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224 U.S. 1


Argued October 27, 1911 -- Decided March 11, 1912

The facts, which involve the power of a patentee to enforce a license restriction as to the use of the patented article, and the determination of what constitutes contributory infringement, are stated in the opinion.

Complainant sold his patented machine embodying the invention claimed and described in the patent, and attached to the machine a license restriction that it only be used in connection with certain unpatented articles made by the vendor of the machine; with the knowledge of such license agreement and with the expectation that it would be used in connection with the said machine, defendant sold to the vendee of the machine an unpatented article of the class described in the license restriction.

Held that the act of defendant constituted contributory infringement of complainant's patent.

This court does not prescribe the jurisdiction of courts, Federal or state, but only gives effect to it as fixed by law.

A suit for infringement which turns upon the scope of the patent and privileges of the patentee thereunder presents a case arising under the patent law.

In determining questions of jurisdiction this court never shirks the responsibility of maintainig the lines of separation defined in the Constitution and the laws made in pursuance thereof.

A patentee who has leased his patent to a licensee under restrictions may waive the tort involved in infringement and sue upon the broken contract; but in that event the case is not one arising under the patent laws and, in absence of diversity of citizenship, a Federal court has no jurisdiction thereof.

Whether the case is one of infringement, of which the Federal court has jurisdiction or contract of which it has not jurisdiction, is often determined by the remedy which complainaint seeks.

The test of jurisdiction is whether complainant does or does not set up a right, title or interest under the patent laws or make it appear that a right or privilege will be defeated by one, or sustained by another, construction of those laws.

Whether a patentee may lawfully impose restrictions on the use of a patent and whether the violation thereof constitutes infringement are questions under the patent law.

A patentee may elect to sue his licesee upon the broken contract, or for forfeiture for breach, or for infringement.

While an absolute and unconditional sale operates to pass the patented article outside of the boundaries of the patent, a patentee may by a conditional sale so restrict the use of his vendee within specific boundaries of time, place or method as to make prohibited uses outside of those boundaries constitute infringement and not mere breach of collateral contract.

The extent of a license to use, which is carried by a sale of a patented article depends upon whether any restrictions were placed upon the sale, and if so what they were, and how they were brought home to the vendee; and where, as in this case, a restriction is plainly placed upon the article itself, a sale carries with it only the right to use within the limits specified, and any other use is an infringing one.

The patent statute is one creating and protecting a true monopoly granted to subserve a broad public policy, and it should be construed so as to give effect to a wise and beneficial purpose.

The monopoly of a patent extends to the right of making, selling and using, and each is a separable and substantial right.

A patentee may exclude others from the use of his invention although he does not use it himself. The Paper Bay Patent Case, 210 U.S. 405.

Although a contract in regard to use of a patent may include interstate commerce and restrain interstate trade, if it involves only the reasonable and legal conditions imposed under the patent law, it is not within the prohibitions of the Sherman Act. Bement v. National Harrow Co., 186 U.S. 70.

Contributory infringement is the intentional aiding of one person by another in the unlawful making, selling or using of a patented invention.

The larger right of exclusive use of the patentee embraces the lesser one of only permitting the licensee to use upon prescribed conditions.

Courts cannot declare the monopoly created by Congress under authority of the Constitution to be unwise; Congress alone has power to prescribe what restraints shall be imposed.

Where a great majority of the courts to which Congress has committed the interpretation of a law have construed it, so that the line of decisions has become a rule of property, this court should not, in the absence of clear reason to the contrary, overrule those decisions on certiorari, and so held in this case after reviewing the decisions sustaining the rule of contributory infringement.

A bare supposition that an article adapted for use in connection with a patented machine sold under restricted license is to be used in connection therewith will not make the vendor a contributory infringer, but where the article so sold is only adapted to an infringing use, there is a presumption that it is intended therefor.

Questions certified by Circuit Court of Appeals on appeal from 149 Fed. Rep. 424, answered in affirmative.

Mr. Justive Lurton delivered the opinion of the court.

Mr. Justice Day did not hear the argument and took no part in the decision of this case.

Mr. Chief Justice White, with whom concurred Mr. Justice Hughes and Mr. Justice Lamar, dissenting.

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