Wilson v. Rousseau/Dissent Woodbury
Mr. Justice WOODBURY.
There is one of the leading questions certified to us in this cause, in the decision of which I have the misfortune to differ from a majority of the court.
As that decision bears on several of the other questions, and also disposes entirely of some of the four causes connected with this matter, which have been so long and so ably under argument before us, I consider it due to the importance of this subject to the parties and the public, as well as just to myself, to state the reasons for my dissent.
The difference in our views arises in the construction of the eighteenth section of the patent law of July 4th, 1836, and relates to the benefits which may be enjoyed under it by assignees and grantees.
Before the passage of that law, a patent could not, under any circumstances, be extended in its operation for the benefit of any body beyond its original term, except by a special act of Congress. But this section allowed a patentee to apply to a board of officers and obtain from them a renewal of his patent for seven years longer, provided he offered to them satisfactory proofs that his expenses and labor in relation to the patent had not been indemnified. It provided further, that the renewal be indorsed on the back of the original patent; 'and thereupon the said patent shall have the same effect in law as though it had been originally granted for the term of twenty-one years.' It then added, 'And the benefit of such renewal shall extend to assignees and grantees of the right to use the thing patented, to the extent of their respective interests therein.' This last clause creates the chief embarrassment. In this case, the patentee having died, and we having just decided that a renewal was legally granted to his administrator, the controverted question about which we differ is, whether that renewal inures exclusively to the use of the patentee through his administrator, or goes either in full or in part to his assignees and grantees under the old patent. In the present case it is conceded, that by the contract of assignment or grant, nothing is expressly conveyed but the old patent, and in words, only for the original term of 'fourteen years.'
The question is not, then, whether, when assigning an interest in the old term, before or after the passage of the act of 1836, it might not be competent and easy to use language broad and explicit enough to transfer an interest in any subsequent extension by means of the contract of assignment, and this be confirmed by the words of the eighteenth section; but whether those words alone transfer it, or were intended to transfer it, when the contract of assignment, as in this case, was made before the act of 1836 passed, and referred, eo nomine, only to the old patent, and expressly limited the time for which the patent was assigned to the old term.
In such case, it seems to me that both the language and spirit of this section restrain its operation to the patentee or his legal representatives, and convey no rights in the extension to assignees or grantees, whether prior or subsequent, except where the patentee had clearly contracted that they should have an interest beyond the original term.
But the majority of the court hold here, that this clause, independent of any expression in the assignment, transfers an interest in the extension to all assignees and grantees, so that they may continue to use any machines already in operation during the new term, without any new contract, or any new compensation for such farther use.
The argument on the part of the assignees, in all the cases before us, on this subject, has been, that by force of this section all assignees before authorized to make, vend, or use these machines, for fourteen years, could continue to make and vend, as well as use them, for seven more, without any new contract or new consideration; and that 'grantees of the right to use' should have a like prolongation of all their interests. And such seems to have been the opinion of the Circuit Court in Maryland, in Wilson v. Turner, October term, 1844, Chief Justice Taney presiding, though other points besides arose there, and were disposed of in that opinion.
But now, for the first time, it is believed, since the passage of the patent law, this court, by force of the last clause in the eighteenth section, not only give to assignees and grantees a greater or longer interest in the thing patented than was given in the contract of assignment to them, but undertake to introduce a novel discrimination, not seeming to me to be made in the clause itself, and give to assignees of the patent right itself an extension of only a part of their former interest, but to 'grantees of the right to use' the patent, an extension of all their former interests.
We propose to examine the objections to this decision of the court, first, on the principle of giving to old assignees and grantees an extension of their interests to the new patent at all, unless the contract of assignment to them was manifestly meant to embrace any new term; and, after that, to examine the propriety of the discrimination in allowing a right in the renewed patent to grantees of the use, to the extent of all their old interests, and withholding a like privilege from assignees of the patent itself.
First, it has been repeatedly decided, that 'a thing which is in the letter of a statute is not within the statute, unless it be within the intention of the makers.' Dwarris on Statutes, 692; Bac. Abr. Statute, T; 2 Instit. 107, 386.
Here the great design of the whole section was to extend assistance to an unfortunate and needy class of men of genius, who had failed to realize any profits from their valuable inventions during the first term of their patents. The intention of the makers of this law is usually conceded to have been relief to such patentees, and not to assignees or grantees.
