Topliff v. Topliff (145 U.S. 156)

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Topliff v. Topliff (145 U.S. 156) by Henry Billings Brown
Court Documents

United States Supreme Court

145 U.S. 156

Topliff  v.  Topliff


This was a bill in equity for the infringement of three patents, namely: (1) Patent No. 108,085, issued October 11, 1870, to John B. Augur, for an improvement in gearing for wagons; (2) patent No. 123,937, issued February 20, 1872, to Cyrus W. Saladee, for an improvement in carriage springs, and mode of attachment; (3) patent No. 122,079, issued December 19, 1871, to John A. Topliff and George H. Ely, for an improvement in connecting carriage springs, reissued March 28, 1876, (No. 7,017.)

The patent to Augur consisted in a mode of equalizing the pressure upon two carriage springs by 'connecting together by a rigid rod the two pivoted links upon the clips employed on the hind axle, so that, when the weight is upon one spring, both springs, by reason of the connecting rod, shall be caused to work together, thus preventing the roll.' The effect of this device is such that, if a heavy weight is thrown upon one spring, as, for instance, by a person getting into a buggy at one side, the pressure is borne equally by both springs. The claims alleged to be infringed were the following:

'(1) The herein-described method of equalizing the action of springs of vehicles and distributing the weight of the load.

'(2) The combination of the pivoted links with a rod connecting the same, the rod compelling both links to move in unison, as and for the purpose described.'

The reissued patent to Topliff and Ely, as stated by the patentees, 'relates to side half-elliptic spring vehicles, and has for its object suspending the front and rear ends of the springs directly to the rear axle and front bolster of the running gear by means of two separate connecting rods, the outer ends of which have formed upon them, as a part of the same, and at right angles with the rod, short arms, between which the ends of the springs, respectively, are secured and operated, the connecting rod receiving the rear ends of the springs, being hinged to the rear axle, while the rod receiving the front ends of the springs is, in like manner, connected to the front bolster in such manner that the vibration of the springs will impart a corresponding rotation to the connecting rods front and back, and so that the depression of either spring will, by the rotary action imparted to the connecting rod, compel a corresponding depression of the other, and thus compel both springs to vibrate together, and move in unison one with the other, equalizing their action and the weight imposed upon them, as well as to prevent side motion to the body of the vehicle.'

There were but two claims to this pattent, which read as follows:

'(1) The combination of two connecting rods located at the front and rear ends of a wagon body, and arranged to turn in their bearings, with a pair of half-elliptic springs, whereby the springs are caused to yield in unison with each other, substantially as and for the purpose set forth.

'(2) The combination of the connecting rods, BB', provided with arms at their ends, with the half eliptic springs, AA', substantially as and for the purpose set forth.'

The answer admitted that the defendant had manufactured and sold connecting rods for carriages substantially like those manufactured by the plaintiffs, and claimed the right so to do, alleging that plaintiffs' patents were both void for want of novelty; and that the reissued patent of Topliff and Ely was not for the same invention as the original, and denied that his manufacture infringed in any way upon any right which plaintiffs had to the invention.

The case was heard in the court below upon pleadings and proofs, the court holding that the Augur patent and the Topliff and Ely reissue were good and valid, and that the defendant was guilty of infringement. An injunction was allowed, and the case was referred to a master to take an account of profits and damages. The master reported the sum of $8,480.54 to be due the plaintiffs from the defendant as damages for the infringement, and a final decree was entered for that amount, from which both parties appealed to this court.

W. W. Boynton, John C. Hale, and L. L. Leggett, for appellant.

Henry S. Sherman, for appellees.

Mr. Justice BROWN, after stating the facts in the foregoing language, delivered the opinion of the court.


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).