Lorenz v. Colgate-Palmolive-Peet C0. (901422128)

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Read for 3/4/11

Reading Notes

  • Decided in the Circuit CoA in 1948
  • In the District Court Lorenz brought suit against Colgate
    • Two held interfering patents
  • Lorenz said he was first inventor and Ittner patent was void
    • Colgate asked for a judgment that Ittner was the inventor
  • Patents cover a process for the manufacture of soap and the recovery of glycerine
  • Interference because the claims were copies verbatim
    • Lorenz filed on 1/24/20 and then disclosed his application to Ittner so Colgate could use the process if desired
    • Ittner was uninterested
    • PTO rejected the application and Lorenz abandoned the prosecution of the application
    • Ittner filed 2/19/31
      • After this, Lorenz filed asking PTO to revive his application - rejected
    • 11/18/34 Lorenz filed with Ittner's claims because he disclosed it in 1920
  • PTO declared interference and ruled in Lorenz's favor
  • DC decided evidence didn't prove that the process had been given to Colgate by Lorenz
  • CoA initially reversed DC and agreed with awarding priority to Lorenz
    • Remanded for the DC to determine the invalidity on grounds asserted by Colgate
  • On remand the DC help the patent invalid due to public use - both appealed
  • Examine defense of prior use
    • Evidence shows that the process was in public use in the factory from 11/31 to 11/32
      • Experimental before this but commercial production during this time and then discontinued
    • This public use is sufficient to invalidate
  • Burden is on Colgate to prove public use
    • Been generous to Lorenz because of difficulty in finding evidence to rebut proof of this
  • CoA still agrees with the DC on the prior public use
    • Must decide if the public use was within the purview of 4886 - Lorenz says no because the public use was pirated
  • Will act as if Ittner is not the original inventor in light of the facts
  • Ordinarily manufacturer will refuse to receive inventor's disclosures when there is not a patent pending
    • In this case, it was rejected because Ittner thought it commercially unfeasible
  • The question of public use in this case is original
  • Precedents
    • Public use should not include fraudulent use
    • The length of public use can suppose the acquiescence of the inventor but there may be cases where knowledge of an invention may be obtained and communicated to the public that does not affect the patentability
  • Hold that Lorenz's patent is void by reason of prior public use
    • Also hold Ittner's invalid because of interference - if there was an invention it was Lorenz

Interference and Statutory Bars

  • Sec. 4918 says the court can determine either or both of the patents void upon any ground
  • Purpose of the on-sale bar:

Was it the intention of Congress that public use by one who employs a process in breach of a fiduciary relationship, who tortiously appropriates it or who pirates it, should bar the inventor from the fruits of his monopoly?

  • Precedents state that fraudulent public use should not be a bar
    • Later says that non-fraudulent use without the inventor's consent definitely does but does not definitively say about fraudulent use
  • 4886 contains no qualification or exception which limits the nature of the public use
    • This court holds that if an inventor does not apply within two years any use that arises can act as a bar

Class Notes