It was the former, and not the latter, who were sufferers, and whom Congress had before, by special acts of extension, occasionally tried to indemnify for their losses; and to whom now, in a more summary way, on application and proof by them alone, an extension was authorized to be given by a board of officers, in order that they and not others might reap the profits of such extension.
But, by allowing the benefit of it to go to the former assignees of only the old patent, the intention of the makers appears to be defeated, and those profited who have not proved any loss or suffering, but, on the contrary, may have already derived great advantages from the assignment.
It might thus happen, likewise, where, in a case like this, the patentee has assigned all his old patent before the extension, and the use of it under the extension would constitute all or its chief value, that neither he nor his representatives-he whose genius had produced the whole invention, at the sacrifice of time and toil, and whose sufferings, losses, and disappointments the law is expressly made to indemnify-would receive the smallest pittance from it; but those reap all its advantages who may already have grown rich by the assignment to them of the old patent, and who nobody can pretend were the particular or principal objects of relief. Under such a construction, how absurd would it be for such a patentee ever to apply for an extension, when he must do it at new cost and expense, and then have the whole fruits of it stripped from him by persons who had neither paid for the extension, nor had it conveyed to them. It is an equal violation of the leading intention of this section, and of most of these principles and of much of this reasoning, to allow, as the opinion of the court does, such persons to take, unpaid for and unbought, a part of the benefits of the renewal, as to take the whole of them.
Secondly, by the construction of the court, contracts and vested rights seem to be radically encroached upon. Under it, an assignee of an old patent, limited in the contract conveying it to fourteen years, will, for some purposes, get it for twenty-one years, directly in conflict with the express stipulation of the parties. Congress will, in this way, be made unworthily to tamper with the private obligations of individuals, and will impair them by taking from the rights of one, and enlarging or adding to the rights of the other; and this without any new consideration or new engagement passing between them, but, on the contrary, against the wishes, assent, and interests of one. That view, also, involves us in the unreasonable inference, that Congress intended to violate a solemn compact, to disturb the vested rights and written agreements of parties, when the danguage used is susceptible of a different construction, and one that is consistent with what is just, and with the spirit of the whole section.
By that view, an assignee or grantee will obtain 'a right to use the thing patented' for a term of seven years longer than he contracted or paid for, while the patentee, without any such agreement in his contract assigning or granting the right to use, and without any new consideration, will be deprived of all his new and vested rights in the extension, so far as regards that use, and will have his former contract impaired virtually in its whole vitality, by making him part with the use for a term of twenty-one years, when the contract says but fourteen, and making him do it, also, without any application by other for the extension, any proof by others of not being indemnified, any payment by others of the costs and expenses for procuring the additional seven years, and when the avowed and cardinal object of the renewal was to indemnify him alone for losses which he and not others had sustained. Well may he say, as to these new and extended interests attempted to be conferred on assignees and grantees beyond the contract of assignment, in haec federa non veni.
Thirdly, the construction I contend for seems to me the only one consistent with the language used in the latter portion of the eighteenth section. By this, no part of those troublesome four lines is senseless, or expunged, or ungrammatical, or contradictory to the object of the previous portion of the section. While the construction opposed to this must, in my view, require interpolations or extirpations of words, and a violation of the object of the rest of the section, in order to give to the clause the meaning the advocates of that construction impute to it. Look at the phraseology of the clause. 'The benefit of such renewal shall extend to assignees and grantees of the right to use the thing patented, to the extent of their respective interests therein,' but surely to no more than that extent. It would violate both the words and design to have them enjoy more than the extent of their interests therein, quite as much as not to let them enjoy all of the extent of them. In the construction of statutes it is a well settled axiom, that, 'to bring a case within the statute, it should be not only within the mischief contemplated by the legislature, but also within the plain, intelligible import of the words of the act of parliament.' Brandling v. Barrington, 6 Barn. & Cressw. 475. In this case the assignees and grantees were not within either the mischief intended to be remedied, that is, a want of indemnity for losses by the patentee; or within the 'plain, intelligible import of the words,' as their contract of assignment or grant did not extend to the renewed term at all, for any purpose whatever, but was expressly limited to the fourteen years of the original patent.
There must be some measure of their respective interests, when the act passed. What was it? Clearly, the contracts under which they had been acquired. Nothing had been done, either in other acts or previous portions of this, to increase those interests beyond the contracts, but merely to enable assignees and grantees of exclusive rights to protect them by suits in their own names. The present clause, also, does not profess to increase those interests, but simply to let assignees and grantees enjoy them under the renewal, if by their extent by the contract which limits and defines them they run into the extended term. Various hypotheses and metaphysical refinements have been resorted to for the purpose of putting a meaning on the words of this clause differing from this, which is so plain and so consistent with the spirit of the section; and virtually making it provide, that assignees and grantees shall have more benefits under the renewal in the thing patented than the 'extent of their respective interests therein.'
