United States v. Singer Manufacturing Company

PETITIONER: United States
RESPONDENT: Singer Manufacturing Company
LOCATION: Clauson's Inn

DOCKET NO.: 438
DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1962-1965)
LOWER COURT:

CITATION: 374 US 174 (1963)
ARGUED: Apr 25, 1963 / Apr 29, 1963
DECIDED: Jun 17, 1963

Facts of the case

Question

Media for United States v. Singer Manufacturing Company

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 29, 1963 in United States v. Singer Manufacturing Company

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 25, 1963 in United States v. Singer Manufacturing Company

Earl Warren:

Number 438, United States, Appellant, versus Singer Manufacturing Company.

Mr. Friedman.

Daniel M. Friedman:

Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the Court.

This case is on a direct appeal from a judgment of the District Court for the Southern District of New York dismissing after trial, a Government antitrust case against the Singer Manufacturing Company.

The District Court concluded that the Government had failed to prove the existence of the conspiracy charge and of the Government’s other contention with respect to a certain agreement is being an unreasonable restraint of trade have not been established.

The principal question in the case is whether certain actions taken by the appellee, Singer and a competing Swiss manufacturer of sewing machines, a company called Gegauf, by which a key patent governing the particular type of machine involved here was transferred from the Swiss company Gegauf to the Singer Company because both parties believed that Singer would be better able to enforce this patent against the common competitive enemy of both, Japanese manufacturers of sewing machines that was selling them in this country for lower prices, whether this, together with subsequent action that the two took to enforce the patent, a matter to an illegal conspiracy and combination and restraint of trade.

There's a second issue in the case which is whether a provision in the cross-licensing agreement that Singer and the Swiss firm, Gegauf entered into by which each party agreed to facilitate the allowance to the other of the broadest possible patent claims, its self-constituted and unreasonable restraint of trade.

Now, this case involves a particular type of household sewing machines, something called the machine-carried multiple cam zigzag machine.

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

Is that it?

Daniel M. Friedman:

Yes, sir.

I'll -- I'll call it --

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

[Inaudible]

Daniel M. Friedman:

No, I'm afraid not, Mr. Justice.

I can't operate a sewing machine, but the wonderful thing about this machine, the zigzag type of sewing machine is that without any particular skill by the operator, the housewife can make the most remarkable patterns, these so-called zigzag patterns.

I have --

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

Can you sew?

Daniel M. Friedman:

No, I'm afraid not.

If I could sew, if I could operate a sewing machine, I can do that.

I have here the first one, I don't know whether the Court can see it, these are some of the patterns made on the particular machine involving this case.

The Court will notice in contradistinction to the usual straight stitch, these -- there's all sorts of zigzags.

One goes up, has a die, up and down and so forth.

I also -- this is part of the record in the case, I also have another one not made on this machine but made on a more advanced Italian machine which I brought here because the stitches are much larger and also much more reliable.

And I'll hold this up to the Court, you'll notice that really quite remarkable stitches that can be done.

And under this type of a machine --

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

Is that the Vigorelli [Inaudible]?

Daniel M. Friedman:

This is one of the Vigorelli machines, an advance Vigorelli machine, not the one that was the subject matter of this particular situation.

The --

Arthur J. Goldberg:

[Inaudible] Vigorelli.

Daniel M. Friedman:

No, we are not -- no, we are not attacking at all the arrangement with Vigorelli.

We are not attacking the cross-licensing agreement itself between Singer and Gegauf.