In the case of Thomas (assignee ofJS. Howe, Jr.) versus Foxwell, recently tried in the Court of Queen's Bench, before the Lord Chief Justice Campbell and a special jury, Howe's patent has been again sustained, and his claims have received a broader interpretation than in any previous suit. In this case, which was supported on both sides by an array of legal talent seldom employed in one case, it was contended by the defense that Howe's invention was not new at the time of the granting of the patent, and that even if new, the defendant's machine was not an infringement. In support of the plea denying the novelty, no less than nine machines were set out, including every patent of the kind granted previously to the plaintiff 's. In support of the other plea, denying infrinrement, it was contended that in the defendant's machine no shuttle was used to pass i a thread through the loop formed by the 1 needle thread, but another needle was em-,( ployed which formed a second loop, and the H stitch prodnced was different to that made by the needle and shuttle, and that as no portion of the plaintiff's machine was claimed by him as new in itself—the patent containing a disclaimer to that effect—but his claims were limited to combination, there could be no infringement. Much testimony of experts was taken on both sides, and the floor of the Court was covered with models without which the testimony would have been unintelligible, the object of the plaintiff being to show in what respects the defendant had imitated his machine, and that of the defendant to show that he had done no more than the plaintiff himself, viz: had taken a great nnmber of old machines, and taken parts of them, and made a machine which was no infringement of the plaintiff's patent. The Lord Justice said there were two questions for the jury :—Whether the invention of the plaintiff was novel, and whether it had been infringed ? As to the novelty, the plaintiff disclaimed the novelty of any particnlar portion ; it was only a patent for a combination, and the point to be considered was whether that combination was new. The plaintiff claimed four things—the general arrangement of the machinery, the application of a needle in combination with a shuttle, the construction and use of a sliding frame (feed motion—ENS.), and the mode of actuating the frame and needle. If they believe, any one of these, was not new, they ought to find for the defendant. As to the infringement, this being a patent for a combination, if the defendant used any substantial portion of the new combination for the same purpose as that to which it was applied by the patentee, the charge of infringement was supported, and it was not necessary that the whole combination should have beea copied. The jury found that the invention of the plaintiff was new on all four points, and that the defendant had infringed it. This verdict does not state in what particular the infringement was considered to consist. Lord Campbell, in his charge, is more liberal in his construction of claims for combinations than our judges have been. The greatest latitude that has been allowed in this country for a combination claim, has been that it could not be evaded by the omission of any non-essential part, or by the substitution of equivalents for any of the parts embraced in the combination.
This article was originally published with the title "Important Patent Suit in England—Howe's Sewing Machine" in Scientific American 13, 18, 142 (January 1858)