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PHILCO CORPORATION v. SUNSTEIN (04/24/68)

decided: April 24, 1968.

PHILCO CORPORATION, APPELLANT,
v.
SUNSTEIN



Appeal from order of Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County, Nov. T., 1959, No. 23, in case of Philco Corporation v. David E. Sunstein and General Atronics Corporation.

COUNSEL

H. Francis DeLone, with him Norma L. Shapiro, Herbert Epstein, and Dechert, Price & Rhoads, for appellant.

Franklin Poul, with him William F. Fox, and Fox, Differ, Di Giacomo & Lowe, and Wolf, Block, Schorr and Solis-Cohen, for appellee.

Bell, C. J., Musmanno, Jones, Cohen, Eagen, O'Brien and Roberts, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Justice Cohen. Dissenting Opinion by Mr. Justice Roberts. Mr. Chief Justice Bell and Mr. Justice Musmanno join in this dissenting opinion.

Author: Cohen

[ 429 Pa. Page 608]

This is an appeal from an order staying proceedings in the court below on appellant's cause of action until the completion of proceedings in a separate action pending before the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, or until further order of the court below.

On December 9, 1959, appellant instituted this action in equity seeking to establish, inter alia, ownership rights in certain inventions allegedly devised by appellee, Sunstein, while in the course of his employment with appellant. The complaint also seeks a mandatory injunction against appellee, General Atronics Corporation, to restrain it from making further use of inventions devised and rightfully owned by Philco. After extensive discovery by all parties concerned, and after settlement negotiations collapsed, Sunstein commenced an antitrust action in the federal courts alleging that "Philco and RCA individually and with others" unlawfully conspired to prevent him from exploiting inventions to which he asserts ownership.

In May, 1967, after appellant filed its praecipe to list the case for trial, Sunstein filed a petition to stay all proceedings pending the determination of the federal court action. After argument on the petition, the court below ordered a stay of the proceedings and this appeal followed.

Appellees initially argue that the appeal should be quashed. We disagree. While it is true that we indicated

[ 429 Pa. Page 609]

    in Reynolds Metals Company v. Berger, 423 Pa. 360, 223 A.2d 855 (1966), that orders staying proceedings to await the termination of related proceedings in another court are generally interlocutory in nature, our decision in Reynolds should not be viewed as a blanket rule without exception to be applied in all cases involving stay orders.*fn1 Whether or not a stay order should be considered final for appeal purposes depends to a large extent upon the practical effect and impact the stay order might have on the relief requested by the litigants. If the effect of the stay order is tantamount to a dismissal of the cause of action or amounts to a permanent denial of relief requested, the party aggrieved should undoubtedly be afforded the opportunity to appeal on the basis that such stay order is a final disposition of some, if not all, of the rights involved.*fn2

[ 429 Pa. Page 610]

Therefore, a consideration of the practical effects of the stay order on appellant's cause of action is an essential prerequisite in determining whether the order appealed from is interlocutory. Here the practical effect of staying the proceedings in the court below pending the future disposition of another related case in the federal courts is to work a severe hardship on appellant. Since the life of the patents to which appellant claims ownership will expire after seventeen years from the date of their grant, valuable rights are being constantly diminished each and every day this case continues without a final adjudication. See 35 U.S.C. § 154 (1952), as amended, 35 U.S.C. § 154 ...


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