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LANE & BODLEY CO. V. LOCKE, 150 U. S. 193 (1893)

U.S. Supreme Court

Lane & Bodley Co. v. Locke, 150 U.S. 193 (1893)

Lane & Bodley Company v. Locke

No. 52

Argued October 25, 1893

Decided November 13, 1893

150 U.S. 193


In 1871, L. & B., being partners, commenced the manufacture of hydraulic elevators in Cincinnati. S. was employed by them as engineer and draughtsman at a fixed salary of $1,200 per annum. While in their employ, and while using their tools and patterns, he invented a stop-valve in 1872 which was patented in February, 1876. In 1876, the partnership was dissolved, and a corporation was formed, called the L. & B. Company, in which the same business was instantly vested in the same interests, and remained there. Meanwhile, S. ceased in 1874 to serve L. & B. as engineer and draughtsman, and went into their employ as consulting engineer at a salary of $2,000 per annum. The duties of the latter office did not require him to reside in Cincinnati. He served the partnership in the same capacity up to 1884. The partnership with his knowledge used his valve in the elevators constructed by them until its dissolution, and after that the corporation used it in the same way and with the like knowledge. In 1884, S. severed his connection with the corporation. During all this time, he made no claim for remuneration for the use of his patent, and when asked why he had not, replied that he did not desire to disturb his friendly relations with the L. & B. Company. In 1884, he filed this bill in equity, with the usual prayers for an accounting and for an injunction. Held:

(1) That, on authority of McClurg v. Kingsland, 1 How. 202, it might be presumed that S. had licensed L. & B. and the L. & B. Company to use his invention.

(2) That on the authority of Solomons v. United States, 137 U. S. 342, it might be presumed that S. had recognized an obligation, flowing from his employment by the partnership and by the corporation, to permit them to use his invention.

(3) That he was guilty of laches in allowing so long a period to elapse before asserting his rights.

(4) That the excuse he gave for not asserting them was entitled to less favorable consideration by a court of equity than if his conduct had been that of a mere inaction.

In equity. The case is stated in the opinion.

Page 150 U. S. 194

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