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Statement of the Case.



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The invention claimed in letters patent No. 262,977, issued August 22, 1882, to Morris L. Orum for an improvement in locks for furniture, in view of the previous state of the art had no patentable novelty.

The mere fact that a patented article is popular and meets with large and increasing sales is unimportant when the alleged invention is clearly without patentable novelty.

THIS was a bill in equity for the infringement of letters patent No. 262,977, issued August 22, 1882, to Morris L. Orum, for an improvement in locks for furniture, such as are used on bureau or desk drawers, or the doors of wardrobes, washstands, &c., and as stated by the patentee in his specification:

"It has for its object to provide a lock of such shape as to adapt it for insertion in a mortise of peculiar form, whereby a pair of the securing screws or nails is dispensed with, and the case of the lock is held laterally in the mortise by reason of its conformity thereto in shape."

The following drawings illustrate the lock and mortise in which it is held.

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Counsel for Appellant.

Fig. 2.

The patentee further said in his specification:

"The lock costs no more than an ordinary one of equal quality, and to attach it one tack is used, instead of four screws, as usual; but the main advantage is due to the saving of time and labor in making the mortise, and to the superiority of the finished job by reason of the fact that the lock-plate is countersunk in the wood, instead of lying upon its surface. This result has never heretofore been attained, except by hand chiselling, which is a slow and tedious process.

"I am aware that locks arranged to dovetail into their mortises are not broadly new, and such I do not claim."

His claim, and there was but a single one, was as follows: "The lock herein described, having a dovetail cap and top plate, and a front plate projecting laterally and below the cap and rounded at the bottom, whereby the lock is adapted for insertion in a mortise formed by a laterally-cutting bit, and when in place is sustained by a countersunk front plate, as set forth."

The answer set up certain anticipating devices owned by the defendant, and the case was heard in the court below upon the pleadings and proofs, and the bill dismissed. 37 Fed. Rep. 338. Plaintiff thereupon appealed to this court.

Mr. Benjamin Price and Mr. Wilmarth H. Thurston for appellant.

Opinion of the Court.

Mr. John P. Bartlett and Mr. Charles E. Mitchell for appellee.

MR. JUSTICE BROWN delivered the opinion of the court.

The old and familiar style of furniture lock in use from time out of mind was enclosed in a shell or case, square or nearly so, and attached to a rectangular plate turned over at the top to form what is termed a selvedge, through which the bolt passed. A key-post also projected some distance beyond the back plate of the shell toward the front of the drawer. The lock so constructed was inserted in a rectangular mortise cut out to receive it, and secured to the drawer by four screws through the four corners of the broad front plate.

The peculiar shape of the cavity required the mortising to be done by hand, which took considerable time, and added largely to the expense of the furniture. Indeed, the lock itself in some instances cost less than the expense of mortising the recess to receive it. The need had been felt for a long time of a lock of such shape that it could be received into a rounded cavity, which was capable of being excavated by machinery.

This want was first met by a lock invented by one Gory, for which a patent was issued to him April 22, 1873, numbered 138,148. This patent consisted of "such a construction of the shell or frame of the lock that it is adapted to fasten itself within a routed cavity in the wood, and thus dispense with mortising and fastening screws." "The shell, A," said the patentee, "is so constructed that upon each side of the rear face (and by the rear face is understood the face nearest the front of the drawer) an extension projection or wing, a, is formed, which, when snugly fitted into a corresponding depression, b, at each side of the routed cavity, B, serves to retain the lock securely in the routed cavity. In this way the recess for the reception of the lock for drawers or similar uses, instead of being a mortise necessarily cut by a slowly operating mortising machine, is an open sided recess made

Opinion of the Court.

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almost instantly by the rapidly-revolving tool of a routingmachine or groover. This improved form of lock, when driven snugly into a routed cavity such as is described, requires no fastening screws to hold it in place, and consequently reduces the expense of the lock and fastening in addition to the reduced cost of producing the cavity to receive it." This was the underlying patent of all similar devices, and while it never seems to have come into general use, subsequent patents have been merely improvements upon it.

The peculiar feature of his patent was not only in rounding the bottom of the lock so that it could be admitted into a cavity cut out by a revolving tool known as a router, but in making the cavity larger in the rear than in the front, so that a lock correspondingly shaped might be slipped into the cavity from above, and held there without the aid of screws.

While the single claim of this patent was confined to a lock whose frame is made with side extensions at the rear face, to enable the lock to be firmly secured in the routed cavity, several different forms of cavity are shown in the drawings, nearly all of which are dovetailed in such manner that the lock is received and held in position without the aid of other fastenings. This lock was a most ingenious device, and no doubt involved patentable novelty. Three-fourths of this patent now belong to the defendant. There was a difficulty with it, however, in the fact that the patentee took off all the projections from the old style of lock, including those of the broad front plate, through which the screws were inserted, which was cut off so as to be flush with the side of the shell, the projecting key-post which was cut flush with the face of the cap, and the top plate or selvedge through which the bolt. is passed. It consisted merely of a shell fitted snugly upon all sides into a cavity routed out of the exact size to receive it. For these or other reasons, the lock never seems to have gone into general use. Indeed, the evidence is that it was never used at all.

Next in order of time is patent numbered 241,828, issued May 24, 1881, to Henry L. Spiegel. In this device "the back plate of the lock" (that is, the plate nearest the front of the

Opinion of the Court.

drawer) "is made to project on each side of the lock, and adapted to fit a groove or dovetail formed in the inner surface of the drawer front," the object of the improvement being to provide a lock which may be secured in its receptacle without the aid of screws. The lock shown was of the ordinary pattern, except that its back plate was provided with projecting edges, designed to fit in a groove and hold the lock fast. "It is obvious," said the patentee, "that the groove B may be made dovetailed, and the edges G of the back plate bent to a corresponding angle to fit therein, if desired." His claim was for a cabinet lock with its rear plate projecting beyond each side of the lock-case, and having the upper part of each projection bent toward the front plate, which front plate had a slit and strip, which, when the lock is forced home, was set into the wood by a hammer, and thus the lock was held from working out of its receptacle. This patent is also owned by the defendant.

His idea was in substance that of so constructing the lock that there should be a space between the front and rear plates to receive the walls of a routed mortise. Both the front and back plate, however, as well as the selvedge, were made rectangular, and hence the lock was no better adapted for insertion in a routed cavity than was the old-style lock. This lock also seems to have been a failure in practical use, and so far as the record shows none were ever constructed under the patent.

On April 23, 1883, Spiegel filed an application for another patent, which was issued to him April 21, 1885, two and onehalf years after the Orum patent in suit; but as the lock was invented before that of Orum, and as Orum had full knowledge of it before he made his alleged invention, it should be considered as part of the art as it existed at the date of the Orum patent.

In his specification, speaking of prior devices, and apparently of the Gory patent, the patentee states: "In view of the fact that locks constructed with projecting key-posts possessed certain advantages that met the demand of the trade, the peculiar construction of lock above described, with its flush key-post and adapted to be driven into a routed cavity, failed

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