But before testing more critically the extent of those interests by the only standard applicable to them, it will be necessary to consider separately the true meaning of two of the words employed in this clause, namely, renewal' and therein.'
Much research has been exhibited, in attempting to draw distinctions in this case between the words renewal and extension. But I am not satisfied that any exist, when these words are employed as in this act of Congress, or in contracts relating to this subject. It is true, that some 'renewals' are not 'extensions,' in the sense of prolonging the term of the patent, that is, when an old patent is surrendered and a new one taken out, or a renewal made for the rest of the term,-while all extensions prolong the term. But still 'renewals' are as often used for a prolongation of the term, or for a new term, as extensions are, and in this very section, to renew and extend' is used as if synonymous, and this in sound analogy to the use of the word renewal on several other subjects. Thus, to renew a lease is to extend it another term. To renew an office is to extend it another term. To renew griefs, revocare dolores, is to extend them. Again; the second therein,' at the close of the clause, has been considered by some as meaning 'in the renewal,' and by others, 'in the right to use,' and by others still, 'in the thing patented.' But, grammatically, it refers to the 'thing patented,' and hence 'the interests therein' are 'the interests in the thing patented.'
Phillips treats it as a matter of course to mean 'in the patent,' and uses that as synonymous to 'therein,' and though, in regard to my construction of the whole clause, the result is much the same, whether 'therein' is considered to mean in 'the thing patented,' or 'the patent,' or 'the renewal,' yet I incline to the first view of it as that most strictly grammatical and the most natural, as well as coming nearest to the views of this court in M'Clurg v. Kingsland, 1 How. 210. Further objections to its meaning 'in the right to use' will be stated hereafter, under another head. Passing, then, to a more careful scrutiny of the whole clause, it would seem, that there could be but one rational test of 'the extent' of the interests of assignees and grantees in the thing patented, and that such test must be the previous contract of assignment or grant, under which alone they hold any interests.
If that contract grants to them one fourth or one half of the old patent, or the use of it in one State or county, and for a term of five years, or ten, or fourteen, from the issue of the patent, then such and such alone is the extent of their interests, and they will not run into the new term. But if the contract goes further, and grants one half or all of the old patent to assignees, and for a term not only of fourteen years, but twenty-one years, or any number to which the patentee may afterwards become entitled by any extension or new grant, then such is the extent of their interests, and they will in such case run into the new term. This view gives meaning and spirit to every word, and excludes or alters none. This, too, conforms to the design of the section in taking away no part of the benefit intended to be conferred by it on the patentee, unless he has chosen to dispose of it clearly and deliberately, and receive therefor, either in advance or after actually granted, such additional consideration as he deemed adequate and contracted to be sufficient.
If after the word extent in this clause, there had been added, what is the legal inference, both in time and quantity, this meaning might have been still more clear to some. But without those words, the extent of interest seems to me to depend as much on the length of time the patent is granted to the assignee, as on the dimensions of territory over which he may use it, or the proportion of the whole patent he is authorized to use. It is like a leasehold interest in land, or a grant of it. The extent of interest by such a grant of land is more or less, as the term is shorter or longer, quite as much as if the land conveyed is more or less in quantity.
The word 'extent,' in common parlance, varies somewhat in meaning, according to the subject to which it is applied, and as that changes, it may as well refer to time as to space, or proportion; and more especially so, when applied to interests, as in patents, for a particular term of years.
There is another analogy in support of this view, that has not been urged in the ingenious arguments offered, but has struck me with some force. A patent was the description once applied to commissions for office; and the records of this court at first speak of the commissions of the judges as patents.
Now what is the extent of interest the incumbent has in any office under his commission or patent? Clearly, in part, the length of time it is to run, whether four years, during good behaviour, or for life, and in part only its yearly profits; often quite as much depending on that length of time, as the amount of the salary or fees annually attached to the office.
