A suit lor libel has been commenced against the " New York Tribune," by Elias Howe Jr., the patentee of the first machine for using a needle and shuttle in sewing. The suit is instituted because the " Tribune " published the advertisement of I. M. Singer & Co , owners of the Singer Sewing'Machine. That advertisement stated that " E. Howe had published falsehoods in saying that he (Howe) had obtained an injunction against Singers' Sewing Machine." It also stated that " it was equally untrue that Howe had the original sewing machine," and it invited all to come and examine the original one, made twelve years before Howe's was heard of; asserting at the same time, that it was the invention of Walter Hunt, of this city. E. Howe, Jr., obtained the first patent in America, for a machine which used two threads and made the lock stitch. Iii a trial which took place at Boston, Howe vs. Le Row & Blodgett, for an infringement of the plaintiff's patent (see page 356, Vol. 7, Scientific American) the claims of Walter Hunt to the invention ol the shuttle and needle sewing machine were introduced, but were considered of no importance, and the plaintiff gained the case. The claims set up for Hunt's machine are a forlorn hope, and when Mr. Le Row, before his suit commenced, informed us that he relied on such claims, we told him that his case rested on a sandy foundation; the result in that case strewed such claims to the winds. We certainly do not think that Mr. Howe is justified in suing the "Tribune" for libel, but neither was it right tor that paper to admit the advertisement of Singer, containing, as it did, such pointed and offensive language. The " Tribune" stated " it did not believe there was a man mean enough to sue them for libel under such circumstances, nor a lawyer' to be found mean enough to undertake the caseJlhfciLXiib*M3Vljvv~Mifi2e=. never intended to hurt Mr. Howe's feelings nor injure his business, but lawyers can be found to advise almost any measures, to make the " penny fee." The Hon. Wm. H. Seward, U. S. Senator, is Mr. Howe's Counsellor in patent matters, but with this case of libel he may have nothing to do. This case affords another illustration of the defectiveness of our United States Chancery Courts with their miserable old and complicated slow machinery. The means lor trying and deciding disputed patent cases should be ample and rapid in bringing them to a conclusion ; instead of this, there is the same see-saw snoringly-draw system in existence now that there was fifty years ago. Some patent cases before our United States Courts might well be represented by a snake with its tail in its mouth endeavoring to swallow itself. The case must first appear in equity and then eminent lawyers must speak on it lor three or four days, going over the whole history of. the invention ; then it may be carried before a jury and then up it will go, perhaps at the end of fourteen years, to the Supreme Court at Washington. When application for an injunction is made to a judge, on a patent which has never been tried at common law, he should at once, if it is demanded by the defendant, order a trial at the next session. This course would save much to patentees, and soon bring the matter to a conclusion. It would also save the public from being inflicted with such quarrels as those of Howe and Singer, Goodyear and Day—the india rubber case— not yet terminated, we believe. Among the many new inventions which are still wanting to benefit mankind, we recommend inventors to try their genius and skill in improving sur United States Courts in patent trials.
This article was originally published with the title "Patent Law Suits—Sewing Machines" in Scientific American 8, 49, 389 (August 1853)