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May 16, 1862.-Ordered to be printed.
Mr. NOBLE, from the Committee on Patents, made the following
The Committee on Patents, to whom was referred the petition of Daniel
Woodbury, praying the passage of an act extending his letters patent, dated August 26, 1846, report:
Our system of patent law is, in its entire scope, a recognition of the right of property which one has in knowledge derived from his own thought and study, or from his intuitive genius and skill. The author of a new invention has the exclusive right in and ownership of that invention, and its exercise can but remain entirely at his discretion; he may retain it a secret in his own breast, or publish it to the world. In view of this fact, our patent and copy-right laws seek to obtain for the public the full benefit of the original conceptions and intellectual labor of individuals by guaranteeing to them a just compensation in return for the benefits granted to society.
A patent is, hence, recognized as a compact or agreement between the inventor and the public, by which he, on the one hand, consents to make bis invention known and available to the public, and finally to surrender it entirely; and they, on the other hand, through the agency of the government, grant to him for this consideration the exclusive right of practicing his invention for a term of years.
Now, it is evident that the entire measure and intent of the patent law is, in accordance with the principles of natural justice, to render to the inventor an equivalent for the benefit which he confers upon others, and to grant him compensation and remuneration for the time, labor, and expense which it has cost him to produce and perfect his invention; for, as has been truly said by a former distinguished Commissioner of Patents, “From the very foundation of this government it has been its settled policy to secure a just reward to all inventors, and it is to the inflexible maintenance of this policy that we are indebted for the unparalleled advancement which as a people we have made in the useful arts."
The compensation is not granted immediately to the inventor by the law, but the law affords him the opportunity to obtain, with proper diligence, a reward commensurate with its value. If the inventor fails to obtain an adequate reward by reason of unforeseen and unfortunate circumstances, or because the very nature of the improve. ment or invention itself requires a longer term than that fixed by law for the generality of cases, in the which to obtain a proper recompense, provisions have been made by which the term may be extended in such cases, and justice done the party.
In order to justify an extension, however, it is requisite that the public, through its agent, the government, should be satisfied by competent evidence upon three points:
First. That the invention was really the property of the patentee, or, in other words, that it was novel and original with him.
Second. That he has not received remuneration commensurate with the benefit conferred upon the public, that is to say, a fair equivalent therefor.
Third. That it was through no fault or neglect on his part that the consideration to him failed, and that he did not receive the reward to which the merit and value of the invention fairly entitled him.
In all cases in which these points have been fairly established, an extension has been granted by the proper officers as a matter of course; and, indeed, the cases are very numerous in which, after a patent has been extended by the Patent Office to the full limit of its power in the premises, Congress has again still further extended the term. Of these cases, the most notable, perhaps, is the Woodworth patent for a planing machine, which, being originally granted in 1828, was extended by the Board of Patents, under the old law, seven years, and at the expiration of this extended time was again extended by act of Congress for seven years more. The reason for granting to Mr. Woodworth such a long term of exclusive right was, simply, that he had failed, without fault, to obtain in a shorter time a pecuniary reward commensurate with the great importance and value of the invention, and justice required that he should receive it.
It is evident, then, that the only difficulty which an inventor who is really entitled to an extension of his patent can or should meet with is in obtaining and submitting competent and sufficient evidence of the originality of his invention, its value to the public, the profit which he has realized from it, and the fact that he has used all due diligence in endeavoring to obtain such profit, and at the same time extending the benefits of his invention to the public.
In making his application to the Commissioner of Patents for an extension, Mr. Woodbury obtained and presented what he considered ample proof on all these points, but it appears from the decision of the Commissioner upon this application that, in his judgment, it was not sufficient. By this decision Mr. Woodbury claims that great injustice has been done to him, and he therefore seeks here relief by the only means which remains open to him, and by presenting additional evidence makes his rights more clear and apparent than was the case in his application to the Commissioner.
In reporting in favor of this application we are justified by a lorg series of precedents, and, as we have already stated, very many of
these cases go to the length of extending by act of Congress patents which had already been extended by the Commissioner to the full extent of his power.
It may be well to refer on this point more particularly, not only to the case of Woodworth's patent already alluded to, but also to the extension of the two patents of Isaac Adams for an improved power printing press by an act of Congress approved August 16, 1856.-(See Statutes at Large, vol. xi, p. 462.) Both of these patents had already been extended by the Commissioner to the full extent of the law, but upon proper representations the term of the patents was prolonged fourteen years.
The petitioner in this case claims additional consideration in view of the fact that his patent has never yet been extended at all. On the other hand, in asking Congress to grant an extension after it has been refused by the Commissioner of Patents, he is sustained by marked precedents.
The extension by Congress of the patent of Oliver C. Harris for an “improvement in paint mills” is a case in point; and the more strictly so, from the fact that in that case the rejection did not rest upon the judgment of the Commissioner alone, but was made upon an adverse report by the examiner, as well as by the board who at that time acted upon the subject of extensions. This board in that case made the following report : “Having examined the evidence adduced by the petitioner, said board decide that the patent ought not to be extended.” This board consisted of the Secretary of State, the Commissioner of Patents, and the Solicitor of the Treasury. Their decision was rendered in February, 1846 ; but in 1847 Harris petitioned Congress in the matter, and obtained an extension by act of August 11, 1848.--(See Statutes at Large, vol. ix, p. 734.)
In this case the report of the examiner was entirely favorable, and we have only the decision of the late Commissioner against the application.
As affording additional precedents in this matter strictly appli. cable to the case, we may mention the extension by act of Congress of the patent of Samuel Browning for a magnetic separating machine," for fourteen years, by act of March 3, 1831.—(See Statutes at Large, vol. vi, p. 467.)
