Warner v. Searle & Hereth Company/Opinion of the Court

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Opinion of the Court

United States Supreme Court

191 U.S. 195

Warner  v.  Searle & Hereth Company

 Argued: November 2, 3, 1903. --- Decided: November 30, 1903

In the Trade-Mark Cases, 100 U.S. 82, 25 L. ed. 550, it was ruled that the act of July 8, 1870 [16 Stat. at L. 210, chap. 230], carried forward into §§ 4937 to 4947 of the Revised Statutes, was invalid for want of constitutional authority, inasmuch as it was so framed that its provisions were applicable to all commerce, and could not be confined to that which was subject to the control of Congress. But Mr. Justice Miller, speaking for the court, said that the question 'whether the trade-mark bears such a relation to commerce in general terms as to bring it within Congressional control, when used or applied to the classes of commerce which fall within that control, is one which, in the present case, we propose to leave undecided.'

That decision was announced at October term, A. D. 1879, and on March 3, 1881, an act was approved entitled 'An Act to Authorize the Registration of Trade-Marks, and Protect the Same.' 21 Stat. at L. 502, chap. 138 (U.S.C.omp. Stat. 1901, p. 3401).

By its 1st section it was provided that 'owners of trade-marks used in commerce with foreign nations, or with the Indian tribes, provided such owners shall be domiciled in the United States, or located in any foreign country or tribes which by treaty, convention, or law, affords similar privileges to citizens of the United States, may obtain registration of such trade-marks by complying with' certain specified requirements.

By the 2d section, the application prescribed by the first 'must, in order to create any right whatever in favor of the party filing it, be accompanied by a written declaration' 'that such party has at the time a right to the use of the trade-mark sought to be registered, and that no other person, firm, or corporation has the right to such use, either in the identical form or in any such near resemblance thereto as might be calculated to deceive; that such trade-mark is used in commerce with foreign nations or Indian tribes, as above indicated; . . .'

The 3d section provided that 'no alleged trade-mark shall be registered unless the same appear to be lawfully used as such by the applicant in foreign commerce or commerce with Indian tribes as above mentioned, or is within the provision of a treaty, convention, or declaration with a foreign power; nor which is merely the name of the applicant; nor which is identical with a registered or known trade-mark owned by another and appropriate to the same class of merchandise, or which so nearly resembles some other person's lawful trade-mark as to be likely to cause confusion or mistake in the mind of the public, or to deceive purchasers.'

By the 4th section certificates of registration of trade-marks were to be issued, copies of which, and of trade-marks and declarations filed therewith, should be evidence 'in any suit in which such trade-marks shall be brought in controversy;' and by § 5 it was provided that the certificate of registry should remain in force for thirty years from its date, and might be renewed for a like period.

'Sec. 7. That registration of a trade-mark shall be prima facie evidence of ownership. Any person who shall reproduce, counterfeit, copy, or colorably imitate any trade-mark registered under this act, and affix the same to merchandise of substantially the same descriptive properties as those described in the registration, shall be liable to an action on the case for damages for the wrongful use of said trade-mark, at the suit of the owner thereof; and the party aggrieved shall also have his remedy according to the course of equity to enjoin the wrongful use of such trade-mark used in foreign commerce or commerce with Indian tribes, as aforesaid, and to recover compensation therefor in any court having jurisdiction over the person guilty of such wrongful act; and courts of the United States shall have original and appellate jurisdiction in such cases without regard to the amount in controversy.'

'Sec. 10. That nothing in this act shall prevent, lessen, impeach, or avoid any remedy at law or in equity which any party aggrieved by any wrongful use of any trade-mark might have had if the provisions of this act had not been passed.

'Sec. 11. That nothing in this act shall be construed as unfavorably affecting a claim to a trade-mark after the term of registration shall have expired; nor to give cognizance to any court of the United States in an action or suit between citizens of the same state, unless the trade-mark in controversy is used on goods intended to be transported to a foreign country, or in lawful commercial intercourse with an Indian tribe.'

