EB: GRAHAM v. JOHN DEERE, 383 U.S. 1 (1966)

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  • Graham was granted a patent ('789)for a "spring clamp which permits plow shanks to be pushed upward when they hit obstructions...and then springs the shanks back into normal position when the obstruction is passed over"
  • Graham files precursor patent ('811) in 1950 with same general purpose, but makes inprovements and files for another patent ('789) in 1953.


  • John Deere Co. is accused of patent ('789) infringement
  • Tried in the Eighth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals


  • Graham's patent is invalid as all facets of the device are found to be obvious given the prior art.


  • The two patents differ: (1) Old patent did not have "the stirrup and the bolted connection of the shank to the hinge" (2)The position of the shank is reversed
  • Graham argues that new patent has "greater 'flexing'" - "free-flexing" and that the reversal of the hinge-shank orientation "permits the shank to flex under stress for its entire length"
  • Court rules that "Certainly a person having ordinary skill in the prior art, given the fact that the flex in the shank could be utilized more effectively if allowed to run the entire length of the shank, would immediately see that the thing to do was what Graham did, i.e., inver the shank and the hinge plate"
    • "We find no nonobvious facets in the '798 arrangement"

A Conjoined Case: Calmar, Inc. v. Cook Chemical Co.

  • Cook Chemical employee, Scoggin, was granted a patent for a "shipper-sprayer" in 1959 (had been working on it since 1956)
    • Finger operated pump sprayer-unscrews and discards overcap, the pump plunger springs up and the sprayer is ready for use
  • Calmar's engineers created a similar shipper-sprayer and be 1958 began to market the "SS-40"
    • Cook Chemical sued Calmar's SS-40 with infringement