Talk:Elizabeth v. Pavement Company, 97 U.S. 126 (1877)

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A foreign patent, or other foreign printed publication describing an invention, is no defence to a suit upon a patent of the United States, unless published anterior to the making of the invention or discovery secured by the latter, provided that the American patentee, at the time of making application for his patent, believed himself to be the first inventor or discoverer of the thing patented. He is obliged to make oath to such belief when he applies for his patent; and it will be presumed that such was his belief, until the contrary is proven.

An abandonment of an invention to the public may be evinced by the conduct of the inventor at any time, even within the two years named in the law. The effect of the law is, that no such consequence will necessarily follow from the invention being in public use or on sale, with the inventor's consent and allowance, at any time within two years before his application; but that, if the invention is in public use or on sale prior to that time, it will be conclusive evidence of abandonment, and the patent will be void.

If durability is one of the qualities to be attained, a long period, perhaps years, may be necessary to enable the inventor to discover whether his purpose is accomplished. And though, during all that period, he may not find that any changes are necessary, yet he may be justly said to be using his machine only by way of experiment; and no one would say that such a use, pursued with a bona fide intent of testing the qualities of the machine, would be a public use, within the meaning of the statute. So long as he does not voluntarily allow others to make it and use it, and so long as it is not on sale for general use, he keeps the invention under his own control, and does not lose his title to a patent.

Nicholson did not sell it, nor allow others to use it or sell it. He did not let it go beyond his control. He did nothing that indicated any intent to do so. He kept it under his own eyes, and never for a moment abandoned the intent to obtain a patent for it.

It is not a public knowledge of his invention that precludes the inventor from obtaining a patent for it, but a public use or sale of it.

It is sometimes said that an inventor acquires an undue advantage over the public by delaying to take out a patent, inasmuch as he thereby preserves the monopoly to himself for a longer period than is allowed by the policy of the law; but this cannot be said with justice when the delay is occasioned by a bona fide effort to bring his invention to perfection, or to ascertain whether it will answer the purpose intended. His monopoly only continues for the allotted period, in any event; and it is the interest of the public, as well as himself, that the invention should be perfect and properly tested, before a patent is granted for it. Any attempt to use it for a profit, and not by way of experiment, for a longer period than two years before the application, would deprive the inventor of his right to a patent.

But one thing may be affirmed with reasonable confidence, that, if an infringer of a patent has realized no profit from the use of the invention, he cannot be called upon to respond for profits; the patentee, in such case, is left to his remedy for damages. It is also clear that a patentee is entitled to recover the profits that have been actually realized from the use of his invention, although, from other causes, the general business of the defendant, in which the invention is employed, may not have resulted in profits,—as where it is shown that the use of his invention produced a definite saving in the process of a manufacture.