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all of us are either warm partisans of favorite and tried in ventions, or earnest opponents of others which we have failed in adopting, or from which we have not received the benefits we hoped. It would therefore be hopeless for me to propose any measure to you that I did not feel confident of showing you was quite as much for the benefit of the inventor as of the manufacturer. There cannot be any necessary and natural opposition of interests between the two parties. On the contrary, the prosperity of each is directly dependent on the other's. Of what value would an invention in manufactures be to a patentee, unless it were adopted and used by manufacturers? And there is hardly a manufacture which could now be successfully prosecuted without the use, not of one, but of many patents.

The patent law in this country, as you know, is very favorable to patentees. Patents are granted with slight scrutiny, short delay, moderate expense, and for long periods. They are amply protected by law against infringement, and, in case of a trial before a jury, the natural sympathy with talent and enterprise, and the common prejudice against capital, give the patentee a prodigious advantage in the case.

This system has certainly produced a great growth of patents in numbers, if not in quality. There are, however, many prudent and intelligent men who maintain, that it has not, on the whole, been beneficial to the community. They say that the majority of patents are trivial, obvious, or useless; that a useful invention is seldom attained by an independent, bold flight of genius, but is much oftener the platform reached by successive steps contributed by different men in the same community, working in the same circumstances for the same end ; that any recognized want in a community is met as soon as the elements for providing for it become within its reach; that in this matter the general principle of the supply equalling the demand holds good; that when a needed invention is made by any man at any time, if he had never lived it would have been made by six other men in the next six months, and that this fact is indicated by the remarkable frequency of the same identical invention springing up at the same time in different places and from independent minds; and that there is abundant inducement to the best exertions of inventive minds from their ambition, their instinctive pleasure in successful exercise, and from the liberal rewards awaiting their results in the business world.

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However this may be, I think no one can look through a volume of patent office reports without being struck with the frivolous and useless nature of most of its contents, and that probably there is no one among us who has not, sooner or later, found himself thwarted and impeded in the application of familiar mechanical laws and principles, and adaptations of machinery, by patents which do not meet his needs, and yet shut him out from the ground on which he needs to operate.

The multiplicity of patents is one of the great causes of the difficulty of judging of their validity. It is hardly possible for a man attending to his active business, to satisfy himself that a patent right which he buys is not an infringement of some previous patent; still less can he know that the invention has not been in successful operation with others before being patented by its present holder. It is not uncommon for a buyer of a patent to find himself obliged to pay for it a second time to a second claimant, to feel secure in using it. Moreover, the interpretation of the wording of a patent right is a technical and difficult matter; and some

: times, when sifted in court, it is found to be quite different from what even the patentee supposed. These things make the dealers in patents reluctant to guarantee their rights; but even if they do, no guarantee can guard satisfactorily against the annoyances, delays, and loss of injunctions. Altogether, I think most will agree that in buying patents we have to be content with a less clear and secure title than would ordinarily be considered satisfactory in other kinds of property.

These uncertainties are bad enough with honest dealers, and among dealers in patents are as exact, honorable and intelligent men as we can hope to find in any business ; but these very uncertainties open the door to many unscrupulous practices. It costs impostors little to fail in making fraudulent claims ; and, if they succeed, the gain may be considerable. Usually, such elaims cannot be judged on their merits; but the question for each individual is whether it is cheaper for him to spend time, attention, annoyance, and money to oppose it, or to compromise the matter by as small a payment as possible. As the baseless nature of a claim is naturally best known to the claimant, his terms are usually very elastic. Frequently, I suppose generally, such claims are settled by payments on a sliding scale, depending on the obstinacy and assurance of the claimant, and the feeling of doubt of the pur

chaser. Though the amount in each instance may be comparatively small, it is thought that a total is frequently collected on an invalid title ten times sufficient to have defeated it in court. That the business is a profitable one is shown by the numbers engaged in it at different times, and even by combinations of men and money to press such claims with greater force. Sometimes even the sanction of the law is sought to impose upon the public. I have heard of more than one instance where a person has obtained possession of an invalid patent in general use, and brought a suit for infringement against a prominent user of it, and then succeeded in making an agreement with him, that, if he would suffer the case to go against him, he should receive the right to use the patent gratis, and not be called upon for the damages awarded. A judgment obtained in this manner would appear decisive to all ignorant of the arrangement by which it was obtained, and probably few of us would feel justified in opposing a claim so supported.

