Graham v. John Deere Company of Kansas City

PETITIONER: Graham
RESPONDENT: John Deere Company of Kansas City
LOCATION: Juvenile Court

DOCKET NO.: 11
DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1965-1967)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit

CITATION: 383 US 1 (1966)
ARGUED: Oct 14, 1965
DECIDED: Feb 21, 1966

Facts of the case

Graham v. John Deere Co. was a suit for the infringement of a patent that consisted of a combination of old mechanical elements for a device designed to absorb shock from plow shanks in rocky soil in order to prevent damage to the plow. In 1955, the Fifth Circuit held the patent valid, ruling that a combination is patentable when it produces an "old result in a cheaper and otherwise more advantageous way." Subsequently, the Eighth Circuit held that, since there was no new result in the combination, the patent was invalid. The parties in Calmar, Inc. v. Cook Chemical Co. (No. 37) and Colgate-Palmolive Co. v. Cook Chemical Co. (No. 43) sought a declaration of invalidity and noninfringement of a patent on finger-operated sprayers with a "hold-down" cap issued to Cook Chemical. The District Court and the Court of Appeals sustained the patent.

Question

Did the Patent Act of 1952 codify the judicial test of obviousness, adding it to the statutory requirements of novelty and utility for the patentability of an invention? Did the Act change the general level required for the patentability of an invention?

Media for Graham v. John Deere Company of Kansas City

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 14, 1965 in Graham v. John Deere Company of Kansas City

Earl Warren:

Number 37 Calmar Incorporated, Petitioner, versus Cook Chemical Company.

Oh, yes and number 43, Colgate-Palmolive Company, Petitioner, versus Cook Chemical Company.

Mr. Lyons.

Dennis G. Lyons:

Mr. Chief Justice, may it please the Court.

This case started as two declaratory judgment actions in the District Court for the Western District of Missouri.

They were brought by Calmar and by Colgate-Palmolive Company against Cook Chemical.

Cook Chemical Company was the assignee of U.S. patent number 2870943 which was originally issued to Baxter I. Scoggin Jr.

The declaratory judgment suit was brought after Cook had threatened these parties with an action for a patent infringement.

And the declaratory judgment actions sought a declaration that the patent in question was invalid and a declaration that it was not infringed by the device that Calmar was making.

Calmar was a maker of plastic spraying devices.

Colgate-Palmolive was one of its costumers.

It purchased these devices and used them on insecticide bottles.

The -- there was then a counterclaim by Cook as there frequently is in patent declaratory judgments suits.

A counterclaim for infringement and that injunction and damages were sought.

The District Court found that the patent was valid; found that it wasn't infringed.

Before passing on the question of damages under the Rule 54(b) the District Court certified that there was no reason for entering there -- that there is no reason for delay in entering a judgment on the issues of validity and infringement and under it such a judgment which was an appealable order.

The Eighth Circuit on appeals by Calmar and Colgate affirmed the judgment of the Eighth Circuit.

There were then petitions for certiorari presented to this Court, urging the Court to grant the petitions and to find the Scoggin patent invalid.

And that was the question presented to the Court this morning.

We have here a picture of the device that is disclosed in Mr. Scoggin's patent.

This is on page 381 of the record.

The device is essentially a sprayer of the sort that you buy in supermarkets that comes mounted in a bottle of insecticide were like.

Here is the -- actually this is the -- yes this is the assignee of the patent, but this is a Cook Chemical's product sitting in this bottle here.

What this consist of is a pump which goes down into the bottle -- the bottle would be down here.

The pump itself is not patented.

The pump is an old pump.

There is nothing new about pump.

What is new supposedly in the Scoggin patents is the idea of putting this cap over the pump and holding the pump down during shipment --

William O. Douglas:

I didn't hear you, putting the what?

Dennis G. Lyons:

Putting this cap.