the plaintiff's earlier stokers, there was a rigid grid which, however, had freedom of movement upon a steel lower support. Both plaintiff and defendant had been building such rigidly tied grates for years before Aram's patent, and that feature of it was old.
The plaintiff does not seriously contend that it involves invention to make in removable sections parts which are likely to be subjected to severe service. Of course, when the designer undertakes to sectionalize a spanning member having any considerable load to carry, it is fairly obvious that there will have to be a support of some kind, and from the various possible supporting devices it requires no particular inventive genius to select a beam of some material of superior tensile strength.This is really what Aram's patent amounts to -- giving to it, as I have, the interpretation for which the plaintiff contends, and rejecting the defendant's view that it was intended to cover a rigid grate structure. It was old in many arts, and it is only necessary to refer to the earlier patents to Kenney, 1,035,359, and Fortune, 1,180,287 and 1,243,055, to see that it was old in stokers.
Nor am I able to see invention in the arrangement of the parts for which so much is claimed. If you set out to support a row of plates by a beam, you must put the beam under the plates and not above them. If the plates form a square box or trough, you can hardly help putting the beam outside the bottom of the box rather than inside it. If the box contains fire, the beam will be protected from the fire, and, if desirable, can be made of a material which is less resistant to the fire.
Frequently, courts have found evidence of invention in the defendant's use of the patented device or in its general adoption in the commercial field. The defendant in this case does use the structure for which the patent was granted, and it has come to occupy almost the entire field. But the ting which ordinarily gives these facts whatever evidentiary value they have is absent in the present case. This contribution did not come after a protracted period of groping about by those skilled in the art for the solution of a problem of long standing. When the patentee has found something that others have been long and unsuccessfully seeking, it may furnish some evidence of the inventive quality if the question be otherwise in doubt. But here there was no very great problem to the solved when Aram applied for his patent, and nothing to indicate that, without Aram's disclosure, the really serious problem which arose later would not have been promptly met when it did appear.
What I refer to is the problem created by the urgent demand for increased steaming rates from boilers which brought into the filed various competing types of fuel, principally pulverized coal. To meet this competition, it became absolutely necessary for the manufacturers of stockers to develop increased heating power for the larger types of boilers. The use of preheated air accomplished something, but in the final analysis the manufacturers found that they had to build longer stokers or abandon the field of high capacity installations to their competitors. This situation began to develop about 1922 or 1923, following tests with pulverized coal made under the direction of the Bureau of Mines in 1921.
It was impractical to increase the length of the tuyers boxes in stokers of the old type without change, because the low tensile strength of cast iron would have made necessary a large, heavy, cumbersome construction which would have been expensive to manufacture, would have taken up too much space when installed, and would have interfered seriously with the free use of preheated air which produced greater expansion in the structure and required unobstructed air boxes. The supporting steel beam would be the natural answer of any engineer called upon to build longer spanning members.
I have suggested that Aram started out with the sole purpose of sectionalizing the sides of the retorts or tuyere boxes and added the beam for necessary support for the plates. But I would not hold that there was invention present even if I thought that Aram had consciously before him the problem of lengthening the tuyers boxes to meet these new requirements. Where a member, because of its material or composite structure, has not sufficient strength to support itself when lengthened, the use of a beam of superior strength is as old as history.
From either standpoint Aram's patent does not embody any inventive idea or patentable novelty. He used a simple expedient well known in every kind of construction to meet a problem which was not causing very serious trouble. Subsequently the same expedient was widely resorted to in order to meet another problem which threatened the existence of the entire industry, but which no one was greatly concerned with at the time Aram applied for his patent, because the machines were satisfactory as conditions then were. The fact that it proved adequate to the larger service does not invest Aram's idea with the quality of invention. It is idle to speculate whether the defendant knew of Aram's patent or whether, if so, it assisted it in developing its alleged infringing types of stoker. I am satisfied that the developments in the art involved the application of fundamental, well-known, and familiar devices, and were mere improvements without invention.
I have substantially adopted the plaintiff's interpretation of the meaning and scope of the patent. If this is correct, the defendant's attack upon the claims of the reissue as broadening claims, invalid because of intervening rights, is beside the point. Unless the original patent was for a rigid grid construction, the claims of the reissue do not broaden it in any particular.
My conclusion is that both the original patent and the reissue are void for want of patentable novelty.
The bill may be dismissed, with costs.
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