Reflecting on these difficulties, I saw that they were not peculiar to myself, but were shared more or less by all manufacturers ; and that we could be of great assistance to each other, for mutual support, by making our knowledge of facts available to each other, and by acting in concert. Speaking of this, I learned that there were already two associations of railroads, one at Chicago of Western roads, and another nearer home of Eastern roads, based on these views. On inquiry I found that their objects and methods were so similar to what we need, that I thought we might well imitate them.

The Eastern Railroad Association, about which I have most information, consists of any railroads in certain States, complying with the conditions of its constitution and approved of by the executive committee. The board of government consists of nine directors representing so many roads, including a president, secretary and treasurer. These officers are the active members, and the whole management of affairs is in their hands. They receive no salary, and have regular meetings, the necessary expenses of which are paid them. They employ exclusively an agent who combines the qualities of a mechanical expert and of a patent lawyer, with a liberal salary. They also retain one or two eminent patent lawyers as their legal advisers and representatives. When a claim is made for an infringement of a patent upon any member of the association, he requests time to examine it before payment,


and sends the claim to the secretary. If it is the first claim under the patent, the secretary gives it to the agent to look up. He makes all necessary examinations in person of patent-office records, similar patents, machines used, and all the facts, and prepares the case so far as his functions go, and sends his report to the secretary. The secretary refers it to the counsel, who make a written report to the secretary, which is kept by him on file, and a copy sent by him both to the patentee and to the member of the association against whom the claim is brought. If the claim is decided to be just, it is to be paid, and no countenance or support is given by the association to any member attempting to delay or resist payment. Under some circumstances, however, the board of government will endeavor to make wholesale terms with the patentee, for all members of the association wishing to avail themselves of them, on favorable rates. If, however, the counsel report that the claim cannot be mantained, that there is no infringement, and that it is desirable to stand a suit in court, the same retained counsel assume direction of the case, and carry it through the courts. The expenses are divided in proportion among all the members of the Association on two different scales,-one-half the expense being divided among the roads in proportion to the miles of road operated, and the other half on annual receipts. If it is not the first claim under the patent, as soon as it is sent to him the secretary returns a copy of the decision on file made by the counsel on the first claim and covering the present case.

This association has been in existence three or four years, and, it is claimed, with the happiest results for both parties, and for the community. Fraudulent claims have constantly diminished, until now they are practically at an end; perplexing questions are more frequently settled by compromise and reference, without expensive and exasperating contests; the rulings of the eminent counsel employed have commanded the respect of both parties to such an estent that they have with both nearly the weight of decisions of the Supreme Court; the candid communication by the association to patentees of opinions favorable to them as well as unfavorable, has led to a kind feeling on both sides; and the recognition of the rights of upright patentees, has been an immense advantage to them, by establishing and introducing their patents with exceeding rapidity and economy to them.


In adapting this system to the wants of manufacturers, a few things are to be considered. The economy of it depends on the scale on which it is established, and it could not be advantageously conducted on a small scale. Though we use more pate nts than railroads, we cannot probably expect to obtain the same consolidation of capital to share the expenses. The character of the directors is evidently of the first consequence. It is indispensable that they should be men of standing, frankness, incorruptibility and recognized integrity. In the Railroad Association it has been considered important that they should serve without pay ; finding their reward in their usefulness, their pride in their business, and in what consideration their position may give them. If the office were made a salaried one, it would become an object of desire to needy persons, whose ability and character would not otherwise support them, and a convenient place to receive inefficient and inoffensive men whom their employers wished to rid themselves of; and in this way the character of the direction would deteriorate. The choice of a suitable agent is obviously not only important, but difficult, as he must unite peculiar qualifications. Besides his professional talents and acquirements, he will need to be perfectly incorruptible; and his strength to resist the pecuniary temptations to which he will necessarily be exposed must be increased by liberal pay, which will raise him above the temptations of want. For counsel the best talent available should be secured, and every means taken to procure opinions which shall never be reversed in court, but shall always increase the weight and reputation of the association. It is, moreover, all-important that the decisions should be frankly made known to both parties, and honestly acted upon. Otherwise the strength of such a combination of capital would become oppressive and tyrannous, and tend to discourage honest invention, and to expose the association to shame and resistance.

The basis of assessing expenses must evidently be different for manufacturers from what it is for railroads. The natural basis would seem to be the number of spindles run; but many concerns, such as bleacheries, print-works, dye-houses, &c., which might wish to join the association, have no spindles. Another method would be, to proportion expenses on the nominal capital; but this is so often fictitious, that this way would be delusive. Probably, the most equitable plan would be to divide the expenses in proportion to the number of pounds of annual cotton product.

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