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October 1, 1875


APPEAL from the Circuit Court of the United States for the District of Massachusetts.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Mr. Justice Miller delivered the opinion of the court.

Mr. B. E. Valentine for the appellants.

Mr. Frederick H. Betts, contra.

On the eighteenth day of November, 1856, a patent issued to Lafayette Louis for an invention which produced a tremolo in the musical notes of melodeons or reed instruments, and which has since become known as the tremolo attachment. Louis surrendered and obtained reissues of this patent on the twenty-sixth day of February, 1867, and again on the twenty-sixth day of May, 1868; and after his death his wife, who was his administratrix, obtained in July, 1871, what appears to have been both a reissue and a renewal for seven years of the same patent, the whole right in which she assigned to plaintiffs May 30, 1872.

Whereupon the present suit, which is a bill in chancery, is brought against the defendants, as infringers, for an injunction and for an account of profits, and other relief.

The defendants, not denying the allegation of the use of the invention, interpose a plea; and on this plea the case was heard and a decree rendered dismissing the bill.

The plea sets up the right to use the invention described in the reissued patent of 1872, in defendants, as shown by five several written instruments, signed by Louis in his lifetime, which were made parts of the plea as exhibits A, B, C, D, and E.

The first of these is a contract between said Louis and Henry Mason and Emmons Hamlin, for the use by the latter in their melodeons, of the original invention of Louis, and is dated April 10, 1861. Exhibit B is a copy of an application by Louis for a patent for an improvement in his tremolo attachment, with the accompanying specifications, and is dated Sept. 25, 1868. Exhibits C, D, and E are all dated the same day as this application, and are contracts between said Louis and the Mason and Hamlin Organ Company for the sale of this improvement, and its use in connection with the invention already patented in 1856, and reissued in 1867 and 1868.

Exhibit A is a contract by which Louis agrees to furnish to Mason and Hamlin his patent tremolo attachment in such numbers and as they may order them, at one dollar for each attachment; and if he fails to furnish them as ordered, Mason and Hamlin are licensed to make, use, and sell the same in connection with all musical instruments manufactured by them anywhere in the United States. The closing paragraph of this contract declares that 'the said parties mutually bind themselves and their legal representatives to the covenants and agreements herein contained, to continue in force until the full expiration of the term for which said letters-patent have been granted, and during such period as the same may be hereafter renewed or extended.'

It is not alleged that any of the subsequent contracts abogated this one. It cannot be denied that this contract extends to the renewal of the patent which was assigned to plaintiffs. The only question on this branch of the plea is, whether the Mason and Hamlin Organ Company are entitled to the rights of Mason and Hamlin.

As the case was decided on the sufficiency of the plea, its allegations must be taken as true; and all that can be reasonably inferred from those allegations, and from the various exhibits which it makes, must also be held to be true. The plea does allege that the defendants are 'the legal representatives, and successors, and assignees in business and interest, of said Mason and Hamlin.' This allegation seems to be full and specific; and the only doubt of its sufficiency arises as to whether the legal representatives spoken of in the agreement are or can be others than exc utors, administrators, or heirs. Whatever doubt might be entertained on this point, we think is solved by the fact that Louis, in the subsequent contracts of 1868, seems throughout to treat with the corporation as successors of Mason and Hamlin in the contract of 1861. For in exhibit E he sells and assigns to the company the exclusive right to use his supposed improvement under the patent of 1856 and all the subsequent reissues, and as this new improvement required the use of the old, he seems here to recognize the right of the company to control the license he had previously granted to Mason and Hamlin.

We are of opinion, therefore, that the defendant corporation is entitled to the benefit of the contract between Mason and Hamlin, covered by exhibit A, and that this gives them the right to use the attachment under the extention of the original patent now assigned to plaintiffs.

It is said that defendants never demanded these attachments, and, therefore, they had no right to make them.

But the allegation is full that Louis at all times refused to manufacture and furnish the attachment to defendants, and we think under the contract this ...

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