United States v. Adams

PETITIONER: United States
LOCATION: Congress

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1965-1967)

CITATION: 383 US 39 (1966)
ARGUED: Oct 14, 1965
DECIDED: Feb 21, 1966

Facts of the case


Media for United States v. Adams

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 14, 1965 in United States v. Adams

Earl Warren:

Number 55, United States, Petitioner, versus Bert N. Adams, et al.

Mr. Douglas.

John W. Douglas:

Mr. Chief Justice, may it please the Court.

This case is here on certiorari to the Court of Claims, the complaint charged United States for having infringed the Adams battery patent held by the respondents.

A Commissioner of the Court of Claims after an evidentiary hearing issued proposed findings and conclusions holding that the patent was valid and that some batteries of United States had infringed that patent.

The full Court of Claims in the brief, one paragraph per curiam opinion adopted all of the findings and conclusions of its Commissioner on these two points.

The Government sought certiorari and only one aspect to the case.

It left unchallenged that part of the decision below holding that there had been an infringement if the patent were valid.

We brought to this part only the question whether the Adams' patent was valid patent.

The basic principles involved in batteries of this general type are fairly easy to grasp.

What's involved in this type of a battery are three elements, two electrodes, and an electrolyte.

The electrodes are metallic stripes or cylinders or rods.

The electrolyte is a liquid solution and the electrodes are suspended in this liquid solution and if the electrodes have a sufficiently different electro-motor force then small particles of matter known as ions will move from the positive electrode to the negative electrode.

And that movement will take place through the liquid solution in which the two electrodes are inserted.

An electrical charge can be recorded and measured by touching wires to the terminals of the electrodes.

The lower court found that the Adams invention consisted of a combination of electrodes and a combination of electrodes only.

This is set forth, we believe in finding 12th.

The Commissioner's proposed finding which was subsequently adopted by the full court.

And as said forth in those findings what the Adams' invention purported to teach was anode which is the positive electrode composed of magnesium and the cathode which is the negative electrode composed primarily of a copper salt known as “Cuprous Chloride”.

It did not Court -- did not hold that the invention consisted of a combination of these electrodes with any particular electrolyte.

Now, this brings us to the statutory standards of utility, novelty, and nonobviousness.

We conceived that the Adams' patent was useful.

We raise no contention on that point.

We contend, however, that it meets neither the test of novelty nor the test of obviousness as set forth by the Congress in Sections 102 and 103.

So far as novelty is concern, we believe that Skrivanoff, a British patent English issued in 1880 is as dispositive.

It was a combination patent.

It was not a carbon copy of Adams.

Adams was not a carbon copy of it in all respects but in our view the differences are sufficiently mind and trivial that the two, after all intense and purposes the same.

Skrivanoff called for a magnesium anode.

Adams called for the same.