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GRAVEL PRODS. CORP. v. BUFFALO GRAVEL CORP.

December 22, 1933

GRAVEL PRODUCTS CORPORATION
v.
BUFFALO GRAVEL CORPORATION



The opinion of the court was delivered by: ADLER

ADLER, District Judge.

This is a suit for infringement of a patent (No. 1,729,070) granted September 24, 1929, to Howard S. Gerken for improvements in apparatus for washing and separating or grading materials, as for instance, gravel from waterways, on an application filed February 27, 1926. The patent has thirty claims. Those in suit are claims 16 to 30, inclusive.

Corporate capacity and title to the patent are admitted. Infringement and validity of the claims are denied. With respect to infringement, it is the contention that each and all of the claims in issue are either invalid, or, when interpreted by the prior art, do not cover either of defendant's constructions. To establish invalidity, defendant relies on patents of the prior art, on prior use, on prior knowledge, on abandonment, and on failure to disclaim under circumstances which it is alleged made disclaimer obligatory.

 The invention of the claims in suit is described in the specification as "a washing, separating and grading apparatus particularly adapted to be used on a boat or scow, so that it can be positioned lengthwise of the boat over the hold or hatches, whereby the washed, separated material can be discharged from the apparatus into separate compartments in the hold, or delivered to one or another part of the hold, as may be desired, (in order) to segregate the different grades of material or evenly load the boat." The invention is described in broad terms in claim 30, as follows: (a) An inclined chute the length of which is many times its width; (b) means for delivering solid materials and a relatively large volume of water to the upper end of said chute and causing them to flow down the chute at a relatively rapid rate, said chute having screened openings in the bottom at intervals along its length, each screened opening being adapted to discharge a small portion of the water and such of the materials as are small enough to pass through the screen; (c) secondary screening means arranged to receive the water and material from said screened openings in the chute and to divert laterally the larger particles thereof, said secondary means being adapted to pass the water and other particles received from said screened openings; and (d) means for receiving all the water and finer particles passing through said screen means and conveying them away by the flow of the water content thereof. (The italicizing is not in the patent.)

 It is the contention of defendant that claims 16, 18, 22, 26, 28, and 30 are "completely anticipated in terms and substance by the prior art"; that claims 23, 24, and 25 are "anticipated in substance by the prior art and substantially anticipated in terms"; that claims 27 and 29 are "completely anticipated in terms and substance," provided "the express limitations are ignored"; and that the remaining claims are "void for want of invention."

 The object of employing means for collecting and conveying away the water and finer particles, the function of element (d) of claim 30, is explained thus in the specification: "In apparatus heretofore used, the sand and water were discharged directly into the hold or compartments of the boat, the water being gradually displaced by sand settling in the hold until the water finally overflowed the hatch combings and thence went overboard."

 The patents of the prior art relied on as anticipations are patent to Roberts, No. 997,854, patent to Thompson, No. 1,149,989, British patent to Wilkinson, No. 25,823 of 1913, and patent to Woolley, No. 349,675. Of these the Thompson patent and the British patent to Wilkinson were considered by the Patent Office as citations against Gerken's application. The patents of the prior art relied upon as disclosing "various details of the Gerken construction" are patent to Keller, No. 126,968, patent to Schultz, No. 174,981, patent to Jewett, No. 475,568, patent to Diers et al., No. 1,165,077, patent to Kavanaugh, No. 583,259, patent to Stetson, No. 714,755, patent to Evans, No. 1,032,746, patent to Hoyt, No. 1,064,223, patent to Mark, No. 1,269,947, patent to Lamb, No. 1,368,267, French patent to Rey, No. 415,130 of 1910, and German patent No. 291,693 of 1915. Of these prior art patents the following were considered by the Patent Office, namely: The Keller patent, the Diers patent, the Kavanaugh patent, and the Marks patent. The patents relied on as anticipations, and which were not cited by the Patent Office, are the only ones that need be considered specially, viz.: The Woolley patent and the Roberts patent.