What is the chief objection in reply to all this? Nothing, except that the assignee could get protected to the extent of his interest, in this view, by the contract alone, without the aid of the provision at the close of the eighteenth section, and hence that the provision is in this view unnecessary or nugatory, and must have been inserted for some other purpose. But were it in reality unnecessary, that would not require us to consider it as intending something different from its words, or different from the previous contracts of the parties. Legislatures often add clauses to acts, which do not prove to be in reality necessary, but are inserted from abundant caution and to remove future doubts or litigation. So, in this very act, in the eleventh section, it is declared, that a patent may be assigned. Yet this is probably unnecessary, as an interest like that of a patentee can of course be assigned, on common law principles, without the aid of a statute.
When we look, however, to another circumstance,-that, though a contract of assignment would, without any clause in the statute, pass the interest to the assignee, yet it would not enable him to sue in his own name,-we can discover another reason for this provision still more effective. A clause had been inserted in a previous part of the act to enable the assignee to sue in his own name on the old patent, if violated; and, probably in doubt whether such provision would be extended to assignees under the renewal, when having any interest therein, it was provided further, that 'the benefit of the renewal' should reach them to the extent of their interests therein,-a part of which benefit would be to sue in their own name for any infringement on their rights to it, as fully as they could do for a violation of their rights in the original patent, and as if that had been for twenty-one years. The provision thus would be far from nugatory, by clearly conferring on them every power and privilege to sue under the extension which they possessed under the original patent.
By means of this provision, also, in another view, the condition of the parties might be changed, from a reliance on a contract alone that they should have a certain interest in the new patent, to a vested interest in it; or, in another view still, from an executory to an executed right.
There is, in the construction given by some of the majority of the court to the clause immediately preceding this, another ample reason for inserting such a provision.
The previous clause, stating, that 'thereupon the said patent shall have the same effect in law as though it had been originally granted for the term of twenty-one years,' would, it is argued, if the section had there ended, have conferred on any assignee or grantee of the old patent, or any part of it, the extended term, so as to enable them to use the patent as if it originally had been granted for twenty-one years instead of fourteen.
Suppose, then, for a moment, that this construction was considered by Congress proper, or only possible, it is manifest that the additional clause which follows had a second and most pregnant object,-no less than to prevent that consequence, so hostile to the design of inserting the whole section,-to grant an extended term for the benefit and indemnity of the patentee, and not of the assignee. In this view, the last clause might well be added, as a limitation on what would otherwise be the inference from that just preceding it; and might well declare, instead of this inference, that assignees of the old patent should not hold it, in all cases, as if originally granted for twenty-one years, though patentees might; but that assignees should hold only in conformity to 'the extent of their respective interests' in the thing patented. In other words, if by contract they had acquired clearly an interest for twenty-one years, they should hold for that time; but if by contract they had acquired an interest for only five or fourteen years, they should hold it only to that extent. This is rational, consistent with the great object of the section, and gives new and increased force and necessity to the clause. The assignees would then, after the renewal, hold the patent for all the time they had stipulated, and for all they had paid, but for no more.
It will be perceived, that very few assignees or grantees, prior to the passage of the act of 1836, would in this view be likely to come under this provision, and be benefited by it; because, not knowing that any future law would pass allowing an extension, very few would be likely to anticipate one, and provide in their contract and pay for a contingent interest in its benefits.
This would make the provision, in practice, apply chiefly to future assignees, who, knowing that such a provision existed, might be willing to give something for a right to any extension which might ever take place under it; and therefore might expressly stipulate in the assignment for that right. Indeed, the arguments on the part of the patentee in this case have mostly proceeded on the ground that this provision was intended to apply solely and exclusively to future assignees. Considering that any other construction is in some degree retrospective, and that this would give force to the provision, as well as preserve the spirit of the section, I should be inclined to adopt it, if mine did not produce a like effect, and was not alike free from objection, as limited by me; because I do not make the provision retrospective except in cases where the parties had expressly contracted that the prior assignee should receive the benefit of any extension, and in that case it has the preference in its operation over the other view, as it carries into effect that express compact, and does not cramp the force of it to the future alone, where the language and the consideration are equally applicable to past engagements of this character.
This conclusion is also strengthened by being in harmony with all the leading rules of construction applicable to statutes, while that adopted by the court seems, to my mind, to violate some of the most important of them.
Beside those already referred to, it is well settled, that 'if a particular thing be given or limited in the preceding parts of a statute, this shall not be taken away or altered by any subsequent general words of the same statute.' Dwarris, 658; Standen v. The University of Oxford, 1 Jones, 26; 8 Coke, 118, b. Here a particular benefit is, by the former part of the eighteenth section, conferred on a patentee, for reasons applicable to him alone; and yet, in this case, by the opposite construction, a few general words towards the close are construed so as in some respects to destroy entirely all those benefits to the patentee; and that, too, when the language is susceptible of a different construction, more natural and perfectly consistent with the previous particular grant to the patentee.
