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October 1, 1877


APPEAL from the Circuit Court of the United States for the District of New Jersey. The facts are stated in the opinion of the court.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Mr. Justice Bradley delivered the opinion of the court.

Mr. A. Q. Keasbey and Mr. Charles F. Blake for the appellants.

Mr. Clarence A. Seward and Mr. B. Williamson, contra.

This suit was brought by the American Nicholson Pavement Company against the city of Elizabeth, N. J., George W. Tubbs, and the New Jersey Wood-Paving Company, a corporation of New Jersey, upon a patent issued to Samuel Nicholson, dated Aug. 20, 1867, for a new and improved wooden pavement, being a second reissue of a patent issued to said Nicholson Aug. 8, 1854. The reissued patent was extended in 1868 for a further term of seven years. A copy of it is appended to the bill; and, in the specification, it is declared that the nature and object of the invention consists in providing a process or mode of constructing wooden block pavements upon a foundation along a street or roadway with facility, cheapness, and accuracy, and also in the creation and construction of such a wooden pavement as shall be comparatively permanent and durable, by so uniting and combining all its parts, both superstructure and foundation, as to provide against the slipping of the horses' feet, against noise, against unequal wear, and against rot and consequent sinking away from below. Two plans of making this pavement are specified. Both require a proper foundation on which to lay the blocks, consisting of tarred-paper or hydraulic cement covering the surface of the road-bed to the depth of about two inches, or of a flooring of boards or plank, also covered with tar, or other preventive of moisture. On this foundation, one plan is to set square blocks on end arranged like a checker-board, the alternate rows being shorter than the others, so as to leave narrow grooves or channel-ways to be filled with small broken stone or gravel, and then pouring over the whole melted tar or pitch, whereby the cavities are all filled and cemented together. The other plan is, to arrange the blocks in rows transversely across the street, separated a small space (of about an inch) by strips of board at the bottom, which serve to keep the blocks at a uniform distance apart, and then filling these spaces with the same material as before. The blocks forming the pavement are about eight inches high. The alternate rows of short blocks in the first plan and the strips of board in the second plan should not be higher than four inches. The patent has four claims, the first two of which, which are the only ones in question, are as follows:––

'I claim as an improvement in the art of constructing pavements:

'1. Placing a continuous foundation or support, as above described, directly upon the roadway; then arranging thereon a series of blocks, having parallel sides, endwise, in rows, so as to leave a continuous narrow groove or channel-way between each row, and then filling said grooves or channel-ways with broken stone, gravel, and tar, or other like materials.

'2. I claim the formation of a pavement by laying a foundation directly upon the roadway, substantially as described, and then employing two sets of blocks: one a principal set of blocks, that shall form the wooden surface of the pavement when completed, and an auxiliary set of blocks or strips of board, which shall form no part of the surface of the pavement, but determine the width of the groove between the principal blocks, and also the filling of said groove, when so formed between the principal blocks, with broken stone, gravel, and tar, or other like material.'

The bill charges that the defendants infringed this patent by laying down wooden pavements in the city of Elizabeth, N. J., constructed in substantial conformity with the process patented, and prays an account of profits, and an injunction.

The defendants answered in due course, admitting that they had constructed, and were still constructing, wooden pavements in Elizabeth, but alleging that they were constructed in accordance with a patent granted to John W. Brocklebank and Charles Trainer, dated Jan. 12, 1869, and denied that it infringed upon the complainant.

They also denied that there was any novelty in the alleged invention of Nicholson, and specified a number of English and other patents which exhibited, as they claimed, every substantial and material part thereof which was claimed as new.

They also averred that the alleged invention of Nicholson was in public use, with his consent and allowance, for six years before he applied for a patent, on a certain avenue in Boston called the Mill-dam; and contended that said public use worked an abandonment of the pretended invention.

These several issues, together with the question of profits, and liability on the part of the several defendants to respond thereto, are the subjects in controversy before us.

We do not think that the defence of want of novelty has been successfully made out. Nicholson's invention dates back as early as 1847 or 1848. He filed a caveat in the Patent Office, in August, 1847, in which the checker-board pavement is fully described; and he constructed a small patch of pavement of both kinds, by way of experiment, in June or July, 1848, in a street near Boston, which comprised all the peculiarities afterwards described in his patent; and the experiment was a successful one. Before that period, we do not discover in any of the forms of pavements adduced as anticipations of his, any one that sufficiently resembles it to deprive him of the claim to its invention. As claimed by him, it is a combination of different parts or elements, consisting, as the appellant's counsel, with sufficient accuracy for the purposes of this case, enumerates them, 1st, of the foundation prepared to exclude moisture from beneath; 2d, the parallel-sided blocks; 3d, the strips between these blocks, to keep them at a uniform distance and to create a space to be filled with gravel and tar; and, 4th, the filling. Though it may be true that every one of these elements had been employed before, in one kind of pavement or another, yet they had never been used in the same combination and put together in the same manner as Nicholson combined and arranged them, so as to make a pavement like his. The one which makes the nearest approach to it, and might, perhaps, be deemed sufficiently like to deprive Nicholson of the merit of invention, is that of John Hosking, which, in one form, consisted of alternate rows of short and long blocks, the latter partially resting on the former by their being mutually rabbeted so as to fit together. The spaces thus formed between the longer blocks, and on the top of the shorter ones, were filled with loose stone and cement or asphalt, substantially the same as in Nicholson's pavement. It would be very difficult to sustain Nicholson's patent if Hosking's stood in his way. But the only evidence of the invention of the latter is derived from an English patent, the specification of which was not enrolled until March, 1850, nearly two years after Nicholson had put his pavement down in its completed form, by way of experiment, in Boston. A foreign patent, or other foreign printed publication describing an invention, is no defence to a suit upon a patent of the United States, unless published anterior to the making of the invention or discovery secured by the latter, provided that the American patentee, at the time of making application for his patent, believed himself to be the first inventor or discoverer of the thing patented. He is obliged to make oath to such belief when he applies for his patent; and it will be presumed that such was his belief, until the contrary is proven. That was the law as it stood when Nicholson obtained his original patent, and it is the law still. Act of 1836, sects. 7, 15; Act of 1870, sects. 24, 25, 61; Rev. Stat., sects. 4886, 4887, 4920; and see Curtis, Patents, sects. 375, 375a. Since nothing appears to show that Nicholson had any knowledge of Hosking's invention or patent prior to his application for a patent in March, 1854, and since the evidence is very full to the effect that he had made his invention as early as 1848, the patent of Hosking cannot avail the defence in this suit.

It is unnecessary to make an elaborate examination of the other patents which were referred to for the purpose of showing an anticipation of Nicholson's invention. They are mostly English patents, and we will only advert in a summary way to such of them as seem to be most nearly relevant to the question in controversy, premising that in England the enrolment of the specification is the first publication of the particulars of a patented invention.

Stead's patent, enrolled in November, 1838, shows a plan of pavement consisting of a series of hexagonal, triangular, or square-sided blocks, standing close together on the surface of the roadway, in a layer of sand, and being a little smaller at the bottom than at the top, so as to admit a packing of sand, or pitch and sand, in the interstices between them, below the surface. Small recesses at the top, around the edges of the blocks, are suggested, apparently for giving a better hold to the horses' feet. It had no prepared foundation like Nicholson's, and no spaces filled with gravel, &c.

Parkin's patent, enrolled October, 1839, proposes a pavement to consist of blocks leaning upon each other, and connected together with a mixture of sand and bitumen, and connected by keys laid in grooves, and having grooves cut in the surface, either across the blocks or along their edges, to give the horses a better ...

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