EB: EGBERT v. LIPPMANN, 104 U.S. 333 (1881)

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The Situation

  • Samuel Barnes invented an "improvement in corset-springs," and filed for a patent in March 1866
  • Egbert is the assignee of the patent
  • Frances Barnes was granted a reissue of the patent in Samuels place (death?)


Frances brings a case of infringement against Lippmann


The patent is invalid because the invention was in public use more than two years prior to application for the patent.


  • The Act of 1939 renders patents invalid if they were in public use, with the consent and allowance of the inventor for more than two years prior to the application.
  • Evidence:
    • S. Barnes had given the corset to Frances sometime between January and May 1855, and she used it for a long time, and got another pair from him in 1858.
    • Barnes also showed the invention to Joseph Sturgis in 1863, showing him how it was made and used.
  • Ruling:
    • Even though Barnes only gave the invention to one person, he allowed them to use it without limitation or restriction - this qualifies as public use (number of people doesn't matter).
    • Barnes applied no restriction and implied no secrecy in giving his invention to Frances = public
    • The use of the invention was not for experimental purposes = public

Dissenting Opinion

  • Barnes giving private use of his invention with consent which did not lead to copying or reproduction shows no intention of "abandonment to the public"
  • Telling Frances to keep the corset a secret (as the above decision says should have been done) would have been ironic)
  • Thus, the use of the invention should not be considered public.