Compco Corporation v. Day-Brite Lighting, Inc.

PETITIONER: Compco Corporation
RESPONDENT: Day-Brite Lighting, Inc.
LOCATION: United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1962-1965)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

CITATION: 376 US 234 (1964)
ARGUED: Jan 16, 1964
DECIDED: Mar 09, 1964

Facts of the case


Media for Compco Corporation v. Day-Brite Lighting, Inc.

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 16, 1964 in Compco Corporation v. Day-Brite Lighting, Inc.

Earl Warren:

Number 106, Compco Corporation, Petitioner, versus Day-Brite Lighting, Incorporated.

Mr. Fallon.

Jerome F. Fallon:

Mr. Chief Justice and Associate Justices of this Honorable Court.

This is an unfair competition case wherein the petitioner, Compco, was permanently enjoined from selling this particular fixture, to sell fluorescent light fixture and all others that are confusingly similar.

This particular fixture is not often seen by the average person because it's an industrial fixture.

It's mounted near the ceiling, not quite at the ceiling, of factories.

It's arranged for end-to-end installation and it's not unusual for 50 or 100 of these things to be installed in a long line.

They come in standard sizes.

This is the 48-inch size, the smallest size.

It's --

Earl Warren:


Jerome F. Fallon:

Yes, sir, except for this.

We have these elongated slots which cast light upwards.

So, ordinarily these would be bolted to the trusses, which are the cross A-shaped members that are in a factory so that there maybe 05 or 10 feet between the actual roof and the top of this housing.

The components of the fixture include the housing, this rectangular shape portion which includes all of the wiring and the ballasts which are heavy transformers needed to spark the light tubes that are included down below.

The light tubes are supported from socket portions which hang down from the housing and then sandwiched in between is the reflector portion.

And it is this with which we are concerned primarily because all of the other elements are old or there are substantial differences between what Compco puts out and what the plaintiff below, the respondent here, Day-Brite has in their fixture.

Now, the up-lighting fixtures of this type, having these slots became popular in the early 1950s.

Shortly after that, they faced a problem in this art because the porcelain coating, this is like we find on sinks and bathtubs, this porcelain enamel, tended to chip and it was determined that the chipping occurred because of -- because the metal, the steel of this reflector, when it was heated during this enameling operation up to about 1600 degrees, tended to warp and twist so as to get out of alignment.

And therefore, there were inbred strains, you might say, so that this fixture, when it was handled later on, would tend to chip, the porcelain enamel would pop off.

This was solved by the respondent here, Day-Brite, by elongating these ribs so that they came down here to provide additional stiffness for this size, to make this -- to make the side stiff.

In all other respects, the reflector is like the prior art that which preceded it.

The prior art had the elongated slots.

It had the ribs about this far.

But in order to overcome this problem of porcelain chipping, especially along the sides, like these ribs, I beg your pardon, they look like grooves here.

They're ribs when you look at them from the underside.

These -- these ribs were extended.

Now, this gave the reflector the resistance that it needed and this point was very heavily emphasized by Day-Brite, the initiator of the elongated ribs.

We point out, in our brief, the feature of strength that was emphasized by Day-Brite.

On page 11 of our brief, we have this little folded in advertisement of Day-Brite where they show a 358-pound man seated on one of these, showing how stiff and how strong they really are, emphasizing in bold letters the strength.