 The Woolley patent is on a coal separator adapted for installation at the mine. The oversizes are scalped by a grid screen in the chute that receives the coal. The material passing through the screen falls upon a secondary screen of gablelike form, employed for grading purposes, each end of which discharges into a bin. On comparing the structure of the Woolley patent with that described in broad claim 30 of the Gerken patent in suit, it is seen that the structures are designed for different purposes; that the Woolley structure is not adapted (with any modifications that are obvious or that have been suggested) to be used on a boat for washing and separating gravel; and that the Woolley structure does not suggest the long, inclined chute of the patent in suit, with its screened openings, adapted to receive water in volume at its upper end; nor does it employ means for receiving all the water and finer particles passing through the screens and conveying them away by the flow of the water. The Woolley patent does not anticipate claim 30.

 The Roberts patent was not cited by the Patent Office.It shows and describes a washer designed for treating "pebble phosphate and the like." It is constructed so that it can be set up on the deck of a dredge, where the material from the bottom of the waterway can be pumped into it. It has an inclined trough or raceway, with a grating in the bottom. From the surface of the grating (at its lower end) is discharged into a chute that projects from one side of the trough the materials that will not pass through the grating in the trough. During the travel of the materials over the grating in the trough, the finer stuff falls through onto an inclined screen from which it passes to other screens in chutes that lead to the sides of the barge, where the pebbles are delivered into scows, and the water and sand that flows below the screens is discharged overboard.

 On comparing the structure of the Roberts patent with the elements of claim 30 of the patent in suit, it is seen that the structures are designed for different purposes; that the Roberts structure does not suggest the long, inclined chute of the patent in suit, with its plurality of gratings, each adapted to discharge sand and a portion of the water onto a secondary screen, or means (the lower parallel trough of the patent) adapted to receive the water and finer particles that pass through the secondary screen and convey them away by the flow of the water content. In the Roberts apparatus the transverse troughs that convey to the side of the vessel the water, sand, and pebbles that go through the screen located beneath the trough are not the equivalent of the lower parallel trough of the Gerkin apparatus, and, accordingly, Roberts is not an anticipation of claim 30.

 The patent to Wilkinson, put forward as an anticipation, was considered by the Patent Office. It describes apparatus for washing and grading gravel, sand, and the like, and comprises (a) a casing or trough in combination with (b) a series of primary screens of different mesh (the finer mesh at the top) supported within the casing and so arranged that the material passes from one screen to another and the graded material is delivered from the respective screens; (c) another screen of fine mesh behind the graduated screens and diagonally across the casing, which extends from the top to the bottom of the casing (to make it possible to change the screening effect of the middle primary screen); (d) another screen arranged between the two first mentioned to produce the required screening effect with the upper primary screen; (e) still another screen of fine mesh, behind the before-mentioned graduated screens, extending diagonally across the casing, from top to bottom, divided by partitions across the casing, located at the lower end of each primary screen, to form compartments, each having an opening through the side wall of the casing, just above the lower end of the partition, to which a chute is attached. In use the material passes over the screens by gravity. During its passage over the primary screens, the material is washed by water discharges from pipes connected to a suitable source of supply, preferably in the form of spray, which is stated to facilitate the passage of the material through the screens. The material that does not pass through the primary screen falls off the end thereof, and then off the lower end of the casing. Obviously it is not contemplated that the Wilkinson apparatus shall be used on a boat to separate gravel that has been sucked up from the bottom of a waterway and discharged into gravel boxes on the deck or into the hold of a boat by a stream of water under high pressure. Such a process and the problem involved has no part in the designing of the Wilkinson apparatus. The British patent to Wilkinson does not anticipate claim 30.

 The other patents cited as disclosing features resembling structurally or functionally the elements of the claims in suit need not be discussed in detail. It is apparent on inspection that separately considered they do not anticipate. As pointed out above, many of the patents of the prior art cited in defense were considered by the Patent Office, and the claims sued on were allowed over them. In infringement suit the courts apply the rule that, when it has been held by the Patent Office that the structure described in the claims is patentable over the prior art, the patent is entitled to the presumption of invention that attaches to a patent. And, when patents alleged in defense to anticipate were considered by the Patent Office, the presumption is materially increased. Walker on Patents (6th Ed.) § 535; Gray v. Eastman Kodak Company, 67 F.2d 190, 193 (C.C.A. 3).

 In this connection it should be noted specially that broad claim 30 was inserted by an amendment dated August 9, 1929, that was filed after a long discussion devoted to drawing the line between the prior art and Gerken's real invention, and was allowed as filed.

 The prior use relied on is the use of certain gravel washing and separating apparatus that was first put into use on the Burton about 1905 ...


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