JOSEPH SHAW, PLAINTIFF IN ERROR
32 U.S. 292 (1833)
Supreme Court of United States.
299*299 The case was submitted to the court, on printed arguments, by Mr Paine, for the plaintiff in error; and Mr Emmet, for the defendant.
310*310 Mr Justice M’LEAN delivered the opinion of the Court.
This writ of error brings before this court, for its revision, a judgment of the circuit court of the United States for the southern district of New York.
An action was brought in the circuit court by Shaw against the defendant Cooper, for the violation of a certain patent right, claimed by the plaintiff. The defendant pleaded the general issue, and gave notice that on the trial he would prove “that the pretended new and useful improvement in guns and fire arms, mentioned and referred to in the several counts in the declaration; also that the said pretended new and useful improvement, or the essential parts or portions thereof, or some or one of them, had been known and used in this country, viz. in the city of New York and in the city of Philadelphia, and in sundry other places in the United States, and in England, in France, and in other foreign countries, before the plaintiff’s application for a patent as set forth in his declaration,” &c.
On the trial, the following bill of exceptions was taken: “to maintain the issue joined, the plaintiff gave in evidence certain letters patent of the United States, as set forth in the declaration, issued on the 7th day of May 1829; and also that the improvement for which the letters were granted, was invented or discovered by the plaintiff in 1813 or 1814; and that the defendant had sold instruments which were infringements of the said letters patent.
“And the defendant then proved, by the testimony of one witness, that he had used the said improvement in England, and had purchased a gun of the kind there, and had seen others use the said improvement, and had seen guns of the kind in the duke of York’s armoury in 1819. And also proved by the testimony of five other witnesses, that, in 1820 and 1821, they worked in England at the business of making and repairing guns, and that the said improvement was generally used in England in those years; but that they had never seen guns 311*311 of the kind prior to those years: and also proved that in the year 1821, it was used and known in France; and also that the said improvement was generally known and used in the United States after the 19th day of June 1822.
“And the plaintiff, further to maintain the issue on his part, then gave in evidence, that he not being a worker in iron in 1813 or 1814, employed his brother in England, under strict injunctions of secrecy, to execute or fabricate the said improvement for the purpose of making experiments. And that the plaintiff afterwards, in 1817, left England and came to reside in the United States; and that after his departure from England, in 1817 or 1818, his said brother divulged the secret for a certain reward to an eminent gun maker in London. That on the arrival of the plaintiff in this country, in 1817, he disclosed his said improvement to a gun maker, whom he consulted as to obtaining a patent for the same, and whom he wished to engage to join and assist him. That the plaintiff made this disclosure under injunctions of secrecy, claiming the improvement as his own, declaring that he should patent it. That the plaintiff treated his invention as a secret after his arrival in this country, often declaring that he should patent it; and that this step was only delayed, that he might make it more perfect before it was introduced into public use: and that he did make alterations which some witnesses considered improvements in his invention, and others did not. That in this country the invention was never known nor used prior to the said 19th day of June 1822; that on that day letters patent were issued to the plaintiff, being then an alien, and that he immediately brought his invention into public use. That afterwards, and after suits had been brought for a violation of the said letters patent, the plaintiff was advised to surrender them on account of the specification being defective; and that he did accordingly, on the 7th day of May in the year 1829, surrender the same into the department of the secretary of state, and received the letters patent first above named.
