U.S. v. Adams (KyleR)

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  • decided by U.S. Supreme Court in 1966
  • companion case to Graham v. John Deere
  • Adams is suing U.S. Government for patent infringement
  • claim upheld by Trial Commissioner and Court of Claims
  • Supreme Court affirmed earlier decision

Description of the Patent

  • issued to Adams in 1943
  • a non-rechargeable electrical battery using one magnesium and one cuprous chloride electrode that uses water as an electrolyte
    • manufactured and distributed in a dry condition and activated by addition of water
  • while the claims do not make mention of the battery using a water electrolyte, this can be assumed from the specifications submitted with the patent application.

Prior Art

  • Marie Davy cell - was probably capable of working with pure water; does not pursue the idea.
  • Wood patent - introduces magnesium as an electrode material; does not make mention of using it with cuprous chloride or a water electrolyte.
  • Codd treatise - says magnesium would be a theoretically desirable electrode; does not attempt to implement.
  • Wensky patent - introduced cuprous chloride as an electrode; does not use with Mg or water electrolyte.
  • Skrivanoff patent - a battery designed to give intermittent service; requires an acidic electrolyte; attempts at implementation were unsuccessful.


  • even though elements of Adams' battery may have been known, they were never used in the way Adams used them.


  • the Government admits that Adams' battery shows operating advantages over others.


  • Adams' invention went against two norms:
    • not practical for batteries to operate on an open circuit and heated in use
    • water can only be used when combined with other electrolytes that damage magnesium
  • experts expressed disbelief at Adams' battery
  • experts recognized the significance of the invention
  • experts have patented improvements to Adams' battery

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