The patent of Eastman & Jaquith, for “circular saw clapboard machine," extended by act of March 3, 1835.—(See United States Statutes at Large, vol. vi, p. 613.)
The patents of James Barron, " machine for making bottle corks, and an improvement in air and water pumps," extended for fourteen years by act July 2, 1836.—(Statutes at Large, vol. vi, p. 678.)
The patent of Thomas Blanchard, “machine for turning irregular forms, &c." extended for fourteen years from January 20, 1834, by act of February 6, 1839.-(See Statutes at Large, vol. vi, p. 678.)
Patents of John Arnold and Arnold & Bishop, extended fourteen years by act of March 28, 1854.—(See Statutes at Large, vol. x, p. 776.)
In addition to these cases cited, there are very many others on record in the journals of Congress, but these have been selected as more in point, and as being amongst the most prominent.
Proceeding now to set forth the merits of the case, we are satisfied that Daniel Woodbury's invention is not only novel, but that it is of great public value, and that he has, without fault on his part, failed as yet to obtain a fair reward for the benefits which he has conferred upon the public.
First. As to the novelty of Woodbury's invention. Upon this point the report of the examiner, made after a careful examination, taken in connexion with the patent itself, is the best possible evidence which can be produced. The examiner reports thus : “The horsepower machine of the petitioner was novel when he applied for his patent, and the patent was properly awarded him.”'
Second. Is it true that Mr. Woodbury has not received a reward commensurate with the benefit conferred upon the public by his invention ? To ascertain this fact we must first ascertain what is the value of the invention to the public, and then how much Woodbury received therefrom, and from these data the conclusion must be drawn which shall decide the question of the justice and equity of an extension.
The Commissioner founds his adverse report upon the alleged want of sufficient evidence upon these points, and says: "No proof whatever is furnished to show the value to the public of the invention, unless the opinion of several witnesses who merely say that they think the invention the best of its kind known to them could be considered as proof of its value. In the absence of proof of the value and importance to the public of an invention, this office has no data from which to form a judgment as to the sufficiency of the renumeration received, as the decision of that question depends altogether upon its estimated public value.':
Though somewhat indefinite, yet some proof was furnished of the value of the invention to the public. We refer to the following evidence filed before the Commissioner, (of which a certified copy from the Patent Office is before us :) Ira Brownell
, of Cass county, Michigan, testifies (on page 11 of the office copy) that he is well acquainted with the operation of horse. powers, and that after three years' observation of Woodbury's horse: power he considers it "far superior to any other now in use," and says it is "the most popular amongst the people" on account of its superior qualities.
Philo D. Beckworth, the proprietor of a machine shop at Dowagiac, in Michigan, testifies (see page 13, office copy) that “he is acquainted with horse-powers in general use, and that he considers Woodbury's horse-power “decidedly better than any that he has ever seen," and that it has the reputation of being much better generally."
Daniel Dunnakin (page 15) and E. T. Chase, (page 16,) of Calhoun county, Michigan, both swear that, having had Woodbury's horsepower in use, they can say "that it is the best horse-power for threshing grain they have ever seen," and that "such is the general belief in their part of the country” so far as they can learn.
Colonel James Patton, of Troy, New York, testifies (page 21) “that he has been engaged in the introduction and sale of agricultural implements since the year 1850, and in such pursuits has travelled largely in the northern and western grain-growing States of the Union," and that, to his knowledge, Woodbury's horse-power is * now beginning to be extensively used in three, four, or more of said States, and wherever it has been introduced it takes precedence of all other machines for like purposes.
"And deponent further says that said horse-power is now perfected, and is without dispute the very best power extant, and where it can be had machinists and agriculturists will use no other."
Wm. Brown, of the city of Battle Creek, Michigan, a manufacturer of agricultural implements, in his deposition (page 23) says that Woodbury's horse-power is among the best of its kind.
John Barker, of Michigan City, State of Indiana, who is one of the proprietors of the car and agricultural works in that place, testifies (page 27) that they have made and sold in the western States since 1856 more than two hundred of Woodbury's horse-powers, and that "he is of the opinion that said horse-power is the best in use."
That his observation of the many machines now in use has been very general, and yet he has found nothing superior to said power or equal to it.
Edmund F. Woodbury, of Rochester, New York, swears that he knows the power patented by Daniel Woodbury "is far superior to any other power in use.
Peter Lockie, of the same place, also testifies (on page 35) that * he knows the horse-power patented by Woodbury, and that the same is a novel and useful improvement, and possesses superior qualities over any other horse-power."
If Woodbury's machine is superior to any other in use, and this verdict has been rendered thereon by the public and those especially interested in the subject, does this not at once determine its value ? The estimate is comparative, it is true; but can an estimate of the public value of an invention be aught else?
But the Commissioner considered a more precise estimate necessary to make the fact of the value of the invention more clear, and though we find that he did have evidence of this character before him in the testimony of one witness, Mr. Chauncey R. Markham, of Eckford, Michigan, who swears, in his deposition, (page 9 of certified copy,) that after much experience with horse-power, he finds Woodbury's horse-power superior for the purpose of threshing and general use to any 'power' known to him; that this power,' with a team of EIGHT HORSES, will accomplish more than can be accomplished with any other • power' known to him with a team ONE-FOURTH GREATER.' And also points out the following as additional advantages possessed by the Woodbury horse-power, viz: “superior durability and ease of train and general convenience as a PORTABLE HORSE-POWER.” Yet this was not considered sufficient by the Commisioner-as we think it well might have been—and hence Mr. Woodbury is left without remedy, save by act of Congress.
But, upon all these points, additional evidence still more satisfac