“And the plaintiff also gave in evidence that prior to the 19th day of June 1822, the principal importers of guns from England in New York and Philadelphia, at the latter of which cities the plaintiff resided, had never heard any thing of the 312*312 said invention, or that the same was used or known in England; and that no guns of the kind were imported into this country, until in the years 1824 or 1825. And that letters patent were granted in England on the 11th day of April 1807, to one Alexander J. Forsyth, for a method of discharging or giving fire to artillery and all other fire arms; which method he describes in his specification as consisting in the `use or application as a priming, in any mode, of some or one of those chemical compounds which are so easily inflammable as to be capable of taking fire and exploding without any actual fire being applied thereto, and merely by a blow, or by any sudden or strong pressure or friction given or applied thereto, without extraordinary violence; that is to say, some one of the compounds of combustible matter, such as sulphur or sulphur and charcoal, with an oxmuriatic salt; for example, the salt formed of dephlogisticated marine acid and potash (or potasse), which salt is otherwise called oxmuriate of potash; or such of the fulminating metallic compounds as may be used with safety; for example, fulminating mercury, or of common gunpowder mixed in due quantity with any of the above mentioned substances, or with any oxmuriatic salt, as aforesaid, or of suitable mixtures of any of the before mentioned compounds; and that the said letters patent continued in force for the period of fourteen years from the time of granting the same.”
And the defendant, further to maintain the issue on his part, gave in evidence a certain letter from the plaintiff to the defendant, dated in December in the year 1824, from which the following is an extract: “some time since I stated that I had employed counsel respecting regular prosecutions for any trespass against my rights to the patent; I have at length obtained the opinion of Mr Sergeant of this city, together with others eminent in the law, and that is, that I ought (with a view to insure success) to visit England, and procure the affidavits of Manton and others, to whom I made my invention known, and also of the person whom I employed to make the lock at the time of invention; for it appears very essential that I should prove that I did actually reduce the principle to practice, otherwise a verdict might be doubtful. It is, therefore, my intention to visit England in May next for this purpose; in the mean time 313*313 proceedings which have commenced here are suspended for the necessary time.”
And the court, on these facts, charged the jury that the patent of the 7th of May 1829, having been issued, as appears by its recital, on the surrender and cancelment of the patent of the 19th day of June in the year 1822; and being intended to correct a mistake or remedy a defect in the latter; it must be considered as a continuation of the said patent, and the rights of the plaintiff were to be determined by the state of things which existed in the year 1822, when the patent was first obtained.
That the plaintiff’s case, therefore, came under the act passed the 17th day of April 1800, extending the right of obtaining patents to aliens; by the first section of which the applicant is required to make oath, that his invention has not, to the best of his knowledge or belief, been known or used in this or any foreign country. That the plaintiff most probably did not know, in the year 1822, that the invention for which he was taking out a patent, had, before that time, been in use in a foreign country; but that his knowledge or ignorance on that subject was rendered immaterial by the concluding part of the section, which expressly declares, that every patent obtained pursuant to that act, for any invention which it should afterward appear had been known or used previous to such application for a patent, should be utterly void. That there was nothing in the act confining such use to the United States; and that, if the invention was previously known in England or France, it was sufficient to avoid the patent under that act. That the evidence would lead to the conclusion that the plaintiff was the inventor in this case, but the court were of opinion that he had slept too long on his rights, and not followed them up as the law requires, to entitle him to any benefit from his patent. That the use of the invention, by a person who had pirated it, or by others who knew of the piracy, would not affect the inventor’s rights, but that the law was made for the benefit of the public as well as of the inventor; and if, as appears from the evidence in this case, the public had fairly become possessed of the invention before the plaintiff applied for his patent, it was sufficient, in the opinion of the court, to invalidate the 314*314 patent; even though the invention may have originally got into public use through the fraud or misconduct of his brother, to whom he entrusted the knowledge of it.
Under this charge the jury found a verdict for the defendant, on which a judgment was entered.
There is a general assignment of errors, which brings to the consideration of the court the principles of law which arise out of the facts of the case, as stated in the bill of exceptions.
It may be proper, in the first place, to inquire whether the letters patent which were obtained in 1829, on a surrender of the first patent, have relation to the emanation of the patent in 1822, or shall be considered as having been issued on an original application.
On the part of the plaintiff it is contended, that “the second patent is original and independent, and not a continuation of the first patent.” That in adopting the policy of giving, for a term of years, exclusive rights to inventors in this country, we adopted at the same time the rules of the common law as applied to patents in England: and that by the common law, a patent when defective may be surrendered to the granting power, which vacates the right under it, and the king may grant the right de novo either to the same or to any other person.