Some collateral considerations have been urged in support of the conclusions of the court on this branch of the construction, which deserve notice. On a close scrutiny, they appear to me to amount to less in any respect than is supposed, and in some particulars strengthen the grounds of dissent. Thus, it has been said that the English act of the 5th and 6th of William the Fourth, passed September 18th, 1835, was before Congress in 1836, and was intended to be copied or adopted; and as, under that, assignees have been allowed to participate in the extended time, it has been argued that such was the intention here. But it is doubtful whether that act was before the committee when they reported the bill in 1836, as the intervening time had been short, and the eighteenth section, on examining the journals and files, appears not to have been in the bill at all as originally introduced, or as originally reported; but was afterwards inserted as an amendment in the Senate. The consideration of this section, therefore, does not seem to have been so full as of the rest of the bill; and it is very far, in language, from being a copy of the English act. Assignees are not named at all in that act; and though, in extensions under it, assignees have in two or three cases been allowed to participate, it has only been where an enlarged equity justified it,-as where the patentee consented, or was to receive a due share in the benefits, or had clearly conferred a right in the extension by the assignment; and where, also, the assignees are expressly named in the new grant or patent as entitled to a share of it. See Webster's Patent Cases, 477.
There, also, an assignee, under like circumstances, would doubtless benefit by the renewal, under its ordinary operations; and the practice in England, thus limited, will fortify rather than weaken the construction I adopt of the true design of the last clause in our own law.
There is much, also, in another collateral consideration here, which does not apply in Great Britain, and which restricts conferring the benefit of an extension, or an extension itself, on an assignee by or under any statute, if it goes beyond what a patentee had himself contracted to do.
Here the Constitution limits the powers of Congress to give patents to inventers alone.
'The Congress shall have power to promote the progress of science and the useful arts, by securing, for limited times, to authors and inventers, the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.'-Article I., § 8.
No authority is conferred to bestow exclusive rights on others than 'authors and inventers' themselves.
Hence a patent could not probably be granted to an assignee, nor an extension bestowed on one, independent of the assent or agreement of the patentee, or of its inuring to his benefit, without raising grave doubts as to its being a violatin of the Constitution. But so far as inventers have expressly agreed that assignees shall be interested in their patents, or in the extensions of them, the latter may well be protected; and so, as far as administrators represent the inventer or patentee, when deceased, the grant to them is substantially a grant to the inventer, as the benefit then inures to his estate and heirs. But to grant an exclusive right to an assignee would confer no benefit on the patentee, or his estate; and it would violate the spirit as well as letter of the Constitution, unless the inventer had himself agreed to it, and had substituted the assignee for himself by plain contract, whether for the original term or any extension of it.
Cases have been cited in this country, likewise, where Congress, in ten or twelve instances, have renewed patents to the inventers; but they have never done it to assignees. And though in two out of the whole, which were renewed after the term had expired and the assignees and the public were in the free use of the patent, some limitations have been imposed on requiring further payments from the assignees for the longer use of the old patent; yet in these only, and under such peculiar circumstances, has it been done, and in these no term was granted by Congress directly to the assignee rather than the patentee; and this limitation or condition in favor of the assignee, in the grant to the patentee, is of very questionable validity, unless it was assented to by the patentee. In this case it is most significant of the views of Congress to relieve the patentee rather than assignees, that by a special law, passed February 26th, 1845, they have conferred on the representative of the original patentee still another term of seven years, without mentioning the assignees in any way, and without any pretence that the benefits of this extension were designed for them.
The argument, that the assignee is sometimes a partner, and makes liberal advances, furnishes a good reason, in a pecuniary view, why an assignment should be made to him of such an interest in the old patent as will indemnify him, but furnishes none for giving him, even if he regards money above public spirit or benevolence, more than an indemnity; or for giving him a benefit in any renewal, which it has never been agreed he should have, and for which he never has paid.
So the reasoning, that the assignee stands in the shoes or in the place of the patentee, and represents him, and therefore should have an interest in the extension, applies very well, so far as he is assignee, or so far as the contract extends. But he no more stands in the shoes of the patentee beyond the extent of his contract, than an entire stranger does. Such are the cases of Herbert v. Adams, 4 Mason, 15, and that cited in 1 Hawk. P. C. 477, note.
