The suit of Professor More, the inventor and patentee of the magnetic telegraph, against Henry OReilly for an invasion of the patent rights of Morse, was before the Supreme Court, at Washington, a few days ago, but the decision has been postponed till the next meeting of the Supreme Court, one year from the present time. Some of the New York papers a few days ago said the decision of the Court had been against Morse. With a view of getting correct information upon the subject, to lay before the public, the Philadelphia Ledger applied to an accurate source to learn the facts in the case, to which application they received an answer, showing the mistake of the New York journals :— WASHINGTON, Feb. 5, 1853. MESSES. EDITORS.—I presume you have received, through the newspapers, the information requested in your message of the 1st inst. The idea that the Supreme Court had decided against Morses Patent, seems to have arisen from a misconception of their decision in another patent case. In that case they decided, as all courts have done before, that a principle cannot be patented. Nobody claims that an absolute principle, art, or result is patentable ; that is to say, you cannot assert that you can do a particular thing never done before, and thereupon obtain a patent for it, without showing how you do it. The court divided, five to three, in the late case ; the five maintaining that the means must be new as well as the end, to sustain a patent; while three contended that if the. end were new, novelty in the means was immaterial. The majority expressly admit, that where the patentee has not only discovered the principle, but has invented the means by which it is made useful, he may, through a patent lor the means, reserve the principle ; but they say, where there is nothing patentable in the means, the patent would be for the principle, only, which is not admissible. The minority say, that where a new principle has been rendered practically useful to society by any means, old or new, it is no longer an abstract principle, and the discoverer is entitled to the protection of a patent. In Morses patent, both the means and the end are new, the majority, therefore, go far enough to sustain them, and the minority much further. Morses friends, indeed, consider the principles of this decision broad enough to cover his broadest claims. They are, therefore, satisfied that the postponement of the decision has arisen, not from any hesitation in the court as to the principles involved, but solely from the voluminous character of the testimony which bears in their applicability to the case—so voluminous that they cannot find time, amidst the bustle of the term, to examine and apply it as the importance of the case demands. I do not think Prof. Morse and his friends need have the least fear as to the ultimate result. [The above is from the Baltimore Sun, and the reference to the New York journals applies to us. The letter above is in the same tone, and employs the same arguments and nearly the same language as that of the Hon. Amos Kendals letter which we published on page 170. In reference to the case spoken of, wherein three against hve decided that if the end were new, novelty in the means was immaterial, we wish to say a few words, also a few words respecting patent principles. A new result produced by old means is patentable, such as a new design or an article of manufacture, but then we must separate the result from the means, and not mention the latter at all, for a new result by a patented means (a new article of manufacture produced by an old patented machine) does not surely give the man who produces the de-sign-manufacture (result) —the authority to prevent others from using the old machine which is another persons invention, yet this is the idea inculcated in the above opinion embraced in the letter. Nay, we do say, that a man may produce a new result by an old machine, and yet by our patent laws, although he may obtain a patent for the design, he is justly prevented from producing it because he cannot use the machine without the consent of the old patentee. This has been decided overandover again in our courts with respect to Blanchards patent for turning irregular forms. It was taken out to turn gun stocks, but it will also turn out busts, &c, now no man can use that machine for turning out a new figure— (producing a new result) without the consent of the patentee. The employment of the word patentp-inci-ple is too often used to confuse a subject, instead of presenting it clearly to the mind.— We humbly confess that we do not know what is meant by the word principle in the foregoing letter. We consider that a patent principle is the leading means in an invention for producing either a new result or an old result in a superior manner; principle and the means of producing a result are confounded together in the above letter—they cannot be separated—they are one and the same thing, and yet they are spoken of above as being entirely distinct. To talk about principles and abstract principles, and leave out of consideration the means of producing results (the machinery) is noneence. It would be as sensible to talk about human laws for the moon, where not a single thing ot life dwells. The principle of Morses invention is the leading agent he employs in his machine to produce mechanical marks or sounds at a distance, to convey messages, which is his Electro Magnet. This was Prof. Morses own opinion a few years ago, and although lawyers may confuse they cannot alter it.
The Magnetic Telegraph Suit
This article was originally published with the title "The Magnetic Telegraph Suit" in Scientific American 8, 27, 214 (March 1853)