Talk:A. & P. Tea Co. v. Supermarket Corp., 340 U.S. 147 (1950)

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Courtney

(a) The extension of the counter alone was not sufficient to sustain the patent, unless, together with the other old elements, it made up a new combination patentable as such. Pp. 340 U. S. 149-150.

(b) The mere combination of a number of old parts or elements which, in combination, perform or produce no new or different function or operation than that theretofore performed or produced by them, is not patentable invention. P. 340 U. S. 151.

(c) This patentee has added nothing to the total stock of knowledge, but has merely brought together segments of prior art and claims them in congregation as a monopoly. P. 340 U. S. 153.

(d) Commercial success, without invention, does not make patentability. P. 340 U. S. 153.

The District Court sustained the validity of certain patent claims. 78 F.Supp. 388. The Court of Appeals affirmed. 179 F.2d 636. This Court granted certiorari. 339 U.S. 947. Reversed, p. 340 U. S. 154.

The District Court explicitly found that each element in this device was known to prior art.

In course of time, the profession came to employ the term "combination" to imply its presence, and the term "aggregation" to signify its absence, thus making antonyms in legal art of words which, in ordinary speech, are more nearly synonyms.

This patentee has added nothing to the total stock of knowledge, but has merely brought together segments of prior art and claims them in congregation as a monopoly.

Maura

(a) The extension of the counter alone was not sufficient to sustain the patent, unless, together with the other old elements, it made up a new combination patentable as such. Pp. 340 U. S. 149-150. (b) The mere combination of a number of old parts or elements which, in combination, perform or produce no new or different function or operation than that theretofore performed or produced by them, is not patentable invention. P. 340 U. S. 151. (c) This patentee has added nothing to the total stock of knowledge, but has merely brought together segments of prior art and claims them in congregation as a monopoly. P. 340 U. S. 153. (d) Commercial success, without invention, does not make patentability. P. 340 U. S. 153. (e) The concurrence of the two courts below in holding the patent claims valid does not preclude this Court from overruling them where, as in this case, a standard of invention appears to have been used that is less exacting than that required where a combination is made up entirely of old components. Pp. 340 U. S. 153- 154.

"the conception of a counter with an extension to receive a bottomless self-unloading tray with which to push the contents of the tray in front of the cashier was a decidedly novel feature, and constitutes a new and useful combination. [Footnote 3]" The Court of Appeals regarded this finding of invention as one of fact, sustained by substantial evidence, and affirmed it as not clearly erroneous. It identified no other new or different element to constitute invention, and overcame its doubts by consideration of the need for some such device and evidence of commercial success of this one.

A patent for a combination which only unites old elements with no change in their respective functions, such as is presented here, obviously withdraws what already is known into Page 340 U. S. 153 the field of its monopoly and diminishes the resources available to skillful men.

To bring these devices together and apply them to save the time of customer and checker was a good idea, but scores of progressive ideas in business are not patentable, and we conclude on the findings below that this one was not.