In one, the assignee of the old patent represented the patentee as to that, and that only; and in the other, where by law a further copyright was authorized in all cases, and the patentee assigned his whole interest, the second term passed also; because the law had previously given it absolutely, without contingency or evidence of losses, but in connection with, or appurtenant to, the first copyright.
Again, it has been urged that the assignee should have the benefit of the extension; otherwise he may have made large expenditures, in preparing for a free use of the patent after the original term expires, and will loose them in a great degree, or be obliged to pay largely for the continued use of the patent. But this same reasoning applies equally well to the whole world as to the assignee; because any individual, not an assignee, may have incurred like expenditures in anticipation of the expiration and free use of the old patent. In fact, the argument is rather a legislative than judicial one, and operates against the policy of the whole section, rather than the construction put on the last clause.
But the hardship to any person, in such case, is more apparent than real. The price to be paid for the new patent is not so much as the gain by it, and hence those who have proposed to use it and do use it after the extension, and pay anew for a new or further term, gain rather than loose, or they would have employed the old machinery in operation before this invention.
Nor is it any relief to the community at large, as seems by some to have been argued, to hold that the renewal, or a large part of it, vests in the assignee and grantee rather than in the patentee. For the great mass of the people must still purchase the patent, or the right to use it, of some one, and must pay as much for it to the assignee as to the patentee.
Finally, the construction of the court, by conferring any privilege whatever on assignees and grantees beyond the extent of their interests in the thing patented, when those interests, as in this case, were expressly limited in the contract to the term of the old patent, goes, in my view, beyond the language of the act, beyond the contract of assignment, beyond the consideration paid for only the old term, and beyond any intention in the legislature for relief or indemnity to others than unfortunate patentees.
I feel not a little fortified in these views on the case, by several decisions and opinions that have heretofore been made, in substantial conformity to them. Indeed, independent of opinions in some of the actions now before us (from which an appeal has been taken, or the cause has come up on a certificate of division), every reported case on this subject has been settled substantially in accordance with these views. See Woodworth v. Sherman, and Woodworth v. Cheever et al., Cir. Ct. for Mass., May Term, 1844, decided by Justice Story; Van Hook v. Wood, Cir. Ct. for New York, October Term, 1844, by Justice Betts; Wilson v. Curteis & Grabon, Cir. Ct. for Louisiana, by Justice McCaleb; Brooks & Morris v. Bicknell et al., Cir. Ct. for Ohio, July Term, 1844, by Justice McLean (Western Law Journal, October, 1845); Butler's opinion, as Attorney-General, in Blanchard's case (Opinions of Attorneys-General, pp. 1134 and 1209).
All that remains for me is to advert a moment to that branch of the construction adopted by the majority of the court, which, after giving to both assignees and grantees a benefit in the new patent or term beyond 'the extent of their interests' under the contract of assignment, undertakes to go still farther, and make a discrimination between assignees and grantees, as to the enjoyment, under the renewal, of their different original interests. It gives to the latter, the grantees, by the mere force of this last clause in the eighteenth section, the enjoyment of all their old interests during the whole of the new term; but it gives to the former, the assignees, the enjoyment of only about a third portion of their old interests during that term. In other words, it gives to 'grantees of the right to use the thing patented' a continuance of all their interests; but to assignees, whose interests extended to the right to make and to vend, as well as use, the thing patented, a continuance of only a part of theirs. In such a discrimination, uncountenanced and unwarranted, as it seems to me, by either the words or the spirit of the act of Congress, I am sorry to find another strong ground of dissent to the opinion of the court. The act does not say, as is their construction, that 'the benefit' of only 'the right to use the thing patented' shall extend to any one, whether an assignee or grantee; but that the benefit of the renewal shall extend to both, 'to the extent of their respective interests,' though differing clearly in extent as they do, and as will soon be more fully shown.
'Judges are bound to take the act of parliament as the legislature have made it.' 1 D. & E. 52, and Dwarris on Statutes, 711.
But the words in this act, 'the right to use the thing patented,' must be transposed, and other words altered in their ordinary meaning, to make these a description of the interests conferred.
