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United States Hoffman Machinery Corp. v. Pantex Pressong Mach. Inc.

November 11, 1930


Appeal from the District Court of the United States for the District of Delaware; Hugh M. Morris, Judge.

Author: Davis

Before BUFFINGTON and DAVIS, Circuit Judges, and JOHNSON, District Judge.

DAVIS, Circuit Judge.

This is an appeal from a decree of the District Court holding claims 2 and 5 of United States letters patent No. 1,193,093 valid and infringed and claims 2 and 4 of United States letters patent No. 1,326,982 invalid for want of invention.

Patent No. 1,193,093, issued to Benjamin Weinberger August 1, 1916, relates to improvements in garment-pressing machines, and more particularly to an air-suction drier to a garment press, which consists of a fixed bed or buck on which the garment to be pressed is laid, a pivoted head which comes down upon the buck to apply pressure to the garment, steam-heated chambers in both the head and the buck used to supply heat to assist in pressing and drying the moistened garment, means to supply moisture through a perforated head or buck or both upon the garment. What Weinberger did was to attach to the buck a suction pump which sucks air through the perforated plate of the buck and thus accelerates the drying of the buck pad and garment. The pump is represented in figure 2 by the numeral 14, the control valve by 15, and the treadle by which the valve is regulated by 16. To operate the machine, the garment to be pressed is placed on the buck and moistened; the head is brought down upon it with the required pressure and then raised; the treadle controlling the valve is operated and the pump sucks air through the garment and buck padding. This is done with every one of the fifty "lays" required for the pressing of a suit of clothes, and it greatly aids in drying the suit and the buck. This hastened drying prevents the warping and mussing of the garment which would occur if it were handled before being dry, and also saves time in pressing, because it enables the operator to move the garment on the buck sooner than he otherwise could. It is alleged that it also results in better work because the garment dries before the fibers of the fabric straighten out and resume their normal shape.[]

The defendant says that the attachment of the suction pump to Hoffman's presser was anticipated and was also obvious to any person skilled in the art and so did not amount to invention.

In order to determine this question, it is necessary to know the state of the art at the time Weinberger claims to have made his invention.

The German patent No. 59423, issued to Bossen on May 5, 1891, disclosed a clothespressing machine which had a heated head and buck, means for bringing them together, and means for moistening the garment preparatory to pressing by spraying steam through the buck.

Hoffman's United States patent No. 928,199, issued July 13, 1909, on application filed December 1, 1904, added the improvement to Bossen of spraying the garment to be pressed through the head of the machine instead of through the buck. This improvement resulted in the use of less moisture, because the garment was laid with its nap side up, and it was this side which was moistened and with which the shaping and drying hot presser plate came in contact. When the steam came from the buck beneath the garment, it had to penetrate the entire thickness of the garment and its linings and often the double thickness of both before it could reach the surface to be pressed, but when steam was sprayed from the head on the nap side only, it would not saturate the entire garment, but moisten only the nap side which would dry more quickly.

The French patent No. 372,453 for improvements in machines for ironing linen, fabrics, etc., issued to Henri C. Chasles, November 1, 1887, discloses an apparatus working either by suction or compression for removing steam or moisture generated by the contact of the wet linen or garment with the hot iron. This patent illustrates a bed or buck with a central chamber having a perforated upper wall. Attached to this chamber is an ejector or fan used to produce a vacuum between the head and buck. This suction device operates to remove the vapor from the damp fabric while the pressing operation is going on.

The object of the device of both Chasles and Weinberger is the acceleration of drying by the removal of vapor or moisture from the fabric or garment on the buck, and, so far as the invention is concerned, it makes no difference whether the drying process takes place while the pressing is going on before the head is raised from the buck or after it has been raised, for both machines used essentially the same combination of elements which operated in practically the same way to produce the same result -- the acceleration of drying by a current of air produced by a suction or compression device.

United States letters patent No. 962,213, issued to A. T. Hagen and D. M. Cooper, June 21, 1910, is for a machine for ironing and pressing goods, particularly shirt bosoms. This machine has a fixed steam-heated head, 6, and a hollow bed or buck, 8, having its pressing surface perforated and covered with the ordinary muslin pad. One of the objects of the device was to remove moisture from the pad of the buck and the goods laid thereon by forcing or sucking a current of air through them.This was accomplished by sucking or blowing air through the pipe, 15, which is connected with the central chamber, 9, of the buck by means of a suction pump. This was done, to use the language of the patent, for the purpose of "removing the steam and moisture from the padded surface and the goods, thereby keeping the pad dry and delivering the articles in the best possible condition." This patent uses substantially the same means to perform substantially the same object as does Weinberger's.

It is true that the Hagen-Cooper machine is particularly adapted for ironing bosoms and shirts, but it is not limited to this use and expressly states that it may "also be used with excellent effect in all ironing machines of this type whether for ironing culls, collars, shirts or goods which are not starched."

The hat-making industry discloses suction or compression devices by means of which hats are dried by passing currents of air through them substantially as Weinberger ...

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