterclaim further alleges that the filing of the complaint herein by plaintiff was without notice and without just cause and was carried out for the purpose of unjustly harrassing the defendants, causing unnecessary trouble and expense.

The plaintiff denies the allegations of the counterclaim.

During the trial the plaintiff dismissed the complaint as to Mr. W.T. Stanford and struck from the complaint the alias referred to therein; therefore, Stanford Engineering Co. remains as the sole defendant.

At the pre-trial conference it was stipulated that plaintiff would rely on claims 4, 10, 11 and 12 of the patent in suit. This cause is, therefore, limited to these enumerated claims.

Claim 4 of the patent in suit provides as follows:

    "In a self-compensating mechanism for straightening
  traveling webs comprising in combination a pair of
  rollers over which the web travels, said rollers
  extending transversely to the direction of the web
  travel, said web traveling over one roller and under
  another roller for maintaining wrap during its
  travel, a base plate supported at each side of the
  web and disposed at an angle to the direction of the
  web travel, a movable support member carried by each
  base plate for journalling the ends of the rollers,
  and means responsive to variations of web travel to
  effect movement of the support members in a direction
  to provide a cambering movement of the rollers for
  correctly positioning the travel of the web." Claim
  10 provides:
    "In an automatic regulating mechanism for
  straightening traveling webs comprising in
  combination a roller over which the web travels and
  about which it is wrapped in an amount sufficient to
  effect lateral movement of the web in response to
  lateral movement of the roller, said roller extending
  transversely to the direction of web travel, means
  disposed at each side of the web at an angle to the
  direction of web travel, means movably mounted on the
  first mentioned means for simultaneous lateral and
  swivel movement and journalling an end of said
  roller, and means responsive to lateral deviations of
  the web from a pre-determined path of travel for
  directing the movable means in said simultaneous
  lateral and swivel movement effecting a canting
  movement of the roller for correcting any
  misalignment of the web."

Claim 11 provides:

    "In a self-compensating mechanism for straightening
  traveling webs comprising in combination a roller
  over which the web travels and about which it is
  wrapped to effect a substantial frictional engagement
  therewith, said roller extending transversely to the
  direction of web travel, means disposed at each side
  of the web for journalling an end of said roller,
  means cooperating with the first mentioned means to
  provide for simultaneous lateral and swivel movement
  of said roller, means responsive to lateral
  deviations of the web from a pre-determined path of
  travel for directing the first mentioned means in
  said simultaneous lateral and swivel movement for
  effecting a canting movement of the roller."

Claim 12 provides:

    "In a self-compensating mechanism for straightening
  traveling webs comprising in combination a roller
  over which the web travels and about which it is
  wrapped to effect a substantial frictional engagement
  therewith, said roller extending transversely to the
  direction of web travel, means disposed at each side
  of the web for journalling an end of said roller,
  means cooperating with the first mentioned means to
  provide for simultaneous lateral and swivel movement
  of said roller, means responsive to lateral
  deviations of the web from a pre-determined path of
  travel for directing the first mentioned means in
  said simultaneous lateral and swivel movement in a
  horizontal plane for effecting a canting movement of
  the roller."

At the trial the plaintiff claimed that the patented machine is capable of guiding all types of material from thick heavy belts to the very finest of cellophane and is capable of guiding materials which are very narrow or quite wide and that it is used to guide materials from an unwind roll to a rewind station. The plaintiff further asserted that there are many devices in the art that have attempted to do what this patent accomplishes. The plaintiff does not contend that the elements of the patent are new but that the novelty in arrangement is new in that it provides for both lateral and swivel movement in its operation; whereas the prior art provided for merely lateral or swivel movement and did not provide for both lateral and swivel movement in conjunction.

Very generally described, the apparatus disclosed in the Fife patent is comprised of two guide rollers over which the web to be guided passes. These rollers are mounted at either end on a carrier plate, which are in turn mounted on two guide rods which permit the carrier plate carrying the rollers to move horizontally along the guide rods. The guide rods are mounted on a base plate which is held in place by studs. The guide rods are mounted at an angle to the guide rollers so that as the guide rollers are moved to the right or left a swivel movement is also accomplished. One of the carrier plates is then by various linkage attached to a power unit which is capable of moving the guide rollers to the right or left in accordance with impulses which are received from a feeler unit, which feeler unit is in turn positioned at the edge of the web to be guided in such a manner that, as the web deviates in its path of travel, an impulse is sent out which activates the power unit, which in turn moves the guide rollers so as to bring the material being guided into the proper path of travel.

The inventor testified that he was the inventor of the patent in suit and that he had assigned it to the plaintiff. He testified he had worked with the web guiding machines for a number of years and that materials tend to get out of line during the rewinding operation and because of this tendency it is necessary that the materials be guided in order to effect true alignment on the rewind roll. He stated that he has seen manually operated machines and that he has visited a number of plants in need of a rewind operation; that he has experimented with various types of sensing apparatus connected to a swivel type machine, but that these were not successful; that in 1947 he conceived an idea for a patent and attempted to make it work but without success; later an experimental machine resulted in failure; that in 1949 he first produced a machine which was commercially successful and placed it in a packaging show exhibit. He testified that his web guide is so constructed that if the web moves off to the left the guide apparatus reacts, which causes guide rollers to be moved to the right and further causes the rollers to swivel, correcting the path of travel and aligning the web; that the patent has resulted in increased business. On cross-examination he testified he had made a model in 1947 based on principles similar to the present machine but that it had only one roller and different parts; that he tried the machine on a job, but it did not work; that the first machine which really worked was constructed in 1949; that the machine Fife Manufacturing Company now sells has a different type feeler and power unit and that they now use a hydraulic type unit instead of the old type screw unit shown in the patent diagram. He testified that feelers, sensing units, reversible power units and swivel units were old in the art but that the lateral shifting in conjunction with swiveling was not known in the prior art. He further testified that the pivot or swivel type unit is in widespread use and that it is used in conjunction with feelers and sensing units together with reversible power units.

Clarence W. Brown, vice-president of Fife Manufacturing Company, testified concerning the operation of the Fife machine. On cross-examination he admitted that the accused device has no base plates as called for in the claims of the Fife patent. On re-direct examination this witness said that the pivoted links of the accused device are the mechanical equivalent of base plates found in the Fife patent.


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