They are now a description of one kind of purchasers, that is 'grantees of the right to use the thing patented,' to whom the renewal should extend, if they had stipulated for any interests therein by their contracts. The clause refers to two classes, who may in such case be benefited by the renewal. 'Assignees' are one class, and 'grantees of the right to use the thing patented' are the other class. This accords with the language itself, and also with the punctuation of this clause, as examined by me in manuscript on file in the Senate, and as printed by the State department, having no comma or other pointing in it except after the word 'patented.' It accords, too, with what is well understood to be the fact, that assignees and grantees usually constitute two distinct classes of purchasers, the former being those who buy a part or all of the patent right itself, and can protect their interests by suits in their own name; and the latter being those who buy only 'the right to use the thing patented,' and generally, except where the use is exclusive (fourteenth section), cannot institute suits in their own name for encroachments upon it. In the face of this, to hold that assignees and grantees mean the same thing here, and that the words 'of the right to use the thing patented' apply equally to both, is a departure from the above established usage in employing those terms, and gives a different meaning to them from what is previously twice given in this very act. Thus in the eleventh section an 'assignment' is mentioned as one thing, and 'a grant and conveyance of the exclusive right,' & c., as another, and in the fourteenth section, 'assigns' are spoken of as if one class, and 'grantees of the exclusive right,' &c., as if another. And why does the conclusion to this clause say 'to the extent of their respective interests therein,' if such assignees and grantees as to patents were not in this very clause considered by Congress as having different interests, and that these were to be protected according to their respective extents? It would have said, and must be made to say, if sustaining the construction of the court, 'to the extent of that right,' or 'to the extent of that interest,' and there stop. Manifestly, then, there is not conferred on these two classes, by this clause, either in its spirit or in totidem verbis, merely 'the right to use the thing patented,' but on the contrary, 'the benefit of the renewal,' 'to the extent of their respective interests in the thing patented.' The interests of the grantees may be limited to the use, and those of the assignees may not be, but include the right to make and vend as well as use; yet large or long as may be the interests of either, the benefit of the renewal is to cover them, if the extent of them, under the original assignment or grant, reached to the new term. One is not to have the whole of his interests protected and the other a part only, when their equities are the same. But the assignee is to have to the extent of his, which is to make, vend, and use; and the grantee only 'of the right to use' is to have to the extent of his.
This, to my apprehension, is unquestionably the substance of what Congress has said on this topic; and yet it is only by supposing new language not in the act, or by transposing some of the old, so as not to be in harmony with the original structure of the sentence, or by giving a meaning to words different from what has been established and, in my view, only by doing this, that any foundation can be laid in support of this part of the construction approved by the court. But 'it is safer,' said Mr. J. Ashurst, 'to adopt what the legislature have actually said, than to suppose what they meant to say.' 1 D. & E. 52; 6 Adolph. & Ellis, 7.
It may be well, also, not to forget, that it is always more judicial, and less like legislation, to adhere to what Congress have actually said, and that it is more imperative to do this when by adhering to it you carry out, as in this case, the manifest intention of the previous part of the section. Nor can the inconsistency produced by the construction of the court be without influence in creating doubts as to its correctness; as by it 'the benefit of the renewal' will be extended to assignees and grantees not in a ratio with 'their respective interests,'-the words of the law,-nor in conformity to their respective contracts, nor according to the respective considerations they have paid, nor in proportion to the respective losses they have sustained, but, under the same general permission as to the extent of the 'respective interests' of both, one class will be allowed to the full extent of his previous interests, and the other to only a part of that extent.
By what authority, let me respectfully ask, is this general permission thus divided, and in one class or case limited and in the other not? By what legal authority are assignees cut off from a valuable portion of their interests in a patent, while grantees to use the thing patented are allowed to exercise the whole of theirs, and both under one and the same general permission, covering all 'their respective interests'? To make this discrimination, and allow to one class the full extent of their interests and to the other not the full extent of theirs, when the law says it shall be 'to the extent of their respective interests,' and when their respective contracts and equities show that this should include both the duration and quantity of their interests, looks like a distinction in a great degree arbitrary, and not a little in conflict with the plain words and design of the act of Congress.
But, beside this further departure from what seems to me the obvious meaning of the eighteenth section, caused by this branch of the construction of the court, it will fail, I fear, as any compromise of the difficulties arising under this section, if any compromise be expected from it. It is not likely to avert ruin from most of those indigent inventers, who have in their distresses resorted for aid to the delusive provisions of that section. Their very necessities and embarrassments, which are the justification for granting the renewal to them, have usually forced them to sell and assign all the original patent, as was the case with Woodworth in this instance; and if in such circumstances the law is to strip them of all benefits under the renewal, and, without any contract to that effect, confer those benefits on the assignees and grantees of the old patent, the law is perfectly suicidal as to the only design to be effected by its bounty. But if, seeing this, the construction is modified, as here, by the court, so as to deprive the patentee in such cases of only the benefits of the use of his old patent or old machines during the new term, this qualification in the operation of the law will, it is apprehended, usually prove a mere mockery, working, in most cases, as fully as the court's construction without the qualification would, the entire defeat of the laudable object of the renewal towards patentees. In one or two of the cases now before us, the patentee, under this construction, will still be subjected to defeat and burdensome costs. In relation to its effect on the present patent as a whole, all the consequences cannot now be ascertained. But it is admitted, that the inventer had assigned the whole of the old patent, so that no right whatever to use will remain in his representatives to dispose of; or if a right remains where machines are not now in actual use, probably enough are now in use to supply for some time the public wants in most parts of the United States.
