A very important decision was made in the U. S. Supreme Court at Washington, on Tuesday, the 11th inst. An appeal was carried up by Henry O'Reilly, against a decision of a lower court, which granted an injunction to, restrain the use of the Columbian Instrument, as an infringement of the Morse Telegraph Patent. The decision of the lower court was to the effect that " a patent covered an art." This decision has been reversed by the Supreme Courtmdash;its decision is,'' an art is not patentable." It will be recollected by our constant readers, that on page 61, of our last volume, it was stated that Judge Kane made a decision against the Bain Telegraph, which was in effect that an art is patentable, that Morse's patent covered'recorded messagesindependent of the manner or the principle embraced in the mode of doing the same. On page 67, of the same volume, we reviewed his decision and pointed out the fallacy of his Honor's reasoning, and the dangerous principle to improvements involved by his fiat mdash;a decision which we deemed unjust and unreasonable. By that decision, the whole of the property of the Bain line was given over to the complainants, and now it turns out the Supreme Court has decided that the decision of Judge Kane was founded, upon erroneous principles. Judge Kane's words were:mdash; " Morse's title is founded on two patentable subjects, the one the discovery of a new art, the second the means of practising it; the art is the recording of languages at telegraphic distances." We refer to his Honor's decision now, and to our criticism of it to notice one peculiar point. We said then,"'we could not feel easy in conscience with such a decision, if we were in the complainants' place, to be awarded property which in justice did not belong to us, but it was a question which would be settled before a higher tribunal than that of an earthly court. We have great faith in moral principles, and in no single instance can we recollect of having been deceived in the ultimate results. Herrick Aiken, of Franklin, N. H.', thought we were wrong in our conclusions, and we allowed him three whole columns on page 171, Vol. 7, Sci. Am.; to prove that, an art was patentable. On page 4pl we pointed out the exceeding weakness of his reasoning, and want of correct information on the subject, and we concluded with these words." " We believe the decision and the compromise which has resulted frpm it (Judge Kane's decision) have deeply .injured the rights of an inventor; it may look all prosperous just now to those who, in their worldly wisdom have planned things for their own success.and benefit, but we have strong faith in the ultimate triumphs of justice." This faith has just been realized in the Supreme Court of the United States-the highest legal tribunal in our landmdash;declaring the principle upon which Judge Kane based his decision, to be wrong, the decision of the Supreme Court is in accordance with the views expressed by us at the time, and on the page referred to above.
This article was originally published with the title "Patent Principles—Telegraphs" in Scientific American 8, 19, 152 (January 1853)