Fourco Glass Company v. Transmirra Products Corporation

PETITIONER: Fourco Glass Company
RESPONDENT: Transmirra Products Corporation
LOCATION: Congress

DOCKET NO.: 310
DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1957-1958)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

CITATION: 353 US 222 (1957)
ARGUED: Apr 02, 1957
DECIDED: Apr 29, 1957

Facts of the case

Question

Media for Fourco Glass Company v. Transmirra Products Corporation

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 02, 1957 in Fourco Glass Company v. Transmirra Products Corporation

Earl Warren:

Number 310, Fourco Glass Company, Petitioner, versus Transmirra Products Corporation, and Robert Aronstein.

Mr. Irons.

Edward S. Irons:

Mr. Chief Justice, may it please the Court.

This case presents the question of construction of the special patent venue statute, Section 1400 (b) of Title 28.

The petitioner is a West Virginia corporation who has a place of business in New York City but who has committed no acts of infringement there.

The respondent is a New York corporation and owns a patent.

The respondent sued the petitioner for patent infringement in the Southern District of New York.

The petitioner moved to dismiss on the ground that the venue requirements of the special patent venue statute, Section 1400 (b), were not satisfied since the petitioner was not a New York corporation and had not infringed in the Southern District of New York.

The District Court granted the petition.

The Court of Appeals reversed.

This Court granted certiorari in view of the conflict of the decision of the Court of Appeals with contrary decisions of other circuits on the same question.

The specific question with respect to which this Court granted certiorari is reproduced on page 2 of the respondent's opening brief, the light (Inaudible) brief and is whether the 1948 revision of the Judicial Code changes the law and enlarges the permissible venue for patent infringement actions against corporate as distinguished from non-corporate defendants.

To permit a suit against the corporation in a judicial district where the corporation has not infringed and is not incorporated but is merely doing business.

In the consideration of this question, it is fundamental initially to recognize that Congress in the 1897, as a matter of policy, placed patent venue in a special category.

The history of the 1897, first special patent venue statute, the reasons for its enactment as a matter of policy and the fact that by such policy, patent venue was placed in a special category were all thoroughly considered by this Court in Stonite against Melvin Lloyd and I will, therefore, not review them in detail here.

The significant ultimate fact as this Court noted in Stonite is, "The Act of 1897 was adopted to define the exact jurisdiction of the federal courts in actions to enforce patent rights and thus, eliminate the uncertainty produced by conflicting decisions on the applicability of the Act of 1887 as amended to such litigation."

That purpose indicates that Congress did not intend the Act of 1897 to dovetail with the general provisions relating to venue in civil suits.

Felix Frankfurter:

May I -- may I interrupt to ask you whether the difficulties referred to created by the 1887 Act were difficulties peculiar to patent or whether the general difficulties about residents, inhabitants and all that business?

Edward S. Irons:

Mr. Justice Frankfurter, the answer is that the difficulties were particularly oppressive as regards to patents but also extended to other areas.

Felix Frankfurter:

They covered the whole area of jurisdiction in the federal court.

Edward S. Irons:

Yes, but it -- in the Stonite case, this Court referred to the decision in Bowers against Atlantic.

I will just read one sentence from that decision.

It said, “The purpose of the Act,” referring to the 1887 Act, “was to narrow federal jurisdiction and it may be inferred that Congress intended to limit it to all classes of actions, infringement suits included for in no branch were complaints of injustice and oppression more numerous.”

That is in no branch than infringement suit.

Felix Frankfurter:

Or -- or the complaint --

Edward S. Irons:

Yes.

Felix Frankfurter:

-- is not having a restrictive venue more numerous?

Edward S. Irons:

Yes, sir.

So, with this thought in mind, the Congress enacted the first special patent venue statute in 1897.

That first special patent venue statute is reproduced on page 8 of the opposer's opening brief, the same brief that I called Your Honors attention to previously.