Gill v. United States
Claim by Jabez H. Gill against the United States. From a judgment of the court of claims dismissing the claim, the claimant appeals. Affirmed.
This was a suit by Gill to recover of the United States the sum of $94,693.04 upon an implied contract for the use of certain machines covered by letters patent issued to the claimant.
The petition alleged, in substance, that from March, 1864, to March, 1881, the claimant was employed as machinist, foreman, and draftsman at the Frankford Arsenal, in the state of Pennsylvania, and since March, 1881, as master armorer at such arsenal, receiving during the term of his employment a per diem compensation for his services. His engagement required him to perform manual labor and to exercise his machanical skill in the service of the government, but did not require the exercise of his inventive genius in such service, nor secure to the government the right to use any of his inventions without compensation.
That at sundry times from 1869 to 1882 six patents were granted to him,-for a cartridge-loading machine, a weighing machine, a gauging machine, a cartridge anvil, a heading machine, and a priming tool for reloading; that at different times he assigned to individuals or corporations all these inventions, but reserved to the government the right to use them.
The petition further alleged that the reasonable value of such use by the government amounted to the sum of $94,693.04, no part of which had even been paid; that no action upon the claim had been had in any department of the government beyond repeated acknowledgments, by the ordnance department, of claimant's right to compensation for the use of the inventions.
The government made a general denial of the allegations of the petition, and submitted the case to the court of claims, which made a finding of facts, the material portions of which are printed in the margin,  and entered a judgment dismissing the claim upon the ground that, where an employ e of the government takes advantage of his connection with it to introduce an unpatented device into the public service, giving no intimation at the time that he regards it as property, or that he intends to protect it by letters patents, but allows the government to test the invention at its own exclusive cost and risk by constructing machinery and bringing it into practical use before he applies for a patent, the law will not imply a contract; and that a contract will not be implied in favor of an employe who has thus placed a patented divice in the public service as to machines constructed and used after his patent has been obtained.
From this decree the claimant appealed to this court.
H. E. Paine, for appellant.
Asst. Atty. Gen. Dickinson, for the United States.
Mr. Justice BROWN. after stating the facts in the foregoing language, delivered the opinion of the court.
^1 (1) During the period of time within which the claimant invented the devices hereafter mentioned he was in the defendants' employment, and received wages, or a salary, for his services. The terms of his employment required him to exercise his mechanical skill in the service of the defendants, but did not require the exercise of his inventive genius in such service, nor secure to the defendants the right to use any inventions of the claimant without compensation therefor.
Letters patent of the United States were granted to the claimant, while in the service of the defendants, as follows: No. 97,904, dated December 14, 1869, for a cartridge-loading machine; No. 185,858, dated January 2, 1877, for a cartridge-weighing machine; No. 208,903, dated October 15, 1878, for a cartridge-gauging machine; No. 220,472, dated October 14, 1879, for a cartridge anvil; No. 241,962, dated May 24, 1881, for a cartridge-heading machine; No. 257,860, dated May 16, 1882 for a priming tool for reloading.
(2) The manner in which the inventions above referred to originated and came into the use of the government was as follows:
In 1867 the claimant, being a machinist or skilled mechanic in the Frankford Arsenal, and getting as compensation $4 a day, came to Gen. Ben et, the commanding officer, and suggested that an improvement could be made in the method of loading cartridges, and exhibited to the commanding officer then or subsequently his device for an improvement which is now embodied in patent No. 97,904.
General Ben et, after due examination and consideration, authorized the construction of such a machine. The machine was built at a cost of $500 by the United States according to the design of the claimant. On its completion it proved to be thoroughly satisfactory to the commanding officer, who authorized the construction of a second machine. The construction of both took place under the immediate supervision of the claimant, and such supervision was a part of his ordinary duty and employment. Subsequently successive commanding officers ordered from time to time six other machines to be constructed, which in like manner were built under the immediate supervision of the claimant, and all of these eight machines were completed prior to the claimant filing his application for a patent.
After his patent had been issued, a ninth machine was also ordered, and
in like manner constructed under the immediate supervision of the claimant. These machines have been used by the government at the Frankford Arsenal in the manufacture of cartridges, and continue in use to the present time.
(3) At no time did the claimant ever bring his invention before a commanding officer or other agent of the government as a subject of purchase and sale; nor did he ever raise an objection to the use of the invention as set forth in the preceding finding; nor did he ever enter into an express agreement, written or oral, whereby a license was granted or intended to be granted to the government to operate and use the machine described in the preceding finding, or whereby the claimant waived or intended to waive his legal or equitable right, if any, to compensation; nor did any commanding officer ever undertake or assume to incur a legal or pecuniary obligation on the part of the government for the use of the invention of the right to manufacture thereunder.
The claimant was not employed to make inventions, nor assigned to that duty, and his invention, until it was reduced to paper in the form of an intelligible drawing, was made out of the hours of labor at the arsenal and during the time which was properly his own, and the thought and time which he devoted to it were voluntarily given, as a good and earnest servant of the government intent on rendering more effective the work and machinery of the arsenal with which he was connected, and the work of so devising a machine was not an obligation imposed upon him by the authorities of the arsenal.
(4) The other inventing of the claimant, set forth in the patents enumerated in finding 1, except that of the heading machine, which was fabricated and used by the defendants under the supervision of the claimant, were also brought to the attention of the various commanding officers by suggestions from the claimant for making the means and appliances at the arsenal more efficient than they were; and in like manner the cost of preparing patterns for the iron and steel castings and of preparing working
drawings and of constructing working machines was borne exclusively by the government; but the claimant did not use any property of the defendants, or the services of any employ e of the defendants, in making or developing or perfecting the inventions themselves. In each case one or more machines or articles or manfacture embodying the invention had been constructed and was in operation or use in the arsenal with the claimant's knowledge and assent before he filed an application for a patent.
(5) In 1867, when the claimant made his first invention described in the patents hereinbefore enumerated, he was a machinist, rated as a skilled laborer in the Frankford Arsenal, but acting and doing the duty of a master armorer, on wages of $4 a day. From time to time his wages were advanced until they became, in 1881, $6 a day, and he was in 1881 appointed master armorer, the duties of which are a general supervision of the shops. This increase of pay and advancement of position came through and by authority of the commanding officers of the arsenal, and the consideration or reason therefor was that the claimant was a faithful, intelligent, and capable employ e, whose service were of great value to the government.
It was never stipulated by any commanding officer, nor understood or agreed to by the claimant, that the advance of wages was to be a consideration for the use of his inventions, though the practical ability of the claimant as an inventor, and the value of his inventions to the government, did operate upon the minds of the officers in estimating the claimant's services and ordering his advancement.
(6) The claimant has sold the right to use his inventions, reserving the right to the government as set forth in finding 7, to various persons for sums amounting in the aggregate to $5,380. But the use of the inventions by private manufacturers is not nearly so large as the use by the government, the inventions being specially adapted to military purposes and appliances.
|This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).|