US v. Adams, 383 U.S. 39 (1966) Notes

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companion case to No. 11, Graham v. John Deere

  • Petitioner: US govt - doesnt think Adams' patent should be considered valid, ie they didnt infringe upon it
  • Court of Claims said valid and infringed
  • Device: wet battery
  • Adams: originally charging both infringement and breach of an implied contract to pay compensation for the use of the invention
    • Trial Court: validity granted, but no recognition of contract
    • currently only concerned with validity of patent (US sought certiorari)

adams tries to get US on symantics:

  • says didnt ask for certiori quickly enough (90 days), court say no its ok
  • say didnt follow rules, they did

Background of Patent

  • issued in 1943
  • nonrechargeable battery
  • Mg, cuprous chloride electrodes, electrolyte is water
  • constant V, i
  • can't be shut off

filed for patent, notifies govt, they say suck it, then WWII, they say its feasible. gets other co's to make the battery, dont tell adams. adams says pay me, they say no, here we are.

Prior Art

  • stuff about batteries
  • other ppl tried, failed

Validity

govt says:

    • lack of novelty
    • obvious
  • what's known:
    • using zinc, silver chloride
    • using Mg to replace zinc, cuprous Cl to replace silver Cl
  • thus, cant be new

court says:

  • water-activated makes it new - absence of mentioning electrolytes implies that can use only water
  • not just taking advantage of physical properties of materials here, unique relationship btwn Mg, CuCl
  • its novel
    • govt said he used mere substitutions of materials, but if thats the case, why were there unexpected results, like you even admitted?
  • its nonobvious
    • unexpected operating characteristics
    • had to ignore things that would have deterred avg skilled person
    • experts in field expressed disbelief in it
    • others patented improvements upon it
    • Patent Office couldn't cite reference against claims

Conclusion: adams patent valid