HW - March 23, 2011 - (pfleury)
Jockmus v. Leviton
28 F.2d 812
October 29, 1928
In this case, Jockmus sued Leviton for infringing on his patent - which claimed a device that used an incandescent light bulb and a porcelain sleeve to appear like a candle. The patent's claims were extremely narrow (and were forced to be by the Patent Office, in order for the patent to be obtained), with many details in each claim. Well after the date of the patent's issue, it was discovered that a very similar device had been printed by a German company in a French catalog long before the patent application was filed. The catalog was distributed first to 50, then 100, then to over 1,000 French consumers, and it contained simple descriptions as well as figures depicting the product. The District Court ruled that the publication was not sufficiently proved to constitute a prior use, and that Leviton had indeed infringed.
The Circuit Court of Appeals received the case, and Learned Hand delivered the opinion of the Court. The brief first serves to undermine the District Court's ruling regarding the prior use in the German catalog. Two major requirements are outlined for a sufficient prior use, sufficient disclosure and sufficient distribution, and the German catalog appearance was ruled to satisfy both. However, the Appellate Court decided that the claims in the patent were so narrow, that the prior use did not invalidate the claims. In addition, the narrow claims were not infringed by Leviton, due to subtle differences.