The right to continue to use them will probably last during the whole seven years the renewal runs, as the machine will usually, with proper repairs, do service beyond that time. It will not, then, be very difficult to calculate what value, during the seven years, will be derived from the right to make and vend machines, when the use of others already in existence is scattered over every section of the country, and they may be employed all the time of the extended patent, without the assignees or grantees ever having paid or being obliged to pay a dollar for that extended use.
Looking, then, to the beneficient design of the eighteenth section, to enforce the Constitution, by advancing science and the arts, and protecting useful inventions, through the security for a longer term to men of genius of a property in their own labors, in cases where they had not been already remunerated for their time and expenses, I cannot but fear that the construction given by the majority of the court will prove most unfortunate. It will tend to plunge into still deeper embarrassment and destitution, by losses in litigation and by deprivation of a further extended sale of their inventions, those whose worth and poverty induced Congress to attempt to aid them.
Nor would a different construction tie up, as some suppose, the future use of numerous patents. Of the fourteen thousand five hundred and twenty-six heretofore issued, since the Constitution was adopted, I am enabled, by the kindness of the Commissioner of Patents, to state, that only ten have been renewed under the eighteenth section during nearly ten years it has been in operation.
And if the individuals who use the improved machines, the fruit of the toil and expense and science of others, were obliged in but one case in a year, over the whole country, to pay something for that further use, is it a great grievance? They are not obliged to employ the patent at all, and will not unless it is better by the amount they pay than what was in use before. And is it a great hardship or inequitable, where they are benefited by another's talents, money, and labor, to compensate him in some degree therefor?
While other countries, and Congress, and our State courts are adopting a more liberal course yearly towards such public benefactors as inventers, I should regret to see this high tribunal pursue a kind of construction open to the imputation of an opposite character, or be supposed by any one to evince a feeling towards patentees which belongs to other ages rather than this (and which I am satisfied is not cherished), as if patentees were odious monopolists of the property and labors of others, when in truth they are only asking to be protected in the enjoyment and sale of their own, — as truly their own as the wheat grown by the farmer, or the wagon built by the mechanic.
Nor should we allow any prejudices against the utility of patents generally, and much less against the utility of the invention now under consideration, to make our constructions more rigid in this case. The settled doctrine of the courts now, under the lights of longer experience, though once otherwise, is in doubtful cases to incline to constructions most favorable to patentees. Grant et al. v. Raymond, 6 Peters, 218; 1 Sumner, 485; Wyeth v. Stone, 1 Story's Rep. 287; Blanchard v. Sprague, 2 Story's Rep. 169. Nor is it strange that this should be the case in the nineteenth century, however different it was some generations ago, when we daily witness how the world has been benefited since by the patented inventions and discoveries in steam, in all its wonderful varieties and utilities, and in cleaning, spinning, and weaving cotton by machinery for almost half the human race, and in myriads of other improvements in other things, shedding so benign a light over the age in which we live, and most of them excited and matured only under the protection secured to their inventers by an enlightened government.
Some estimate can be formed of the usefulness of the present patent, and its title to favor, when one machine is computed to perform the labor of planing and grooving in one day that would require fifty days by a man, and which is supposed to reduce near seven tenths the expense of such work in every building where the improved method is used,-as it ere long will be by the many millions of our own population, and in time over the civilized world. Every honest social system must shield such inventions, and every wise one seeks undoubtedly to encourage them.
To be liberal, then, in the protection of patentees, is only to be just towards the rights of property. To stimulate them in this and other ways to greater exertions of ingenuity and talent is to increase the public wealth, and hasten the progress of practical improvements, as well as of science. And to discountenance encroachments on their rights, and defeat piracies of their useful labors, is calculated in the end to better the condition of every rank in society, and introduce wider and faster all the benefits of a superior state of civilization and the arts.