A. & P. Tea Co. v. Supermarket Corp (Fernando Rodriguez)

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Revision as of 22:22, 25 January 2011 by Fernando Rodriguez (talk | contribs) (Created page with "==Background== Supreme Court of the United States GREAT ATLANTIC & PACIFIC TEA CO. v. SUPERMARKET EQUIPMENT CORP. et al. No. 32. Argued Oct. 18, 19, 1950. Decided Dec. 4, 1950. ...")
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No. 32. Argued Oct. 18, 19, 1950. Decided Dec. 4, 1950. Rehearing Denied Jan. 8, 1951.

Mr. John H. Glaccum, New York City, for petitioner.

Mr. Townsend F. Beaman, Washington, D.C., for respondents.

Mr. Justice JACKSON delivered the opinion of the Court.

Stated without artifice, the claims assert invention of a cashier's counter equipped with a three-sided frame, or rack, with no top or bottom, which, which pushed or pulled, will move groceries deposited within it by a customer to the checking clerk and leave them there when it is pushed back to repeat the operation. It is kept on the counter by guides. That the resultant device words as claimed, speeds the customer on his way, reduces checking costs for the merchant, has been widely adopted and successfully used, appear beyond dispute

The District Court explicitly found that each element in this device was known to prior art. ‘However,’ it found, ‘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.


Supreme Court:

  • It refers to an extension of the counter as being the main invention, yet it was not clearly stated on the patent documents (claims)
  • Inventions cannot recide in elongation in the change of dimensions of the old artifact
  • Even if the extension were patentable, it would be invalid for overclaiming (aka they are also claiming other things as inventions when they are not)

Disallowing what was taken as invention by the previous two courts then can a patent be given for the combination? (similar to previous case examined in class)

Aggregation and Combination

It is agreed that the key to patentability of a mechanical device that brings old factors into cooperation is presence or lack of invention. 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

The mere aggregation of parts without changing their use is not patentable (having a blender attached to a fridge is not patentable)

The whole has to be more than the parts. The combination must contribute something. In chemistry r electronics it is possible to change the function of the things. However this is unlikely in mechanical combination.

The previous court ruling did not examine the claim that any o the combinations fo elements changed their function. A patent for such a combination reduces the field of what is already known and the resources available for others to use. They added nothing to the knowledge.

Basically the SC of US got angr cause the distric and appeals court used a waaaaaay less strict code for determining what constituted invention, as this obstructs invention rather than helping it out.



  • A writ of certiorari currently means an order by a higher court directing a lower court, tribunal, or public authority to send the record in a given case for review.

Awesome quote time The patent involved in the present case belongs to this list of incredible patents which the Patent Office has spawned. The fact that a patent as flimsy and as spurious as this one has to be brought all the way to this Court to be declared invalid dramatically illustrates how far our patent system frequently departs from the constitutional standards which are supposed to govern.