'Sec. 13. That citizens and residents of this country wishing the protection of trade-marks in any foreign country, the laws of which require registration here as a condition precedent to getting such protection there, may register their trade-marks for that purpose as is above allowed to foreigners, and have certificate thereof from the Patent Office.'

Obviously the act was passed in view of the decision that the prior act was unconstitutional, and it is, therefore, strictly limited to lawful commerce with foreign nations and with Indian tribes. It is only the trade-mark used in such commerce that is admitted to registry, and it can only be infringed when used in that commerce, without right, by another than its owner.

Reading the 7th, 10th, and 11th sections together, we find that the registration is prima facie evidence of ownership; that any person counterfeiting or colorably imitating any trade-mark registered under the act is liable, in the Federal courts, to an action on the case for damages for, and to injunction to restrain, its wrongful use; that is, the use of the simulated mark in foreign commerce or with the Indian tribes; that the provisions of the act cannot operate to circumscribe any remedy which a party aggrieved by any wrongful use of any trade-mark might otherwise have had; and that the courts of the United States cannot take cognizance of an action on the case or a suit in equity between citizens of the same state, 'unless the trade-mark in controversy is used on goods intended to be transported to a foreign country, or in lawful commercial intercourse with an Indian tribe.'

Where diverse citizenship exists, and the statutory amount is in controversy, the courts of the United States have jurisdiction; but where those conditions do not exist, jurisdiction can only be maintained when there is interference with commerce with foreign nations or Indian tribes, and it is in such cases that the amount is declared by § 7 to be immaterial. The registered trade-mark must be used in that commerce, and is put in controversy by the use of the counterfeit or imitation on goods intended for such commerce, as prescribed by § 11.

We cannot concur in the view that the mere counterfeiting or imitating a registered trade-mark, and affixing the same, is the ground of the action on the case, in the Federal courts, given by § 7, for it is the wrongful use of the counterfeit or imitation that creates the liability at law, and justifies the remedy in equity. And the intent and object of the act forbid a construction that would bring local commerce within its scope.

In the present case, diverse citizenship, and requisite amount existed, and the circuit court, therefore, had jurisdiction; but it is argued that the jurisdiction depended entirely on diversity of citizenship, and hence that the decision of the circuit court of appeals was final. We think, however, that as infringement of a trade-mark registered under the act was charged, the averments of the bill, though quite defective, were sufficient to invoke the jurisdiction also on the ground that the case arose under a law of the United States, and will not, therefore, dismiss the appeal.

The bill was filed in February, 1898, and must be treated as alleging that the trade-mark was then in use in foreign or Indian commerce, although the proofs do not make out that fact after December 26, 1882.

The certificate of registry was good for thirty years as matter of evidence, but when it was sought to enjoin the wrongful use it should have been made to appear that the trade-mark was then being used in that commerce, and that that use was interfered with, without right, by defendant. And if the presumption of continuing use in such commerce flows from the registry, nevertheless, to make out infringement, is must appear that the alleged counterfeit or imitation was being used on merchandise intended to be transported to a foreign country or in lawful commercial intercourse with an Indian tribe.

We so held, in effect, in Ryder v. Holt, 128 U.S. 525, 32 L. ed. 529, 9 Sup. Ct. Rep. 145, and we see no reason to depart from that ruling.

But the evidence in this record does not show that defendant used the name of its preparation on merchandise intended to be so transported, while the sales proved were sales in the city of Chicago and northern district of Illinois, and there is nothing to indicate that the preparation was intended to be used in foreign or Indian trade.

In short, even if it were assumed that there could be a trade-mark in the use of the word 'Pancreopepsine,' which would be invaded by the use of the word 'Pancro-Pepsin,' the circuit court could not, by virtue of the act, enjoin such use because it was not used in the commerce to which the act related.

Our conclusion does not require us to consider the question of the constitutionality of the act, which, it may be added, does not seem to have been raised in the courts below.

Decree affirmed.


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).