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HICKORY SPRINGS MFG. v. FREDMAN BROS. FURNITURE CO.

February 18, 1972

HICKORY SPRINGS MANUFACTURING COMPANY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
FREDMAN BROTHERS FURNITURE COMPANY, INC. AND HARRY FREDMAN, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Robert D. Morgan, District Judge.

OPINION AND ORDERS

By its complaint herein, plaintiff sought a declaratory judgment that Fredman Patent No. 3,118,151 was invalid, or, if valid, that it was not infringed by plaintiff's accused product. Subsequent to the filing of the complaint, the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed a judgment in another cause finding claim 3 of that patent invalid and finding claim 4 thereof valid, but not infringed by the accused products there involved. Fredman v. Harris-Hub Company, Inc., 442 F.2d 210 (7 Cir. 1971). On August 24, 1971, 330 F. Supp. 978, this court held claim 3 of such patent to be invalid, but denied plaintiff's motion to the extent that it sought summary judgment that claim 4 of the patent was not infringed by plaintiff's accused product.

Meanwhile, on June 7, 1971, defendant, Harry Fredman, had filed an application for reissue of his patent. That application was allowed and Reissue Patent No. 27,182 was issued to Fredman on September 21, 1971. The pleadings were then amended to substitute Reissue No. 27,182 for the original patent as the patent in suit.

The cause is now before the court upon plaintiff's motion for a summary judgment to declare reissue claims 3, 4, 6, 7 and 8 and original claim 4 invalid.

CLAIMS 3, 6, 7 & 8

Insofar as reissue claim 3 is concerned, plaintiff asserts the contention that that claim, if held valid, would enlarge the scope of the claims of the original patent in violation of the provisions of 35 U.S.C. § 251. Since reissue claims 6, 7 and 8 are dependent on reissue claim 3, plaintiff argues that those claims must fall automatically if reissue claim 3 is held to be invalid.

Section 251 provides, in pertinent part:

  "* * * No reissued patent shall be granted enlarging
  the scope of the original patent unless applied for
  within two years from the grant of the original
  patent." 35 U.S.C. § 251.*fn1

Decision of the issue presented as to reissue claim 3 requires a comparison of the scope of that claim with the scope of the claims of the original patent.

Defendant argues that original claim 3, having been adjudged invalid, has no scope, and that the comparison of reissue 3 must be limited to the scope of other original claims, except original 3. That argument must be rejected. Original 3 is a nullity and it has no scope in the context of any contention that it might be infringed. However, it must be considered in the context of any determination whether reissue claims enlarge the scope of the claims of the original patent which they supersede. The determination question is whether a contested reissue claim is broader in scope than the apparent scope of the totality of the claims allowed in the original patent.

The patent relates to a bed assembly, comprised of conventional end boards, a conventional spring assembly, and a pair of one-piece metallic side rails with a tension means interconnecting the side rails at the center thereof, designed to support the spring assembly firmly without the use of cross slats and to rigidify the total bed combination.

In general, the invention was designed to avoid the problems inherent in the use of slats, with conventional side rails, to support the spring assembly of beds. The greatest problem in the use of slats was the tendency of the slats to fall under the stress of the downward flexion of the slats themselves and outward flexion of the side rails. Also, the invention was designed to cope with the fact that, though spring assemblies are of a standardized width, i.e., 52 1/2 inches for double beds, the width between the notches on each end board, in which the ends of the side rails are supported, may vary to as much as 54 1/2 inches apart.

In the context of those problems recited in the patent specifications, the Court of Appeals in Harris-Hub defined the inventive novelty of defendants' patent. Thus, the court said:

  "Plaintiff discovered an ingenious and by no means
  obvious solution to the problem. He designed new side
  rails which differed from the conventional in several
  respects. They contained a broader horizontal ledge
  which provides firm support for the spring assembly.
  More significantly, they were designed to provide a
  snug clamping relationship between the vertical
  portions of the two side rails and the spring
  assembly, with the side rails retaining their
  parallelism with each ...

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