Hotchkiss v. Greenwood (Fernando Rodriguez)

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U.S. Supreme Court Hotchkiss v. Greenwood, 52 U.S. 11 How. 248 248 (1850)

Hotchkiss v. Greenwood

52 U.S. (11 How.) 248 A patent granted for a "new and useful improvement in making door and other knobs of all kinds of clay used in pottery, and of porcelain" by having the

   "cavity in which the screw or shank is inserted by which they are fastened largest at the bottom of its depth, in form of a dovetail, and a screw formed therein by pouring in metal in a fused state" 

Main Issue

The pattent was invalid. The test was that if no more ingenuity and skill was necessary to construct the new knob than was possessed by an ordinary mechanic acquainted with the business, the patent was void, and this was a proper question for the jury.


  1. The patent was granted, for manufacturing process in order to make the mold. Inventors stated that it was their novel idea.
  2. 1845 Greenwood brought to the Curcuit Court of the US in Ohio for stating that Hotchkiss and co. where not the original inventors of said process.
    1. Making knobs in that way was common in several places long before the patent declaration, in the US.
    2. The Hotchkiss and Co. also new that such knobs where made in the UK when they filed for patent.
  3. Defendants preesented drawings and etc. to show that they were the invetors of said process.
    1. Emphasized that even if they did not invent the specific parts they did come up with how to unite them
  4. Court came to conclusion that patent was invalid as it was the mere substitution of one material for the other

Courts opinion: But in the case before us, the knob is not new, nor the metallic shank and spindle, nor the dovetail form of the cavity in the knob, nor the means by which the metallic shank is securely fastened therein. All these were well known, and in common use, and the only thing new is the substitution of a knob of a different material from that heretofore used in connection with this arrangement.


MR. JUSTICE WOODBURY dissented Questioned the instruction of the jury as it lacked the aspect " but if the invention was cheaper and better than what preceded it, that protection should be given to it as patentable."

believes that if it was a useful improvement then the question of non obviousness is neglible. His argument seems to be somewhat weak as it disregards nonobviousness in patent law